Health Policy Happenings, 8.27.21

Every time I see an interesting article related to health policy or public health, I store it in a (now very long) note to remember to share it later. Pandemic notwithstanding, there is a lot going on in the policy world that we should be following. Let’s get to it.

In the U.S., our public health and health care delivery systems are separate, but in Costa Rica they merged starting in the 1970s with serious evidence of improvement in many health metrics. You don’t want to miss this piece by Atul Guwande.

There are more than 4 million direct care givers and nearly 42 million family members who provide informal support to someone 50 or older. How we support paid and family member caregivers for the challenging work they do is disgraceful.

New research quantifies how we spend differently in health care by race and ethnicity. It found that White individuals used more ambulatory care and pharmaceuticals while Black individuals used more inpatient and emergency department services, indicating the possibility of delayed health care-seeking, potentially due to lack of access

Medicare enrollment continues to rise as our population ages, as does Medicare spending. Medicare Advantage programs were created with the intent to lower the cost of providing Medicare services, but that isn’t the reality on the ground – spending for MA enrollees was actually $321 higher than spending for enrollees in traditional Medicare in 2019.

More consumers have been shopping at dollar stores during the pandemic in an attempt to make a limited income meet all their needs. This trend has further highlighted the growing problem of neighborhoods lacking affordable or accessible grocery stores, often called “food deserts,” although that is somewhat of a misnomer.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the transgender justice initiative at the Human Rights Campaign, is the first Black transgender woman selected to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

I knew that the cost of services varied wildly between hospitals but I had no idea how much your insurance plan could impact what a service costs within the same hospital. We really need hospitals to comply with price transparency regulations and then we need to find a way to make it accessible and useful for consumers.

There are serious health impacts from heat, which are often felt disproportionately by Black and Hispanic communities as a result of decades of disinvestment.

Medicare bears some blame for why drug prices keep increasing, especially in the case of the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm which is priced at $56,000 annually.

Estimates have shown that the cost of COVID-19 hospitalizations among the unvaccinated in June and July 2021 (the majority of which would have been preventable hospitalizations with vaccination) was over $2 billion.

There has been an infusion of funds over the course of the pandemic to help health care providers offset the financial impact of delayed and cancelled care. This brief lays out where the money came from and where it went.

The House has taken a significant step in two funding bills to remove restrictions that limit access to abortion care. This is the result of decades of advocacy from members of Congress and advocates, but it faces a less than welcoming future in the Senate.

Health insurers alone cannot fix health disparities but they do have a role to play.

Even though there have been job losses during the pandemic, leading to loss of employer sponsored health insurance, there has not been an overall increase in the number of uninsured due to improved access to public coverage options like Medicaid and Marketplace plans.

Yet another consequence of underinvestment in public health – states have heavily relied on consultants during the pandemic with little evidence of their performance.

Some say FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine was too slow, other say too fast. But what if it was just right?

In the 1990s, Oregon expanded access to health care for the working poor through managed care and focused on primary and preventive care to keep costs low. While this approach minimized expensive hospitalizations, it did not prepare the state to handle an influx of patients during a crisis that requires intensive, inpatient care.

The lack of centralized oversight of VA nursing homes contributed to devastating outcomes from COVID-19 among residents.

See you next Friday for more happenings!

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