By SCOTT COOK PhD
We tested whether new payment mechanisms could be harnessed in health care delivery reform to reduce health and health care disparities. Here’s what we found.
First, there were facts that couldn’t be ignored:
#1: Children in rural Oregon on Medicaid suffered more health-related dental challenges compared to children with private insurance, including the pain, systemic health problems and disruptions to education that come with them. Advantage Dental, the state’s largest provider of Medicaid services, was determined to do something about it.
#2: New mothers on Medicaid in a New York City hospital were less likely to have a postpartum care visit compared to privately insured women. As a result, they missed assessments and screenings for a number of health conditions, some of which can lead to chronic health problems throughout their lives. For many women, the postpartum visit is one of the few chances to engage them in ongoing health care. The providers and care teams at the Icahn School of Medicine and the Mount Sinai Health System wanted to find out what it takes to increase postpartum visit rates.
#3: In Fairfax County, Virginia, multi-racial and multi-ethnic populations being served in three County-funded safety-net clinics were less likely to receive the typical high-quality care provided for hypertension, diabetes, and cervical cancer screening when compared to their Hispanic counterparts. The providers and teams at the Community Health Care Network stepped forward to address the issue.
Issues that affect our lives don’t happen in a vacuum. Everything affects everything else, and there’s no area where that’s truer than health and access to care. So I’m going to take a slight detour from the financial and economic issues I write about most of the time to say a bit about the Affordable Care Act, which marks a historic expansion of access to health care.
Thanks to the law, an estimated 32 million previously uninsured Americans will be able to purchase health insurance in 2014. But right now there are real questions about whether this historic expansion of coverage will reach those Americans who need it most.
My colleagues on The Greenlining Institute‘s health team have been looking into this, and just published their findings in the form of a new report. They focused on the new Health Benefit Exchanges, which will allow consumers to compare the price, quality, and benefits of competing health insurance plans. Maybe most important, Americans will be able to purchase coverage through their state’s Exchange with federal subsidies that will help low and middle-income families cover the cost.
The bottom line is that getting the word out about these new options may be more complicated than it seems, and state Exchanges should get communities involved in the process sooner rather than later.
Current plans call for Web portals to serve as the main route through which consumers will access the Exchanges, but these websites won’t be able to do the job by themselves. States will need to pursue a variety of outreach and enrollment strategies, strategies that must be based on the populations they must reach.