Health News Roundup

Maternity care deserts, a new role for Medicaid, and more in this week’s roundup

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The push to bring Medicaid behind bars
Ryan Levi, Tradeoffs, Feb. 23
People leaving prison are at extremely high risk of hospitalization and death, and policymakers from deep blue California to solidly red Utah think Medicaid could help. In January, federal health officials for the first time signed off on having Medicaid pay for services for some people in jail, prison or a juvenile facility. The goal is to use the time before someone leaves incarceration to connect them with medical providers and limit any disruption in their care. In theory, this could improve health outcomes and save state Medicaid programs money.

Community workers fan out to persuade immigrant seniors to get covered
Claudia Boyd-Barrett, California Health Report, Feb. 28
In May, California expanded its Medicaid program to low-income adults 50 and older, regardless of immigration status. Yet many eligible residents don’t know they could be covered. Some counties have hired community workers and health educators to enroll as many immigrant seniors as they can find. Workers visit senior centers, churches, English-language classes, immigration offices, markets, and community events, hoping to encounter people unaware of their newfound eligibility.

Lawmakers mull Medicaid funding for community health workers
Hugh McQuaid, CT News Junkie, Feb. 28
Connecticut lawmakers are considering a proposal to require the Department of Social Services to amend the state’s Medicaid plan to support certified community health workers – public health outreach liaisons who help residents navigate a range of health care and social services. 

Rural hospitals are shuttering their maternity units
Roni Caryn Rabin, The New York Times, Feb. 28
Citing costs, many hospitals are closing labor and delivery wards, expanding so-called maternity care deserts. The United States is already the most dangerous developed country in the world for women to give birth, with a maternal mortality rate of more than one death for every 5,000 live deliveries. The problems are particularly acute in minority communities and especially among Native American women. Women of color are more likely to live in maternity care deserts or in communities with limited access to care. 

COVID-19 surveillance added new burdens on essential workers — and gave them little data to protect their health
Ambar Castillo, STAT, March 1
At the peak of the pandemic, essential workers faced rampant tech-based surveillance, from overhead infrared thermometers to wearables that tracked their proximity to one another. The technologies forced employees to adjust the way they worked and sometimes made their workplaces less safe. Yet they didn’t offer workers clear and accurate information that would help them protect their health, according to a new report. These practices affected mostly Black, Latino, and low-income workers.