Health News Roundup

The growing mental health crisis in migrant detention centers, a new way to pay doctors that’s paying off, and more in this week’s roundup

health equity

How racial inequity is playing out in the opioid crisis
Jenae Addison, PBS, July 18
The opioid epidemic in the United States has largely centered on white Americans, who account for roughly 80 percent of opioid overdose victims. But the national attention on white victims has pushed minorities to the sidelines, even as the number of opioid-related deaths among non-whites is on the rise, making up 20 percent of deaths involving prescription and non-prescription opioids in the U.S. 

Migrant mental health crisis spirals in ICE detention facilities
Renuka Rayasam, Politico, July 21
A federal inspection of a California migrant detention center revealed a largely unseen mental health crisis within the growing population of migrants who are being held in detention centers in border states. One estimate puts the number of detainees with mental illnesses between 3,000 and 6,000. Many of the migrants with mental illness are not stable enough to participate in their own legal proceedings, so they languish in detention.

Health care policy

Do as the doctor says, not as he or she does
Michael D. Frakes, Jonathan Gruber, and Anupam B. Jena, STAT, July 22
Doctors have far more information about health, and the benefits and risks of tests and treatments, than most of their patients. Yet according to a new study, when doctors need health care they act like much like their patients. The study found that compared to non-physicians, physicians were only slightly less likely to have low-value care procedures, suggesting that only providing patients with more information is unlikely to substantively improve their health care decisions.

Study: The US could have averted about 15,600 deaths if every state expanded Medicaid
Tara Golshan, Vox, July 23
A new study found not only that the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act brought improvements in health to enrollees, but also that full expansion nationwide would have averted 15,600 deaths among the vulnerable Medicaid-eligible population.
delivery system reform

Changing the way doctors are paid made patients healthier and saved money
Angus Chen, WBUR, July 18
A new alternative payment program from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts that promised cash bonuses for health care providers to improve the quality of their care overall, while still saving everyone money, seems to be paying off. Researchers followed hundreds of thousands of patients over eight years in the new payment program and compared them to similar patients who were not in the program. They found an 11.7% savings on medical claims on average over the first eight years when compared to similar patients outside the program. There was also evidence that patients in the program were healthier.