Becker’s Payer Issues: BCBSA adds health equity standards to maternal care ratings (12/14) – The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) announced it will add new health equity focused standards to its Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care designations. This includes if a facility provides staff training to address birth-related trauma, if the facility has received CMS’ birthing-friendly hospital designation, if the facility provides access to cultural humility and unconscious bias training, and if midwives, doulas, and birthing centers are in provider networks.
PR Newswire: Paralyzed Veterans of America announces partnership to provide a more robust resource network for Veterans (12/12) – Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) partnered with Unite Us, which will help PVA’s Veterans Career Program clients connect with essential resources such as housing, transportation, mental health, and other resources to meet their needs. Working together, Unite Us and PVA's vocational counselors and specialists will provide a whole-person approach to quality of care by helping veterans maintain their pursuit of meaningful employment, education, training, and volunteer opportunities and reach their career goals.
Modern Healthcare: IHI, AMA launch national coalition to improve health equity (12/6) – The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and American Medical Association (AMA) launched the Rise to Health coalition to bring together hundreds of health systems, companies, and organizations to develop a cohesive approach to more equitable patient care and remove areas of inequity and bias. The coalition was created in partnership with the American Hospital Association and other groups, and will include focus areas such as partnering with community groups to achieve equity goals and creating data sets to identify areas of clinical inequity.
WESA: UPMC Health Plan opens Neighborhood Center with housing and employment services in East Liberty (12/6) – UPMC Health Plan launched the UPMC Health Plan Neighborhood Center, a new resource in East Liberty, PA. The Center will have a free food pantry, telehealth services, temporary childcare and educational and professional support to better address disparities and inequities in health care. The new Center was a direct result of trust-building between health care and communities.
NPR: An Atlanta health care provider takes on the city’s housing crisis (12/5) – To address the short supply of affordable homes and unstable housing, Atlanta’s Mercy Care plans to pay for 10 apartments, stemming from the belief that investing in housing can improve health outcomes. More health systems and health plans are looking to invest in housing supports, including UPMC Health Plan, which has contributed loan funds to help developers complete affordable housing projects.
Yahoo: Inflation, Economic Concerns Stoke Need for More Social Care – How to Find and Give Help (11/29) – According to a new survey from findhelp, demand for social care services is so high that more than three-quarters of nonprofits are worried about their ability to meet it. The survey of more than 300 U.S.-based nonprofits found that 62 percent of respondents said demand for social care services has “increased substantially” over the past year. The biggest surge in demand is expected from nonprofits that provide food and housing support.
Senate Special Committee on Aging: Casey, Scott Hold Hearing, Introduce Legislation to Combat Hunger Among Older Adults (12/15) – The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing which examined efforts to ensure more older adults are able to consistently access nutritious food to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs. Chairman Casey (D-PA) and Ranking Member Scott (R-SC) also announced the recent introduction of two bills – the Senior Nutrition Task Force Act (S. 5096), which establishes an interagency task force to identify tools to combat hunger and malnutrition among older adults and adults with disabilities; and the Tools for Ensuring Access to Meals (TEAM) Act (S. 5095), which would provide dedicated funding to implement the recommendations of the interagency task force.
Connected Maternal Online Monitoring (MOM) Act (12/7) – Reps. Frankel (D-FL), Salazar (R-FL), and Burgess (R-TX) introduced the Connected Maternal Online Monitoring (MOM) Act (H.R. 9546), which would identify and address barriers to coverage of remote physiologic devices under state Medicaid programs to improve maternal and child health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum women.
Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act (12/6) – On December 6, the House passed the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act (S. 198) by a vote of 380-46. The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to incorporate data on maternal health outcomes into its broadband health maps. The Senate passed the bill on December 14, sending the bill to the President to sign into law.
American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act (12/5) - Sens. Tester (D-MT) and Moran (R-KS) introduced the American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act (S. 5181), which would make certain improvements relating to mental health and suicide prevention outreach to minority veterans and American Indian and Alaska Native veterans.
Rep. Underwood: Passing the Momnibus in End-of-Year Package is Americans’ Number One Priority, Poll Reveals (12/5) – Rep. Underwood (D-IL) published a press release with the results of a new poll from Navigator Research, which found that 72 percent of Americans rank passing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R. 959/S. 346) as their number one priority for the year-end package. Additionally, 85 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents, and 59 percent of Republicans support its immediate passage.
To view a full list of the legislation we are tracking around social determinants of health, health equity/disparities, and maternal health, click here.
