As part of the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan, New Jersey’s Medicaid program is adopting several new initiatives to improve maternal and infant health within the state, the Governor’s office reports. New Jersey’s Medicaid program will expand coverage to include doula care; will no longer pay for non-medical early elective deliveries; and will require obstetrical providers, nurse midwives or other licensed healthcare professionals to complete a perinatal risk assessment form during a beneficiary’s first prenatal visit to help identify trends in risk factors. These initiatives also contribute to the Strategic Plan’s aims of combating the state’s maternal and infant health mortality crisis by reducing racial disparities in these areas.
Colorado launched pop-up vaccination sites in underserved areas in an attempt to eliminate the racial and economic disparities in COVID vaccine distribution, reports the Colorado Sun. The goal of the program is to reach underserved communities where they are and reduce barriers to vaccination, such as online vaccination appointment portals and inoculation sites that are far away. So far, Colorado has operated 18 of these health equity clinics, administering thousands of doses to Black and Hispanic Coloradoans who have much lower vaccination rates than their white counterparts. The Governor also says the state needs to build vaccine trust among these communities by developing ambassadors and leading by example.
Lehigh County could have saved roughly $1.4 million for prescription drugs in 2019, reports Stat+. The Office of the Controller’s report found that rebates negotiated by pharmacy benefit managers were frequently pocketed by the insurance company as profit, rather than credited to the county. In addition, the office identified 200 prescription drugs that were available at lower prices from competitors. The office recommended pursuing comparative prescription drug pricing for the 200 drugs and receiving the full value of prescription drug and medical claim rebates from the insurance company to save the county money.
Medicaid expansion in 2014 in New York State was associated with a statistically significant reduction in severe maternal morbidity in low-income women during delivery hospitalizations compared with high-income women, according to a study in Anesthesia & Analgesia. Excess maternal morbidity and mortality is a grave public health concern in the U.S., particularly since there are extreme income and racial disparities. Researchers looked at more than two million delivery hospitalizations and note that the proportion of Medicaid births increased a relative 12.1 percent from the pre-expansion period.
The Governor of New Jersey signed an Executive Order directing the Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency to convene an Interagency Health Care Affordability Workgroup to identify opportunities within the administration and across the public and private sectors to advance healthcare affordability, accessibility and transparency. The Executive Order also directs the Department of Banking and Insurance to develop plans to implement both healthcare cost growth benchmarks and affordability standards to ensure increased oversight and accountability. Additionally, the Order establishes the Health Care Affordability Advisory Board, comprised of healthcare industry stakeholders, consumer advocates, and policy leaders, to guide the development and implementation of the cost growth benchmarks.
The California Health Care Foundation released its 2021 Health Policy Survey detailing California residents’ experiences with the healthcare system in the past year and the health policy agenda they believe state policymakers should support. Top priorities included making sure state and county public health departments have the resources they need to control the spread of COVID-19 and making sure there are enough healthcare providers across the state. Fifty one percent of respondents said they delayed, skipped or cut back on care because of cost in the last 12 months. Of those individuals, 41 percent said that rationing their care worsened their health condition. Additionally, nearly half of Californians said that it is harder for Black and Latino people to get the care they need compared to white people. Of those who believe it is harder, at least three in four think the federal government, health insurance plans, state government and individual healthcare providers are doing too little to address racial and ethnic inequality in the healthcare system.
The D.C. Council created the Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE), which will assess proposed legislation for its impact on racial equity, reports DCist. CORE will primarily use Racial Equity Impact Statements to evaluate how a piece of legislation could hurt or benefit groups of people who have traditionally been underserved and discriminated against and provide a list of possible effects or racial and social inequities.
Rhode Island’s strategy to implement a cost growth benchmark, in tandem with engaging healthcare leaders and stakeholders, is a model for other states, according to a report from the Milbank Memorial Fund. Rhode Island implemented measures to work alongside the cost growth benchmark in order to address not only cost growth, but cost drivers, to control rising healthcare costs in the state. The state’s private-public partnership emphasizes the shared commitment to reducing healthcare costs and can be used as a model in other states exploring cost-containment strategies.
Tennessee is set to become the first state to implement a Medicaid block-grant program after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the state's waiver last week, according to Healthcare Finance. The block grant, called an “aggregate cap,” will create a fixed spending target based on historical enrollment and Medicaid cost data that increases at a “reasonable growth rate” over time. It will also give the state the option to exclude certain pharmaceutical drugs from the formulary. Numerous advocacy organizations, payers and providers oppose Medicaid block grants because they fear that underserved populations will lose access to healthcare by putting a cap on federal funds.
Colorado is now soliciting vendors to implement the state’s Canadian Drug Importation Program, reports CBS Denver, and anticipates awarding vendor contracts later this year. The program is designed to give Coloradans access to Canada’s lower-prices drugs and was made possible through a change in federal policy enacted in November 2020, which allows FDA-authorized programs to import certain prescription drugs from Canada. A recent report from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing posits that the average savings on importable drugs could be more than 60 percent, but savings for some drugs was greater than 90 percent.