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Health News Roundup

How black pharmacists are closing the cultural gap in health care, and more in this week’s roundup

HEALTH CARE COSTS

Colorado’s ski towns could fix the high cost of American health care
John Tozzi and Hannah Recht, Bloomberg, June 21
The U.S. spends more on medical care than other countries mostly because prices are higher, not because Americans use more services or because care is superior, according to health economists. Further, employers often don’t have a good sense of what their health plans pay for services and how that compares with the market. In a rural ski town in Colorado, a group of employers banded together to lower prices dramatically, negotiating directly with the local hospital and insurance companies. Can their approach work elsewhere?

Diabetics taking desperate measures as cost of insulin skyrockets
Ana Radelat, The Connecticut Mirror, June 21
Jacqueline Acosta’s job is to help people with their medical care, but because of the high cost of insulin, she is struggling with her own medical needs. Hers is a common and nationwide problem that is alarming diabetics and lawmakers alike as the price of insulin has doubled, and even tripled in recent years. The Health Care Cost Institute reported that Type 1 diabetes patients paid an average of $5,705 for insulin in 2016, nearly double what they paid four years earlier. So why is a drug that’s been around since the 1920s so expensive?

HEALTH EQUITY

How black pharmacists are closing the cultural gap in health care
Cara Anthony, Kaiser Health News, June 27
Black Americans continue to face persistent health disparities. Compared with their white counterparts, black men and women are more likely to die of heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes and AIDS. But medical providers who give patients culturally competent care — the act of acknowledging a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment — often see improved patient outcomes, according to multiple studies. Part of it is trust and understanding, and part of it can be more nuanced knowledge of the medical conditions that may be more prevalent in those populations. Many patients see their pharmacists monthly, far more often than annual visits to their medical doctors, creating more opportunities for supportive care.

CONNECTING CLINICAL CARE AND COMMUNITIES

Health insurer group launches social determinants initiative
Shelby Livingston, Modern Healthcare, June 20
Insurance lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans launched an initiative to spark collaboration among health insurers to address the social factors that affect patients’ health. The initiative is meant to build on work health plans have been doing independently for the last several years to address social barriers to health care, such as housing insecurity, lack of transportation and poor nutrition. The insurance industry increasingly has focused on the social and environmental factors that may have a bigger impact on a person’s health than medical care.

FEDERAL POLICY

How proposal to redefine poverty would impact health care and food stamps
Mattie Quinn, Governing, June 27
The Trump administration is proposing to redefine the federal poverty line, a move that would disqualify more than half a million low-income families from social services including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, free and reduced-price school meals, and food stamps over the next decade. The proposed change would affect how the poverty line is calculated by switching the measure of inflation to one that grows more slowly than the current measure.