Postpartum Health Care Coverage For Lower-Income Women Expands


The money for the expanded federal program, announced by Vice President Kamala Harris, comes from the $1.9 trillion stimulus fund. Employee costs for health insurance screening, Medicare data problems, a HHS health IT task force, and more are also in the health industry news.

Los Angeles Times:
VP Harris: U.S. Expands Low-Income Postpartum Health Program

Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday announced an expansion of a federal program that provides healthcare coverage for lower-income women for up to a year after they give birth. The federal government, using money from the $1.9-trillion stimulus law signed last year, announced access to the program for three additional states — Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico — along with Washington, D.C. The number of jurisdictions providing the benefit stands at 15, including California. The program gives health benefits — including pelvic exams, vaccinations and screenings — through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to qualifying families. Previously, mothers were only covered for two months after giving birth. Administration officials would not say what the expansion will cost. (Bierman, 6/16)

In other news about health insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare —


USA Today:
Employees Fight Health Insurance Screenings That Cost Some Workers

Like many large employers, Yale University gave its clerical, food service and maintenance workers a choice: Get a routine health check or pay a $25 weekly fee. But workers alleged in a federal lawsuit the university’s participate-or-pay employee wellness program violated two federal laws. In a preliminary settlement approved Tuesday by U.S. District Court in Connecticut, the university agreed to pay nearly $1.3 million to workers and attorneys and won’t assess the $25 weekly fee for four years, or until federal law or regulations change to allow such a program. Attorneys will have 45 days to notify about 6,300 eligible workers and their spouses about the settlement terms. A hearing to approve the final settlement is scheduled Nov. 22. (Alltucker, 5/16)

States Extend Medicaid For New Mothers — Even As They Reject Broader Expansion

Until last year, Georgia’s Medicaid coverage for new moms with low incomes lasted 60 days. That meant the Medicaid benefits of many women expired before they could be referred to other medical providers for help with serious health problems, said Dr. Keila Brown, an OB-GYN in Atlanta. “If they needed other postpartum issues followed up, it was rather difficult to get them in within that finite period of time,” said Brown, who works at the Family Health Centers of Georgia, a group of community health centers. (Whitehead, 6/17)

Medicare Has A Data Problem

The race and ethnicity data Medicare collects on its beneficiaries is less accurate for such groups as American Indians, Asian-Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, limiting the program’s ability to assess health disparities, according to a federal audit. Inaccuracies can undercut efforts to address inequities and measure results. The pandemic underscored sharp disparities among Medicare beneficiaries, with Black, Hispanic and American Indians accounting for disproportionately high rates of cases and hospitalizations. (Bettelheim, 6/16)

And more from the health care industry —

Modern Healthcare:
Task Force To Review Standards For ONC-Certified Tech

The Health and Human Services Department’s health IT agency convened a task force to assess whether to maintain or phase out its existing standards for health IT products. While it’s important to introduce updated standards, “we also need to look back and talk about pruning, as well,” said Micky Tripathi, chief of the HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, at a meeting of the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee on Thursday. The Adopted Standards Task Force will be part of HITAC, which advises ONC. (Kim Cohen, 6/16)

Billings Gazette:
Contractor Reports ‘Significant Deficiencies’ At State-Run Health Facilities

State-run health care facilities have “significant deficiencies” overall, according to the initial report of a contractor hired to help fix them. Alvarez & Marsal secured a $2.2 million contract in April to stabilize and manage health care facilities run by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. On Wednesday, DPHHS Director Adam Meier presented the organization’s findings through May to an interim legislative budget committee. Three veterans homes and the Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte were each rated under the designation “challenges exist,” while the mental health care facilities in Boulder, Lewistown and most of the facilities tied to the Montana State Hospital were all found to have “significant deficiencies.” (Larson, 6/15)

Modern Healthcare:
UnitedHealth’s Clinician Buying Spree Pressures Large Hospital Negotiations

Jimmy Mayor is not sure what his next appointment at OU Health in Oklahoma City will cost. Mayor, 59, relies on disability insurance for his income after working as a commercial loan servicer for 20 years. He is among many UnitedHealthcare policyholders slated to lose in-network access to Oklahoma’s only academic medical center. “I just wish those two would come to some type of agreement and think of the patients,” said Mayor, who receives treatment for HIV, a brain tumor and a sleep disorder at not-for-profit OU Health. (Tepper, 6/16)

Carolina Public Press:
Why Small NC Mountain City Is Taking On Nation’s Largest Hospital System 

A small mountain city is challenging the nation’s largest hospital system in court. Brevard officials say that, after years of community complaints and declining medical care, they saw no other option. “Somebody’s got to be first,” said Mack McKeller, Brevard city attorney. On June 3, attorneys from Greensboro and Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city of Brevard alleging a scheme by HCA Healthcare to monopolize medical services in seven Western North Carolina counties — a scheme that the lawsuit claims has led to inflated prices, lower quality of care and loss of services. (Harris, 6/17)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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