HHS ASPE: Doula Care and Maternal Health: An Evidence Review (12/13) – The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) published a report
that explores the role of doulas in maternal health care, reviews the evidence on the effects of doula care on maternal health outcomes, and discusses challenges and policy opportunities for expanding doula care in the U.S., including recent developments in Medicaid and actions being taken as part of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis.
CMS: Readout: CMS Hosts Maternal Health Convening with Leaders Across Government, Industry (12/13) – CMS held the “We Can Do Better: Advancing Maternity Care Together” convening, where attendees discussed key actions to improve the health of pregnant and postpartum individuals. CMS also announced that more than 25 health plans have committed to displaying the “Birthing-Friendly Hospital” designation on their provider directories next fall, a commitment that will ensure more than 150 million Americans will have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their birth options for care.
HHS ASPE: Early Childhood Systems Collective Impact Project (12/13) – HHS ASPE released a report
on the Early Childhood Systems Collective Impact Project which aims to advance equitable early childhood and family well-being outcomes across federal programs. This document presents 10 interrelated recommendations for achieving equitable early childhood and family well-being outcomes through creation of a coordinated, comprehensive early childhood system.
AHRQ: Mental Health Disorders Among Delivery Inpatient Stays (12/12) - The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a brief on mental health disorders among pregnancy and delivery inpatient stays by patient race and ethnicity. The study found that white non-Hispanic women had the highest rate and Asian/Pacific Islander non-Hispanic women had the lowest rate of delivery stays with a mental health disorder diagnosis, among other findings.
CMS: CMS Proposes Rule to Expand Access to Health Information and Improve Prior Authorization Process (12/6) - CMS issued a proposed rule on interoperability and prior authorization for Medicare Advantage organizations, state Medicaid and CHIP agencies and managed care entities, and Qualified Health Plan issuers on the Federally-facilitated Exchanges. The proposed rule also includes five requests for information (RFI), including on accelerating the adoption of standards related to social risk factor data. Comments are due by March 13, 2023. Fact Sheet
HHS: HHS Launches New Maternal Health Resources for American Indian and Alaska Native Communities (12/2) - HHS launched a new "Hear Her" campaign to improve American Indian and Alaska Native maternal health outcomes by raising awareness of life-threatening warning signs during and after pregnancy and improving communication between health care providers and their patients.
SDoH & Health Equity in the News
MedCity News: Technology-enabled Transportation Puts Health Plans in the Driver’s Seat to Improve Outcomes (12/11) - Limited access to non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) contributes to 3.6 million people missing or delaying care each year. Transportation issues create costly downstream effects on health plans, health care providers, and their members, as the lack of access to transportation contributes to the $150 billion price tag of missed appointments in the U.S. every year. By making reliable NEMT more widely available, health plans can help improve health outcomes and reduce costs.
State of Illinois: Illinois Department of Human Services Announces $5M in Additional Funding to Expand Emergency Shelter Capacity (12/8) – The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) announced an additional $5 million is being invested to support the expansion of access to emergency shelters during the winter months. The funding will help address the chronic need for housing and address homelessness to support the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Healthcare Innovation: Highmark Health Launches Medically Tailored Meals Pilots (12/5) – Highmark Health launched a pilot program to address food insecurity among its members suffering from chronic health conditions. The Medically Tailored Meals program aims to supply two medically tailored meals per day for up to one year to approximately 1,000 Highmark-insured members with qualifying chronic health conditions and who are at high risk for food insecurity. Enrolled members will also receive education and coaching.
PR Newswire: WellCare of Kentucky Partners with Good Measures to Address Diabetes and Obesity Rates (12/5) – WellCare of Kentucky announced a partnership with Good Measures to provide its Medicaid members with personalized and affordable solutions for complex medical challenges related to growing rates of diabetes and obesity. The new Good Food Prescription program from Good Measures will help WellCare members improve their health through no-cost grocery deliveries and recipes tailored to their specific health needs and food preferences.
The Hill: How Medicaid mission creep undermines real health care (12/2) – The federal government has increasingly looked to the Medicaid program to ameliorate social determinants of health. The author of this op-ed argues that using an agency designed to finance medical care for low-income individuals to instead address a broad range of complex social problems has led to “mission creep” and is not feasible. The author proposes alternative ways to spend Medicaid’s resources in ways that prioritize patient choice and bottom-up solutions.
Spotlight on Maternal Health
Centene: Centene’s Neonatal Center of Excellence Transforms Health of Tiniest Members (12/13) - Centene’s Neonatal Center of Excellence is dedicated to supporting the health of pregnant mothers and infants. The Center leads best practices across Centene to enhance neonatal care and address the medical, social and financial needs of those at high risk for having a baby born prematurely and/or critically ill. The Center recently launched a new initiative, the Neonatal Center of Excellence Diamond Designation, to improve the health of premature babies across the country.
