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Outcome Measures for State Flex Program Financial and Operational Improvement Interventions

The Flex Monitoring Team has released a new policy brief:

The brief reviews outcome measures for State Flex Program (SFP) interventions conducted under Program Area 2: Financial and Operational Improvement (FOI), a mandatory area of SFP activity. The FMT explored the types of FOI projects proposed by a subset of 14 SFPs during Fiscal Year 2015-2018 and the challenges they faced in monitoring the impact of their interventions on Critical Access Hospital (CAH) financial and operational performance.

This product describes key categories of interventions implemented by these 14 SFPs and their proposed output and high-level outcomes measures. It further outlines the theory of change for each category, and provides examples of short- and intermediate-term outcome measures to provide a bridge between project activities and long-term, high-level outcomes. The brief concludes with suggestions for SFPs to improve their ability to document the outcome of SFP FOI initiatives and evaluate overall program impact. A companion brief provides an inventory of all SFP FOI initiatives and a more detailed analysis of the interventions undertaken by a subset of 14 SFPs.

The State of Childhood Obesity Report Released

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released new data from their State of Childhood Obesity report that finds policies today are failing our children. The latest report dives into the latest childhood obesity rates and trends, discusses how food insecurity, structural racism, and COVID-19 have contributed to rising rates of obesity, and shares evidence-based recommendations and policy solutions for protecting children’s health.

Another resource, Reducing Childhood Obesity Now May Help in the Next Pandemic, suggests that obesity leads to a greater risk of becoming severely ill from diseases such as COVID-19 and asks how we can address health disparities that contribute to obesity to protect our children from future public health crises.

Report Looks at Pennsylvania Medical School Impact on Primary Care Physician Shortage

The Joint State Government Committee, a research arm of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, has released the report “Medical School Impact on the Primary Care Physician Shortage in Pennsylvania.” The report, which resulted from a House resolution in 2020, studies efforts within medical schools to promote student choice in primary care, to include primary care experience in the curriculum and to accurately monitor and report graduate retention in primary care. The report includes extensive information about students, ongoing programs and new initiatives gathered during meetings with the Commonwealth’s nine medical schools. A page is devoted to the Pennsylvania Primary Care Career Center. The report concludes with findings and recommendations for the General Assembly’s consideration including:

  • Improve data collection of Pennsylvania’s primary care workforce to create more accurate predictions.
  • Overcome cultural and financial barriers preventing medical schools from promoting primary care.
  • Increase funding to the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program.
  • Invest in the Primary Care Career Center and other programs targeting physician recruitment.
  • Expand Pennsylvania’s primary care pipeline programs.

Pennsylvania 2022 Open Enrollment by the Numbers

In Pennsylvania, more than 357,000 consumers selected health insurance through Pennie for coverage as of January 1, 2022. While open enrollment doesn’t end until January 15, this is an increase of 37,000 over the same time period last year. More consumers than ever actively shopped for plans more affordable and suitable to their specific needs. With 8 insurers providing Marketplace coverage, consumers had more choices than the past several years. 37,643 Pennie applications were deemed potentially eligible for Medicaid and transferred to the Department of Human Services. During the open enrollment period, 17,961 applications were transferred to Pennie for enrollment as they did not qualify for Medicaid. 92% of customers qualified for Tax Credits or Cost Sharing Reductions.

University of Pittsburgh Study Finds Kids Lack Adequate Health Insurance

As of 2019, nearly 1.5 million kids in Pennsylvania and New Jersey lacked adequate and continuous health insurance. A third of children in the United States had unreliable or insufficient health insurance in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic — a problem to which the public health emergency has drawn even more attention. Researchers attributed the increase in underinsured children to rising out-of-pocket costs associated with private health plans.

Read more.

Achieving Racial and Ethnic Equity in U.S. Health Care: A Scorecard of State Performance

Profound racial and ethnic disparities in health and well-being have long been the norm in the United States. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) people live fewer years, on average than white people. They are also more likely to die from treatable conditions, die during or after pregnancy and suffer pregnancy-related severe complications, and more likely to lose children in infancy. Black and AIAN people are also at higher risk for many chronic health conditions, from diabetes to hypertension. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened, with average life expectancies for Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and, in all likelihood, AIAN people falling more sharply compared to white people.

Read the full report report:  Achieving Racial and Ethnic Equity in U.S. Health Care: A Scorecard of State Performance

Loan Forgiveness Programs to Be State Tax Free in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that Pennsylvanians will not have to pay state income tax on the student loan debt relief they get from the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and the Pennsylvania Student Loan Relief for Nurses (SLRN) Program. The decision by the Wolf administration will save people eligible for those programs potentially thousands of dollars in state tax. “The point of student loan forgiveness programs for public servants is that these are people who have chosen jobs, often in lower paying fields, because they want to make a difference,” said Gov. Wolf. “It’s wrong to take what should be a blessing and turn it into just another burden.”

Read the release from the state.

Biden Administration Unveils Regulatory Agenda with Key Health Reforms

The Biden Administration recently announced five proposals to advance various health care reform priorities.

First, the Administration will release an Executive Order that allows the IRS to fix the “family glitch” that prohibited family members of people with employer-sponsored health insurance from accessing ACA marketplace credits. Second, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will amend the definition of “short-term plans” that do not comply with ACA standards so that these plans do not undermine the ACA’s coverage and patient protection goals. Third, HHS will propose a new ACA Section 1557 rule to reverse a Trump Administration rule curtailing non-discrimination protection for transgender individuals and people seeking language services. Fourth, HHS will prioritize greater access to contraception in the ACA by amending the final rule that the Trump Administration had promulgated to accommodate moral and religious exemptions. Finally, HHS will work with the Department of Labor to promote compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act (2021) through a new proposed rule.

New HRSA Administrator Named

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will welcome Carole Johnson back in January as the agency’s new Administrator. Carole currently serves as the Testing Coordinator for the White House COVID-19 Response Team. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, she served as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. Carole served for more than five years as the White House Domestic Policy Council’s public health lead in the Obama Administration, which included overseeing HRSA issues, and has managed health workforce policy issues in HRSA’s Bureau of Health Professions. She has also worked on health care and public health policy on Capitol Hill, in academia, and in the non-profit and philanthropy sectors.