Health News Roundup

Continuous Medicaid coverage for kids, and more in this week’s roundup

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Stopping the churn: Why some states want to guarantee Medicaid coverage from birth to age 6
Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, Nov. 10
Before the COVID-19 public health emergency began in 2020, millions of children “churned” on and off Medicaid each year – an indication that many were losing coverage because of administrative problems, rather than because of ineligibility. Now, states are rethinking their enrollment policies to keep the youngest Medicaid members covered.

Medication treatment for addiction is shorter for Black and Hispanic patients, study finds
Emily Baumgaertner, The New York Times, Nov. 9
Researchers have long known that people of color are less likely to be prescribed lifesaving addiction treatment options than white people. But a new analysis shows that even when Black and Hispanic patients start a prescription for buprenorphine – the most popular medication to help those in recovery fight cravings – the typical duration of their treatment is shorter than that of white patients. These gaps have consistently widened and reflect structural barriers that some groups face even after they begin working toward recovery.

The player-coaches of addiction recovery work without boundaries
Rae Ellen Bichell, Kaiser Health News, Nov. 16
Peer support specialists are people who are in recovery and employed to help others navigate treatment for substance use disorders. As billions of dollars in opioid settlement funds roll out to states and localities, local leaders are deciding what to do with the money. Supporting and training peer support specialists, whose certification requirements vary by state, are among the options.

Brains of Black Americans age faster, study finds, with racial stressors a likely factor
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT, Nov. 14
A new study shows that the brains of Black adults in the U.S. age more quickly than those of white and Hispanic adults, showing features linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as early as mid-life. The researchers hypothesized that early brain aging in Black participants was linked the accumulation of racial stressors over time due to discrimination, poverty, residential segregation, pollution, and fears about personal safety, often referred to as “weathering.”

Thousands of experts hired to aid public health departments are losing their jobs
Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News, Nov. 14
As COVID-19 raged, roughly 4,000 public health experts were hired by the CDC Foundation to help fill gaps in public health departments on the front lines. Those contracts are now ending, and only about 800 of the 4,000 hires will remain employed. That has left many health departments – which have been underfunded for decades – facing staffing shortages as the nation eyes a possible winter COVID surge and grapples with the ongoing threat of other public health issues.