What’s new in health? Weekly highlights

May 16, 2017

The Connecticut Health Foundation launched a weekly newsletter round-up of top local and national stories about health care reform and health equity to keep you informed. We will update our website with the four most recent round-ups so make sure to check back weekly or subscribe to our emails!

Week of May 22, 2017

HEALTH EQUITY

‘I was panicked’: Deaf patients struggle to get interpreters in medical emergencies
Leila Miller, STAT, May 22

The chest pain was bad enough. Then John Paul Jebian asked staff at Baptist Hospital of Miami for an American Sign Language interpreter. They instead brought a video screen with an internet link to a remote interpreter to help him understand what the doctors and nurses were saying. Jebian, who is deaf, said a nurse struggled to set up the equipment as he anxiously wondered whether he was suffering a heart attack…A STAT review of hospital inspection reports and court records found dozens of instances around the country when deaf patients said they were not provided adequate interpreter services.

A dying mother’s desperate choice
Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times, May 22

Taboos about mental illness pervade every culture, and research shows that Asian American families are the least likely among all racial groups to use mental health services. [His mother] did seek treatment for George after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But even when Asian American patients find professional help, their family and friends often struggle to speak openly about the subject, and so miss out on that important piece of informal therapy says Glenn Masuda, associate director of the Asian Pacific Family Center. And silence, experts say, can foster a deep, unhealthy relationship between a caring parent and a mentally ill child.

Video: When getting to the doctor’s office is the hardest part

The Eastern Regional Mental Health Board produced this short but insightful video on the challenges facing Connecticut residents with limited access to reliable, affordable transportation

HEALTH REFORM

CBO: GOP health bill’s impact on CT, other states would vary widely
Ana Radelat, The Connecticut Mirror, May 24

An analysis of the likely impact of the final House GOP bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act says it would leave an additional 23 million uninsured and reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over the next decade.

Related: 10 key points from the CBO report on Obamacare repeal (Politico)

ACCESS TO CARE

Community health centers face uncertain financial future 
Cara Rosner, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, May 23

Connecticut community health centers have been able to hire staff, expand services, and renovate their facilities with f unds made available through the Affordable Care Act, but patients and clinic officials are worried that money — and health care coverage for formerly uninsured patients — is now in jeopardy. “I can’t even think about [Medicaid] going away because I don’t know what we would do,” said Sophia Stone, 43, a Hartford patient who works 25 hours a week at a small business with no employer-backed insurance available.

State funding for Danbury-area school-based health centers threatened
Mackenzie Rigg, The News-Times, May 20

For Mayara Freitas, an eighth-grader at Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, the school-based health center is her safe haven. The Danbury school-based health center is one of five run by the Connecticut Institute for Communities, a nonprofit that also oversees a federally funded health center in downtown Danbury. Mayara is one of 710 students enrolled at the Rogers Park health center — 74 percent of the total school population. From July 1, 2016, to April 30, the center has had just over 840 visits.

Week of May 15, 2017

HEALTH EQUITY

Racial and ethnic disparities persist in sudden infant deaths
Katherine Hobson, NPR, May 15

American Indian and Alaska Native families are much more likely to have an infant die suddenly and unexpectedly, and that risk has remained higher than in other ethnic groups since public health efforts were launched to prevent sudden infant death syndrome in the 1990s. African-American babies also face a higher risk, a study finds.

Segregated living linked to higher blood pressure among blacks
Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, Kaiser Health News, May 15

For African-Americans, the isolation of living in a racially segregated neighborhood may lead to an important health issue: higher blood pressure. One cardiologist said this study’s findings reinforce the importance of understanding his patients’ environments: “I need to get to know my patients – about where they live and what it’s like – to be able to understand how they can implement my recommendations…that are easy to say and hard to implement…And certainly harder to implement if doctors don’t understand where their patients live, work and play.”

The painful truth about teeth
Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, The Washington Post, May 13

As the distance between rich and poor grows in the United States, few consequences are so overlooked as the humiliating divide in dental care. High-end cosmetic dentistry is soaring, and better-off Americans spend well over $1 billion each year just to make their teeth a few shades whiter. Millions of others rely on charity clinics and hospital emergency rooms to treat painful and neglected teeth. Unable to afford expensive root canals and crowns, many simply have them pulled. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans older than 65 do not have a single real tooth left.

