Minnesota adults face high levels of healthcare affordability burdens, reports AboutHealthTransparency.org. A survey of more than 1,070 Minnesota adults, conducted by Altarum's Healthcare Value Hub from Oct. 30, 2020 to Nov. 27, 2020, found that more than half (51%) experienced healthcare affordability burdens in the past year. In addition, even more are worried about affording healthcare in the future and high numbers are worried about becoming ill from the coronavirus. The survey also revealed regional differences in how Minnesota adults experience healthcare affordability burdens. Fifty-seven percent of residents in the Southern region face these burdens, the highest in the state, and 51% of Southern region adults reported skipping a recommended medical test or treatment due to cost. Forty-one percent of Twin Cities Metro area residents, by comparison, reported doing the same.
In response to inequitable vaccine rollout in New Jersey, state officials have created a ‘vulnerable populations plan,’ which calls for partnerships with community centers and places of worship to create vaccine clinics focused on specific communities, reports NJ Spotlight News. These partnerships are expected to bring dedicated vaccines to racially diverse and vulnerable communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The partnerships will operate temporarily, with each seeking to vaccinate some 3,000 people over two weeks and then reopening several weeks later to provide second doses of the vaccine.
The Maryland House of Delegates has overridden the Governor’s 2020 veto of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, enabling plans for the Board to proceed, reports STAT+. In January, the Senate also overrode the veto, which the Governor had issued over concerns that the move would raise taxes and fees at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic had already hurt citizens. The Board is designed to function like rate-setting boards that regulate what public utilities can charge residents, with supporters arguing that the board can save consumers money by lowering prescription drug costs. What sets the PDAB apart from other state efforts to rein in costs is that it can, if determined to be in the best interest of the state, make a recommendation to the Maryland General Assembly to pursue upper payment limits to make drugs affordable. If the Board makes this determination, it will first develop a plan of action for review and approval by the Legislative Policy Committee. Maine has also enacted a law creating a board. Although rather than setting upper payment limits for medicines, the board established a spending target for public payers and seeks to leverage public purchasing power to meet its target.
Half of Pennsylvania residents struggled with healthcare costs in the past year and nearly two thirds were worried about affording healthcare in the future, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, Altarum Healthcare Value Hub’s 2020 Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) found that to reduce healthcare costs, 20 percent of Pennsylvania adults skipped going to the doctor, a procedure or a recommended test and 22 percent skipped medication doses, cut pills in half or avoided filling a prescription. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated concerns about healthcare costs, with 60 percent of Pennsylvania residents worried about being able to afford COVID-19 treatment if they need it
Connecticut’s governor unveiled two proposals aimed at reducing the cost of healthcare, including an annual tax on insurance carriers to fund additional insurance subsidies and a plan to limit yearly increases in prescription drug costs, reports The CT Mirror. The fee on insurers would generate approximately $50 million annually to subsidize the cost of insurance for people purchasing coverage through the state’s exchange, but could also be used for other causes, including raising the Medicaid eligibility level or a reinsurance program. The Governor also proposed to limit yearly hikes in prescription drug prices to the rate of inflation plus 2 percent. Drug manufacturers exceeding that amount would be fined and revenue from the penalties would be used to subsidize health coverage.
AARP has partnered with Illinois racial justice groups to launch a “disrupt disparities” effort across the state, reports State of Reform. The multi-year effort will address the disproportionate number of older Black, Latino and Asian American seniors who have died of COVID-19 in Illinois and will work with state legislators to address this and other issues. Another crucial equity issue facing Illinoisans is access to broadband internet. According to AARP, more than a third of Black and Latino seniors in the state do not have internet access at home, leaving this vulnerable group more disconnected. Economic security is another issue AARP hopes to address, explaining that helping seniors pay off their debts will allow seniors of color to be more economically secure.
Healthy Alaskans released a 2020 scorecard analyzing the state’s performance when it comes to improving residents’ health, according to State of Reform. The scorecard shows that Alaska met its target or improved on 12 of its 25 health goals, including reducing its cancer mortality rate, increasing the percent of adolescents who haven’t used tobacco in the past 30 days and reducing the rate of “unique substantiated child maltreatment.” The state made little progress on other measures, like suicide mortality rates, mental health indicators and obesity rates. At the same time, the state released an updated health improvement plan, Healthy Alaskans 2030, which establishes health priorities and objectives for the decade to come.
Although the State Health Department directed providers months ago to report COVID-19 vaccine race and ethnicity data, 36 percent of race and 40.9 percent of ethnicity data are missing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Many providers, including Pennsylvania’s largest health system, are still not collecting and reporting this data. Based on available data, Black people make up 3 percent of the state’s population but only 0.4 percent of vaccine recipients, while Latino people make up 8 percent of the population but 3 percent of vaccine recipients. Incomplete race and ethnicity data make it difficult to comprehensively track and address disparities in vaccine distribution.
Oregon’s healthcare workforce does not match the diversity of the state, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) biennial Oregon Health Care Workforce Needs Assessment report, which shows that the Hispanic/Latino, African American/Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native providers are underrepresented in most licensed healthcare professions. OHA also released its evaluation of the Health Care Provider Incentive Program, which is designed to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the healthcare workforce.
The Michigan Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force reduced COVID-19-related cases and mortality among Black residents and may serve as a model for other states, according to a case study from the National Governors Association. The authors identified some of the task force’s best practices, including: establishing clear objectives with specific metrics; ensuring cross-sectoral collaboration and diversity within the task force; and enabling leadership and state leaders who are committed to work and provide the right mix of expertise to minimize staff fatigue and stress. Michigan’s Task Force and Governor also contributed to reductions in health inequities by: distributing six million free masks; declaring racism a public health crisis; requiring implicit bias training for all state employees; and improving the quality of data reporting on racial disparities.