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October 2022

Disparities in vision health linked to access challenges, study finds

A new study shows significant disparities in vision function among Black, Hispanic and poorer adolescents (Source: “Lack of Access Appears Tied to Disparities in Vision Health,” U.S. News, Sept. 16).

New research suggests a lack of access to vision care services has contributed to racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in visual function among Black, Hispanic and poorer adolescents.

Findings of a new study published last month in JAMA Ophthalmology reveals approximately 16% of Black and 18% of Mexican American adolescents had worse than 20/40 vision in their better-seeing eye compared to 7% of white adolescents. After correcting for visual impairment, 3% of Black and 3% of Mexican American adolescents still had worse than 20/40 vision compared to 1% of white adolescents.

Study co-author Dr. Idsin Oke, a clinical scientist and pediatric ophthalmologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said the findings highlight the importance of addressing barriers that could hinder access to vision care services for racial and ethnic minority youth.


Feds increase ACA tax credits through fix to the ‘family glitch’

The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced new rules that determine the tax breaks for certain families when they buy private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Source: “New rules fix ‘flaw’ for families seeking Obamacare coverage,” Associated Press, Oct. 11).

The new interpretation of the health law aims to fix the “family glitch,” which determines a family’s eligibility for ACA tax credits based on the cost of an individual’s work-sponsored health insurance plan rather than the cost of the plan for the whole family.

Since the law was enacted more than a decade ago, people who have access to health insurance plans through their employers are supposed to get price breaks on the Affordable Care Act marketplace if they pay more than 9.5% of their income toward monthly premiums.

But for years, the Internal Revenue Service arrived at that calculation based on the cost of a work-sponsored health insurance plan for a single individual, instead of a more expensive family plan. That meant many families didn’t qualify for the tax breaks offered through the ACA.

“Given the complexity of the policy, we encourage families to work with a certified and licensed Navigator organization by calling 833-628-4467 or visiting getcoveredohio.org,” said Zach Reat, Director of Health Initiatives for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.  


New HPIO publication details strategies to prevent adverse childhood experiences

Aces4_Fig9Standalone
A new publication
from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio details the state’s progress in taking action on four key evidence-informed strategies to prevent adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): Early childhood education, early childhood home visiting, medical-legal partnerships and family income supports.
 
“Ensuring a strong start for children and strengthening economic supports for families both contribute to making sure that every child in Ohio has the opportunity to reach their full health potential” the publication states.
 
Among the findings in the brief are that the need for home visiting services is greater among groups of Ohioans most at risk for childhood adversity (as illustrated in the graphic above). For example, while 38.2% of Hispanic children, ages 0-5, in Ohio were exposed to ACEs, only 8.7% of the pregnant women and primary caregivers receiving ODH- and ODM-funded home visiting services were Hispanic in Federal fiscal year 2021.
 
The publication released today is the first of three examining opportunities to prevent ACEs in Ohio. ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur during childhood and can generally be grouped into three categories: abuse, household challenges and neglect. 
 
In 2020 and 2021, HPIO released a series of policy briefs on the health and economic impacts of ACEs and elevated 12 evidence-based, cost-effective strategies (programs, policies and practices) that prevent ACEs before they happen and improve health. HPIO’s new series is focused on analyzing the implementation status of these strategies in Ohio.
 
HPIO’s previous research found that Ohio can eliminate more than $10 billion in annual healthcare and related spending attributable to ACEs exposure.


CDC: Teen vaping rising again after pandemic drop

The latest government study on teen vaping suggests there’s been little progress in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of high school students (Source: “New survey suggests little progress against U.S. teen vaping,” Associated Press, Oct. 7).
 
The new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seems to show more teens are vaping, with 14% saying they had done so recently, according to survey results released Thursday. In last year’s survey, about 11% said they had vaped recently.
 
But experts cautioned that a change in the survey makes it difficult to compare the two: This year, a much higher percentage of participants took the survey in schools, and vaping tends to be reported more in schools than in homes.
 
Despite its persistence, vaping appears to be less popular than it was: In 2019, 28% of high schoolers said they had recently vaped.


Firearm-related suicides, homicides continued to rise in 2021, CDC finds

Homicides and suicides involving guns, which soared in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, continued rising in 2021, reaching the highest rates in three decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday (Source: “Gun-Related Suicides and Killings Continued to Rise in 2021, C.D.C. Reports,” New York Times, Oct. 6).
 
The increases in homicides were particularly stark among Black and Hispanic men, while suicides involving firearms rose among all adults.
 
Firearms caused 47,286 homicide and suicide deaths in 2021, up from 43,675 in 2020, according to the CDC’s research, which is based on provisional data. Rates of gun-related homicide and suicide each rose by 8.3% last year.

Suicide is preventable and help is available. If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you don’t like talking on the phone, consider using the Crisis Text Line at www.crisistextline.org or text “4HOPE” to 741-741.


Congress temporarily extends Medicare programs that boost pay to rural hospitals

Congress has cleared a short-term spending bill that includes extensions of two programs aimed at helping rural hospitals, punting the issue and others into December (Source: “Congress passes short-term spending bill that extends 2 key rural hospital programs,” Fierce Healthcare, Sept. 30). 

The House voted 230 to 201 to advance to President Biden’s desk a continuing resolution that funds the federal government through Dec. 16. Biden is expected to sign the legislation.
 
The legislation also extends through Dec. 16 the hospital payment adjustment for certain low-volume hospitals (LVH) and the Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) program, which have helped shore up finances for rural hospitals that have been vulnerable to closures in recent years and strained further due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Both programs were set to expire after September. 


Racial disparities in mental health cost U.S. $278 billion in four years, study finds

A new report estimates that racial mental health disparities cost the United States around $278 billion between 2016 and 2020, putting a price tag on a health equity issue that’s long plagued the nation (Source: “Racial Mental Health Disparities Cost US $278B in 4 Years,” Patient Engagement, HIT, Sept. 14).

According to the report from Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, between 2016 and 2020, the U.S. saw an excess of 117,000 premature deaths among indigenous and racial or ethnic minorities due to mental health needs, adding $278 billion in excess costs.

“Investing in mental healthcare saves lives and dollars — we have known this for decades, but until now did not fully understand the monumental impacts of neglecting to act,” Daniel E. Dawes, a professor and the executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, said in a statement.