Health News Roundup

Hospitals now required to post their prices, the growing disparity in junk food ads targeting minority youth, and more

health reform

Hospitals must now post prices. But it may take a brain surgeon to decipher them.
Robert Pear, The New York Times, January 13
On Jan. 1, hospitals began complying with a Trump administration order to post list prices for all their services, theoretically offering consumers transparency and choice and forcing health care providers into price competition. The data, posted online in spreadsheets is incomprehensible and unusable by patients — a hodgepodge of numbers and technical medical terms, displayed in formats that vary from hospital to hospital. It is nearly impossible for consumers to compare prices for the same service at different hospitals because no two hospitals seem to describe services in the same way.

Providers walk ‘fine line’ between informing and scaring immigrant patients
Ana B. Ibarra, Kaiser Health News, January 15
Some doctors and clinics are proactively informing patients about a proposed policy that could jeopardize the legal status of immigrants who use public benefit programs such as Medicaid. Others argue that because this “public charge” proposal isn’t final — and may never be adopted — disseminating too much information could create unnecessary alarm and cause some patients to drop benefits.

children’s health

Scathing report on conditions for imprisoned youth
Kathleen Megan, The Connecticut Mirror, January 16
The Office of the Child Advocate released a scathing report on the substandard conditions in state facilities for imprisoned and detained youth and called for an overhaul of the system. The report details the individual cases of incarcerated youth, including one boy who was confined for 23.5 hours a day with no access to education or adequate mental health services, and another who was  sprayed with a chemical agent despite his asthma diagnosis and restrained face-down. The year-long investigation found that minority youth in particular remain disproportionately confined and incarcerated in Connecticut’s state-run facilities.

Black and Hispanic youth are targeted with junk food ads, research shows
Jessica Ravitz, CNN, January 15
Click over to TV programming that caters to black and Hispanic youth and the commercials almost exclusively push fast food, sugary drinks, bad-for-you snacks and candy. Junk food comprised 86% of ad spending on black-targeted programming and 82% of spending on Spanish-language television in 2017, according to a recent study. The disparity in advertising closely mirrors the obesity rates for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic youth compared to the rates for white and Asian youth — nearly 26% of Hispanic youth and 22% of black youth were deemed obese, versus 14% of whites and 11% of Asians.

linking care with community

Kaiser Permanente just invested in a housing complex. Here’s what it’s doing with it
Paige Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, January 16
Kaiser Permanente has gotten into the business of housing. The health system announced that it would put $200 million toward initiatives targeting housing insecurity and homelessness in the communities it serves. This week, it announced the first investment is the $5.2 million purchase of an affordable housing complex in Oakland, California. It’s part of a comprehensive strategy, officials said, to invest in addressing the economic, social and environmental conditions that ultimately affect the health of their patients.