Health News Roundup

Week of October 23, 2017

Community health workers

Care coordinators cut costs, improve health outcomes, but are underused
Sujata Srinivasan, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, October 25
A few years ago, patient navigators at Project Access-New Haven set out to see if they could change the course of health care treatment for some Medicaid patients who frequently used emergency rooms. Patient navigators, also called community health workers or care coordinators, are employed by nonprofits, hospitals, clinics and federally qualified health centers. Their goal is to improve access to care and health outcomes and reduce cost. They saw an average cost reduction of $153 per member per month.

New York borrows a health care idea from Africa
Joanne Kenen, Politico, October 25
In Africa and India, the idea of using CHWs was born of necessity. They simply didn’t have the money or resources to do it any other way. But Kaur realized that using community health care workers would also fill a real gap in American health care, where all too often patients with chronic conditions like heart failure and diabetes are released from the hospital with little follow-up and few options when problems arise except to go to right back to the ER.

Health insurance

Survey: US uninsured rate up 3.5 million this year; expected to rise
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press, October 20
The number of U.S. adults without health insurance is up nearly 3.5 million this year, as rising premiums and political turmoil over “Obamacare” undermine coverage gains that drove the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index survey found that the uninsured rate among adults was 12.3 percent during the period from July 1-Sept. 30, an increase of 1.4 percentage points since the end of last year. The increase in the number of uninsured is more striking because it comes at a time of economic growth and low unemployment. Among Hispanics, the rate increased by 1.6 percentage points, and among blacks the increase was 1.5 percentage points.

Obamacare open enrollment to begin amid shaky insurance market
Ana Radelat, CT Mirror, October 24
Open enrollment for health care coverage next year begins next week amid uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act and big increases in premiums for individuals and businesses that do not qualify for subsidies. Nevertheless, the health care law is still in effect and those required to enroll in a plan will face increasing penalties by the Internal Revenue Service if they fail to do so. Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, is preparing for a shortened enrollment period that begins on Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 22 of this year.


The problem is the prices
Sarah Kliff, Vox, October 16
Americans pay exorbitant prices for all kinds of care. As a health care reporter, I find myself writing about $25,000 MRIs, $629 Band-Aids — even a $39.95 fee just to hold one’s own baby after delivery. On average, an MRI in the United States costs $1,119. That same scan costs $503 in Switzerland and $215 in Australia.