MedCity News: How Nebraska’s HIE is Leveraging Real-Time Data to Improve Maternal, Postpartum Health (12/5) – The next generation of health information exchanges (HIEs) must think beyond the transfer of information and explore how they can use real-time health data to improve population health outcomes, according to the CEO of Nebraska's HIE CyncHealth. A key way that CyncHealth is seeking to improve population health outcomes is through a program to improve equity in maternal and postpartum care through identifying high-risk patients and sharing real-time information with providers.
Commonwealth Fund: U.S. Maternal Mortality Crisis Continues to Worsen: An International Comparison (12/1) - Data show that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. — more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries — is getting worse, and the rate for Black women is nearly three times higher than for white women. Deaths from complications related to pregnancy can be reduced by ensuring all women have access to primary care, expanding and diversifying the maternal care workforce, and providing access to comprehensive postpartum support.
Center for Health Care Strategies: Covering Doula Services Under Medicaid: Design and Implementation Considerations for Promoting Access and Health Equity
(December 2022) – This brief provides a practical guide for states that are pursuing doula coverage under Medicaid. It explores how six Medicaid agencies approached doula coverage decisions, including for: (1) services covered; (2) rate setting and reimbursement; (3) credentialing and enrollment; (4) training and certification; (5) managed care contracting; (6) practitioner recommendation requirements; and (7) workforce development and sustainability.
Data & Innovation
EHR Intelligence: How a Primary Care EHR Integration Enhanced SDOH Documentation (12/14) - Memorial Primary Care in South Florida looked to an SDOH EHR integration to ensure primary care providers had access to SDOH data at their fingertips. Since creating this automated workflow, Memorial Primary Care has tripled the number of SDOH factors documented in the EHR.
EHR Intelligence: How California is Approaching HIE to Improve Statewide Interoperability (12/12) - California’s HIE ecosystem remains largely fragmented, limiting the interoperability of social service, public health, and clinical data. Last July, the state legislature passed AB 133, which mandates California to create a statewide network for health data sharing. Notably, the CalHHS Data Exchange Framework outlines that data exchange must include SDOH information. Beginning January 31, 2026, social service organizations are expected to participate in the Framework.
New Research and Reports
Patient Engagement HIT: Accountable Health Communities Grant Cut Healthcare Utilization (12/12) – WellSky released
a new case study in partnership with Reading Hospital, an Accountable Health Communities (AHC) model grantee, outlining how implementing a cross-sector community health program to address communitywide SDOH addressed food insecurity and reduced health care utilization by 30 percent.
Health Affairs: Structural Stigma in Law: Implications and Opportunities for Health and Health Equity (12/8) - Laws and policies are an often-overlooked yet critical component of the social determinants of health. Stigma itself is a powerful SDOH, and has been demonstrated to worsen physical health outcomes and social well-being and to reduce educational achievements and income levels among people who experience stigma. This brief examines how laws and policies mediate structural stigma through the example of substance use disorder stigma and provides recommended approaches for revision of laws and policies that can reduce structural stigma.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Centering Equity in the Nation’s Public Health System (12/7) – In August 2022, the CDC released findings from its CDC Moving Forward initiative. In response, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published an issue brief which offers five considerations to complement the equity component that the CDC raised in this initiative, centered around: vision, leadership, and guidance; partnerships and trust; data and accountability; communications and narrative; and people and culture.
Center for American Progress: Disparities in Housing, Health Care, Child Care, and Economic Security Affect Babies for Life (12/7) - Aiming policy interventions at addressing the intersecting social determinants of health and well-being that underscore educational and professional attainment, family economic security, and broader quality of life promotes a holistic model of both individual and community health. This report adopts a comprehensive view of infant and toddler well-being as shaped by these determinants, putting this stage of development into context between the perinatal period and early childhood.
Health Affairs: Use of Area-Based Socioeconomic Deprivation Indices: A Scoping Review and Qualitative Analysis (12/5) - There is considerable interest among researchers, clinicians, and policy makers in understanding the impact of place on health. This scoping review and qualitative analysis sought to assess area-level socioeconomic deprivation indices used in public health and health outcomes research in the US, and identified 15 commonly used indices of area-level socioeconomic deprivation.
Civitas Networks for Health: Social Determinants of Health Organizational Member Profile Compendium (December 2022) - A subgroup of the Civitas Networks for Health Social Determinants and Interoperability Workgroup created an SDOH Organizational Profile Survey to compile information on the SDOH and interoperability initiatives, progress, and current work of Civitas members across the national network in 2022.