Health News Roundup

What the U.S. can learn from Taiwan’s single-payer health care system, and more in this week’s roundup

Austin Frakt, The New York Times, January 13 
Racial discrimination has shaped so many American institutions that perhaps it should be no surprise that health care is among them. Put simply, people of color receive less care — and often worse care — than white Americans. Reasons include lower rates of health coverage; communication barriers; and racial stereotyping based on false beliefs. African-American men, in particular, have the worst health outcomes of any major demographic group. In part, research shows, this is a result of mistrust from a legacy of discrimination.
Jenna Carlesso, The Connecticut Mirror, January 15
While Connecticut has led national efforts in public insurance reform, significant health disparities persist between the state’s residents of color and white residents, two research and advocacy groups concluded in reports released this week. Both reports provided areas of improvement for the state and included recommendations aimed at insurers, state agencies, lawmakers and health providers.

Related report: 
The Commonwealth Fund released a new report on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on health disparities that finds that the coverage gains made in the early years of the health law are slipping. Researchers blame the shift largely on continued lack of coverage for adults in the 15 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.
Dylan Scott, Vox, January 13
Taiwan made its choice in the 1990s to embrace a single-payer health care system. It has required sacrifice: by doctors who believe they’re forced to see too many patients every day; by patients with complex and costly conditions who can’t always access the latest treatments; by citizens who have been asked from time to time, and will be asked again, to pay more for their health care than they did before. Even though it isn’t perfect, the vast majority of Taiwan’s citizens today approve of their health care system. This story is the first in a new series called “Everybody Covered: What the US can learn from other countries’ health systems.”
Jenna Carlesso, The Connecticut Mirror, January 14 
Doctors have long acknowledged that social factors influence people’s health outcomes. But addressing those issues can be complicated and there has been no formal way of tracking what happens after a person leaves the hospital. New software from the Connecticut Hospital Association is trying to change that. Two hospitals – Griffin and Waterbury – already have begun using the software to address those factors, and in less than two months, dozens of patients have been referred to social service organizations for help. Physicians can use the program to log patients’ progress in obtaining healthy food, stable housing, employment and other resources upon release and to issue referrals, see when appointments with social service groups are scheduled and track what services the patient receives.
Campbell Robertson, The New York Times, January 13
Four years ago, West Virginia adopted work requirements for its food stamp program. They found that the imposition of work requirements had no impact on the number of people who were working, only on the number receiving aid. As found with other safety net programs, it’s very rarely a lack of will that stops people from working while on benefits, but rather the reality of being poor in America. What happened in West Virginia might be an indication of what is to come when the rest of the nation adopts this policy in April.