Health News Roundup

States using ride-sharing services to solve for transportation issues for residents on Medicaid, and more in this week’s roundup


How long you live may be affected by your community
Erik Ofgang, Connecticut Magazine, September 19
The life expectancy at birth in the affluent, coastal Connecticut town of Westport ranges from the low to high 80s, well above the state and U.S. average. That’s according to estimates released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of its U.S. Small-Area Life Expectancy Project. The never-before-tabulated, hyper-local estimates are based on mortality data compiled at the Census tract or neighborhood level. The project allows residents across the U.S. and most of Connecticut to look up their neighborhood’s life expectancy by address. The tool is available here. The data reveals the sometimes dramatic disparities between neighborhoods and within cities and towns across the state as well as the U.S. as a whole, and in so doing paints a compelling picture of how our personal health is influenced by our address.

To learn more, read our blog: Dear Connecticut residents: your neighborhood might determine how long you’ll live

Brentin Mock, City Lab, September 20
The city of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission recently released a white paper that shows just how stark African Americans’ chances for survival are in Pittsburgh. The findings for black women in particular are troubling. In evaluating how well life is going for Pittsburgh residents along the lines of gender and race, the study finds that white men and women are mostly enjoying either average or above-average standards of livability compared to other racial groups in the city. However, “Pittsburgh is considerably less livable for black men than other similar cities … particularly true when it comes to health and employment outcomes,” reads the study. “Pittsburgh is arguably the most unlivable for black women.”
Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, September 25
Arizona became the first state to revamp its Medicaid regulations to make it easier for ride-sharing companies to participate in its nonemergency transportation benefit. The strategy has added thousands of vehicles to the fleet serving Arizonans on Medicaid, nearly 24% of the state’s 7 million residents. As they seek to lower costs and improve care, Medicaid and other insurers have begun to examine the transportation needs of patients — along with other so-called social determinants of health such as adequate food and housing. Whether states save money remains to be seen.
Sarah Kliff and Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times, September 26
Three years ago, California passed one of the strongest laws in the country to outlaw surprise medical billing. That legislation made sure that when patients went to a hospital covered by their insurance, doctors couldn’t later ambush them with unexpected bills. Now lawmakers who want to ban surprise bills nationally are gravitating toward a California-style approach, making the California experience a key exhibit in the debate.

As health care costs rise, workers at low-wage firms may pay a larger share
Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News, September 25
Employers remain the main source of health insurance in the U.S. for 153 million people. Rising premiums and deductibles are pushing employer-based coverage increasingly out of reach, according to a new survey of 2,000 employers. More than a quarter of all covered workers and nearly half of those working for small businesses face an annual deductible of $2,000 or more.