FEDERAL HEALTH REFORM

Three-year impacts of the Affordable Care Act: Improved medical care and health among low-income adults
Benjamin D. Sommers, Bethany Maylone, Robert J. Blendon, E. John Orav, and Arnold M. Epstein, Health Affairs, May 2017

Among adults with chronic conditions, ACA coverage was associated with better disease management and medication compliance and a significant increase in self-reported health status.

Secret sauce in Maine’s successful high-risk pool: Enough money
Patty Wight, Maine Public/Kaiser Health News, May 17

As lawmakers look to replace the Affordable Care Act, one idea under consideration – touted as a way to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can afford coverage – is an idea Maine used: the “invisible high-risk pool.” But experts caution that its track record is the result of a key ingredient missing from the proposal before Congress: enough money.

Senate considers stripping states like CT of abortion coverage
Ana Radelat, The Connecticut Mirror, May 18

As Senate Republicans meet behind closed doors this week to craft their bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, one of the most contentious issues is how it will affect the abortion coverage millions of American women now have as part of their health insurance policies.

INSURANCE AND THE EXCHANGE

Access Health extends insurers’ deadline to decide on 2018
Kyle Constable, The Connecticut Mirror, May 18

The two remaining insurers on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange now have until Sept. 1 to decide whether to return in 2018, the exchange’s CEO said Thursday. “We are hoping this extra time will allow the carriers to resolve any issues about working in our exchange,” Access Health CEO Jim Wadleigh said.

MEDICAID

Malloy proposes cutting Medicaid program that many see as cost-effective
Josh Kovner, The Hartford Courant, May 18

Malloy proposed cutting all of the state’s $3.8 million annual share of Community First Choice, which became an option for states under the Affordable Care Act. While all of these programs are threatened nationally, there has been bipartisan support locally for Community First Choice. It is intended to keep people out of costlier levels of care, and gives states 56 cents back on every dollar spent, six points higher than the 50 percent reimbursement rate of other Medicaid programs.

Medicaid cuts would disproportionately impact low-income women
Usha Ranji, Alina Salganicoff, Laurie Sobel, Caroline Rosenzweig, and Ivette Gomez, Kaiser Family Foundation, May 2017

Medicaid cuts proposed in the AHCA and public funding cuts for family planning services would disproportionately impact the 39% of low-income women enrolled in Medicaid. Changes to these programs and funding to the clinics that provide family planning services could limit the availability of contraceptive services, STI screenings and treatment, and preventive cancer screenings, along with other primary care services to low-income women.


Week of May
8, 2017

HEALTH EQUITY

Clinical trials in need of diversity 
Sujata Srinivasan, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, May 11

African Americans and other minorities are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer, yet they continue to be underrepresented in clinical trials for drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Number of lead-poisoned children drops, but more showed higher levels 
Jenifer Frank, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, May 9

Nearly 1,400 new cases of lead-poisoned children under age 6 were reported in Connecticut in 2015, a slight drop from the year before, but more children showed higher levels of poisoning…[B]lack children under 6 were twice as likely to be lead poisoned as white or Asian children in 2015, and Hispanic children were 1.6­­ times as likely to be poisoned as non-Hispanic children.

INSURANCE RATE HIKES FOR 2018

Insurers seek rate increases of up to 33.8 percent
Amanda Cuda, Connecticut Post, May 8

Experts cited many possible reasons for the steep proposed increases — including uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

FEDERAL HEALTH REFORM

As ACA debate rages, local residents weigh in
Judy Benson, The Day, May 6

“We’re really worried,” said Jessica Offir of Coventry, who’s seen the benefits of coverage through the Medicaid expansion under the ACA for herself and members of her family, including a disabled brother who is able to work because of the health care he now receives. “This has been an absolute life saver for us.” As Offir and others able to get health insurance coverage through the ACA fear losing what they have, another group has not only been left out of those benefits, but feels as though their health insurance options have gone from bad to worse.

The most important part of the Republican health bill is mostly getting ignored: Don’t forget Medicaid.
Matthew Yglesias, Vox.com, May 9

The frenetic final days of the debate over the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives focused largely on patients with preexisting medical conditions — but not on sweeping cuts to Medicaid, which have the potential take health care from tens of millions of Americans.

OTHER RESOURCES

10 things to know about Medicaid: Setting the facts straight
Julia Paradise, Kaiser Family Foundation, May 10

Ten facts to help inform policymakers contemplating massive changes to the program that covers one in five Americans, including low-income children, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Compare proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act 
Kaiser Family Foundation

Kaiser provides a great interactive tool that allows you to compare the AHCA replacement proposal to the current ACA.

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