Health News Roundup

Reducing medical costs through housing, and more in this week’s roundup

Annika Darling, CT Latino News, November 6
The Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services in Connecticut recently revamped a training video for behavioral health care providers that acknowledges and starts to address the cultural and linguistic barriers that exist between providers and patients that have the potential to affect the quality of health care delivery and lead to health disparities. There are many factors that contribute to the unequal health outcomes in minority groups, but the goal of the video is to progress towards more equality in health care.

Darcel Rockett, The Chicago Tribune, October 24
Christopher Lee was 15 years old when he was shot, while on his bike outside his East Garfield Park home. Three years have passed and he’s still not over the shooting. He doesn’t play basketball in parks anymore — only in gyms. Taking public transportation makes him nervous. And when friends invite Lee to a party, he declines. Lee’s experience of isolation after a violent incident is not unusual, according to two recent University of Chicago studies. Data shows that the more violence people experienced in their own community, the lonelier they were likely to be. Along with social isolation, the studies connected hypervigilance among urban residents affected by community and police violence with chronic health conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, memory impairment, and anxiety disorders.
John Tozzi, Bloomberg, November 5
Jeffrey Brenner is a doctor who for more than 25 years has worked largely with the poor, many of them homeless. After decades in shoestring clinics and nonprofits, he’s become an executive at UnitedHealth Group Inc. Brenner aims to reduce expenses and contribute to their bottom line not by denying care, but by spending more on social interventions, starting with housing. The U.S. system is engineered to route billions of dollars to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and labs to diagnose and treat patients once they’re sick. It’s not set up to keep vulnerable people housed, clothed, and nourished so they’ll be less likely to get sick in the first place. He is using UnitedHealth’s money to pay for housing and support services for formerly homeless recipients of Medicaid. After testing the idea in Phoenix, Milwaukee, and Las Vegas, UnitedHealth is expanding the housing program to 30 markets by early 2020.

Kushal T. Kadakia, Shivani A. Shah, Barak D. Richman, Health Affairs Blog, November 5
What causes a county to become the state’s costliest place for health care? In rural North Carolina, it isn’t the lavish technology or complex patient population, it’s the lack of access to primary care. When Medicaid beneficiaries become sick, they go to the hospital because no physician is nearby. And because transportation is often lacking, these patients call for an ambulance. In short, they seek the most expensive care because that is the only care available.
Markian Hawryluk, Kaiser Health News, November 4
Colorado is struggling to deal with returned mail sent out by its Medicaid, SNAP and other programs. The state estimates about 15% of the 12 million letters from public assistance programs to 1.3 million members are returned — some 1.8 million pieces of undelivered mail each year. It falls on each county’s staff to contact the individuals to confirm their correct address and their eligibility for Medicaid. But last year, state officials decided that if caseworkers can’t reach recipients, they can close those cases and cut off health benefits after a single piece of returned mail.