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Health News Roundup

Family doctors play crucial role in rural areas, and more in this week’s roundup

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Can family doctors deliver rural America from its maternal health crisis?
Sarah Jane Tribble, KFF Health News, Jan. 2
More than half of all rural counties in the United States have no hospital services for delivering babies. In those areas, family doctors are often the ones delivering babies. In a survey of 216 rural hospitals in 10 states, family practice doctors delivered babies in 67% of the hospitals. Authors also found that if those physicians hadn’t been there, many patients would have driven an average of 86 miles round-trip for care. In rural America, training family medicine doctors in obstetrics can be more daunting though, because of low government reimbursement and increasing medical liability costs.

US women are stocking up on abortion pills, especially when there is news about restrictions
Laura Ungar, The Associated Press, Jan. 2
New research shows that thousands of women in the U.S. stocked up on abortion pills just in case they needed them. The study looked at requests for the pills by people who were not pregnant and sought them through Aid Access, a European online telemedicine service that prescribes them for future and immediate use. Requests were highest right after news leaked that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Researchers found inequities in who is getting pills in advance compared to those who were getting them for current abortions. They found a greater proportion were at least 30 years old, white, had no children and lived in urban areas and regions with less poverty.

‘Creating a crisis for residents’: Dentist shortage causes problems in eastern Connecticut
Matt Grahn, The Norwich Bulletin, Jan. 4
New London, Windham, and Tolland counties have the highest patient-to-dentist ratios in the state, meaning fewer dentists are responsible for more patients. Post-pandemic, there are 60% fewer dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants in the region. “This is creating a crisis for residents in this part of the state to access dental healthcare,” said Dr. Lena Aglio, dental director for United Community and Family Services. The Medicaid-accepting dental network in eastern Connecticut also decreased more than in other parts of the state, creating a strain.

Insulin costs now capped for more Americans
Jason Millman, Axios, Jan. 3
As of Jan.1, more patients on insulin will pay less for the drug. Insulin maker Sanofi capped monthly out-of-pocket costs at $35 for patients with private insurance. It is the latest manufacturer to make its product more affordable. Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have also taken cost-cutting measures. The Inflation Reduction Act pressured companies to do so by capping monthly insulin costs at $35 for those enrolled in Medicare.

Hearing aids may help you live longer, but barriers to their use persist
Angela Zhang, ABC News, Jan. 3
A new study suggests regular use of hearing aids can lead to longer lives for U.S. adults with hearing loss. While researchers could not explain why hearing aid use was linked with reduced deaths, experts believe it may be because hearing aids help mitigate risk for other conditions like depression, dementia, and social isolation. The study found that regular hearing aid users tended to belong to a higher socioeconomic class, self-identify as white, and have fewer medical conditions. It also found that the cost of hearing aids can be a barrier to access.