Health News Roundup

A drop in cancer disparities, churches tackling medical debt, and more in this week’s roundup


ACA linked to reduced racial disparities, earlier diagnosis and treatment in cancer care
Laurie McGinley, The Washington Post, June 2
New research links the Affordable Care Act to a reduction in racial disparities in the care of cancer patients and to earlier diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, one of the most dangerous malignancies. Before the health law, African Americans with advanced cancer were 4.8 percentage points less likely to start treatment within 30 days of diagnosis. Today, black adults in states that expanded Medicaid under the law have almost entirely caught up with white patients in getting timely treatment. Another study showed that after implementation of the law, ovarian cancer was diagnosed at earlier stages and more women began treatment within a month.


Churches wipe out millions in medical debt for others
Roxie Hammill, Kaiser Health News, June 3
It’s a sign of the impact of medical debt, and the lack of a policy solution: Churches and others have jumped into the debt market by using donations to buy up low-income people’s medical debt — sold for pennies on the dollar on the secondary market — and then forgive it. Research indicates that medical debt contributes to two-thirds of bankruptcies, and polling shows that more than half of those who struggle to pay medical bills take major steps, such as taking an extra job, cutting other household spending, or using up savings. Churches have a lot of choices when it comes to charity, but medical debt and affordability issues often resonate with parishioners.


Abortion bans reignite fight for black reproductive rights
Nicole Leonard, WNPR, June 2
Attendees of a recent Black Reproductive Freedom Rally in Hartford were protesting abortion bans and restrictions in states across the country. But they were also fighting for something more — safe reproductive care and better health outcomes for women of color. These things, advocates said, have been historically absent and ignored, leading to further distrust of a health care system rife with cases of racism, discrimination and deadly outcomes for black people. Wizdom Powell, director of the Health Disparities Institute at UConn Health, said restrictions on reproductive health care will likely make it more difficult to close gaps in health disparities, such as lowering higher maternal and infant mortality rates among black women and children.


Police train to be ‘social workers of last resort’
Matt Vasilogambros, Stateline, May 31
Police have become “the social workers of last resort,” said Jim Pugel, Seattle’s former interim police chief. When the mental health system fails, and when families or medication can’t prevent a crisis, it’s up to police to respond, he said. And they can respond best with the right tools. In Washington state, a new law requires new training for officers on de-escalation techniques intended to prevent potentially deadly interactions between police and residents. Training will also include lessons on implicit and explicit bias, patrol tactics, the history of race and policing, and first aid.