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  • 6 Jul 2023 11:59 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    There’s no question that the next version of the COVID-19 vaccine in the US will contain

    components of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

    What’s still up in the air, though, is who should get the shot when it debuts this fall.

    On June 15, members of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously to recommend updating the COVID-19 vaccine composition to a monovalent XBB lineage.

    On June 16, the FDA announced that it had advised manufacturers planning to update their COVID-19 vaccines that they should specifically target XBB.1.5. Scientists from Moderna, Novavax, and Pfizer had told the FDA and its advisory committee that their XBB.1.5 monovalent vaccines could be ready to inject into arms by late July or early fall.



  • 5 Jul 2023 2:22 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Update ...

    The CMS is proposing to cut Medicare reimbursements to home health agencies by 2.2% next year, or $375 million less than providers received in 2023, according to draft regulation released Friday. [Healthcare Dive]

    The agency said the proposed rule includes a 2.7% payment bump that’s offset by a 5.1% cut related to the Patient-Driven Groupings Model, which aimed to better sort patients into different payment categories by clinical need, and other factors.

    The reimbursement changes also reflect an estimated 0.2% increase due to an updated fixed-dollar loss ratio, according to regulators.


  • 30 Jun 2023 9:19 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Should immigrants lacking permanent legal status arriving in Chicago in big numbers get free health care paid for by the state?

    It makes sense to provide at least basic medical services to refugees and others in need. Immigrants lacking permanent legal status often are refugees with children who have undergone arduous journeys and have few resources at their disposal. Paying attention to preventive care in the present often prevents expensive emergency room visits and other costly interventions down the road. And refugees deserve a humane welcome to the state. [Chicago Tribune]- Photo by Antonio Perez.

    Nobody in an advanced society wants to deny a sick child medicine. Nor should they ever do so.

    But U.S. health care mostly relies on a system of private insurance, something that immigrants lacking permanent legal status typically do not have. And health care in this nation is wildly expensive. That explains why Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday some limitations on what had been closer to a carte blanche. 



  • 29 Jun 2023 1:22 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The country’s health care spending will grow an average of 5.4% per year between 2022 and 2031, accounting for about $1 out of every $5 spent in the US by the end of the period, according to new projections from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services published in Health Affairs. The agency expects that recent legislative changes, such as the expiration of regulations surrounding the COVID-19 public health emergency and the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act’s prescription drug provisions, will drive some of the health expenditure trends. [JAMA Network]

    In addition, estimates suggested that health care spending for physician and clinical services grew more slowly in 2022 than 2021. The researchers noted this may have been because patients avoided medical visits amid high inflation or because the number of available appointments was limited. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services projects the growth of health expenditures for clinicians’ services will increase to 5.1% in 2023, and then remain relatively stable through 2031. Medicare spending will likely increase faster than private health insurance spending as more US residents age into the program, the researchers reported.


  • 29 Jun 2023 11:55 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    When it came time to split up the first batch of $15 billion Congress set aside last year to replace toxic lead pipes, Illinois officials had plenty of reasons to expect they would get the biggest share. [Chicago Tribune]

    Utility groups have long estimated the state leads the nation in the number of lead service lines connecting homes and two-flats to municipal water systems, largely because Chicago’s plumbing code required use of the brain-damaging metal until 1986, decades after most other major U.S. cities had banned it.

    Plumbers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also installed tens of thousands of lead pipes during the last century to convey drinking water to homes and apartments.

    But when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last month how it plans to share nearly $3 billion this year, Florida got the biggest cut. Another state surprisingly in the top 10: Texas.



  • 28 Jun 2023 1:05 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Though efforts to replace potentially dangerous lead service lines across Illinois have been slow and costly, Cook County government Tuesday announced a new program to replace at least 550 such lines at suburban home-based day cares over the next two years. [Chicago Tribune 6.27.2023]

    Under the new LeadCare Cook County, providers in Calumet City, Cicero, Hazel Crest, Harvey and Maywood can apply now to have lead service lines — the pipes that deliver water from the main to the building — removed and replaced.

    The goal is to reach “all interested communities in suburban Cook County by 2025,” County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a Monday news conference rolling out the program. The $15 million pilot is funded by a portion of the $1 billion the county received in federal pandemic relief through the American Rescue Plan.

    The county has hundreds of millions of federal relief money left to spend, according to the county’s latest budget forecast.



  • 27 Jun 2023 4:51 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Charity care may cut some cost-related barriers to cancer screening access, but organizations need a bigger safety net for potential cancer treatments.

    It’s not uncommon for healthcare organizations to set up free breast cancer screening events as part of their charity care efforts to serve low-income, uninsured people. But what happens when a screening turns into a breast cancer diagnosis, and that person is left on the hook for treatment costs?
    That’s the looming question for healthcare organizations nationwide that are trying to close gaps in cancer screening by way of free or subsidized programs. While those screening events can move the needle on the number of people getting a breast cancer screen—especially low-income folks and people of color who are traditionally underserved by medicine and m]ay experience distrust—they only get at part of the problem. [PatientEngagement Hit]



  • 26 Jun 2023 12:25 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Today, the Biden-Harris Administration awarded $50 million to launch the Persistent Poverty Initiative, an initiative to alleviate the cumulative effects of persistent poverty on cancer outcomes by building research capacity, fostering cancer prevention research, and promoting the implementation of community-based programs. The Persistent Poverty Initiative is the first major program to address the structural and institutional factors of persistent poverty in the context of cancer. It is coordinated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These awards create five new Centers for Cancer Control Research in Persistent Poverty Areas that will advance key priorities of the Administration’s Cancer Moonshot — to reduce inequities in the structural drivers of cancer and prevent more cancers before they start by reducing tobacco use and making sure everyone has access to healthy food. [NIH]

    Persistent poverty areas are defined as those where, for the past 30 years, 20% or more of the population has lived below the federal poverty line. People who live in such areas have a higher incidence of cancer, experience delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, and are more likely to die from cancer than people who do not live in poverty. However, there has been limited research on how to improve cancer outcomes in persistent poverty areas.



  • 23 Jun 2023 3:22 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    New estimates predict more than 1.3 billion people worldwide will have diabetes by 2050, up from about 529 million in 2021, according to research published in The Lancet.  [Beckers Clinical Leadership & Infection Control}

    "Diabetes will be a defining disease of this century," journal editors wrote in an accompanying editorial on the findings. "How the health community deals with diabetes in the next two decades will shape population health and life expectancy for the next 80 years."

    The surge is expected to be driven by type 2 diabetes, which is largely driven by the prevalence of obesity. In the editorial, researchers pointed to structural racism and geographical inequity as drivers of diabetes, underscoring the importance of social determinants of health. 

    "Addressing structural racism must become a core component of preventive strategies and health promotion — areas that invariably receive too little investment," the editorial said. 


  • 22 Jun 2023 11:05 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Illinois’ healthcare system ranked 23rd in the nation, according to a scorecard released by the Commonwealth Fund Thursday. 

    The fund ranks all states and the District of Columbia annually on how well their healthcare systems perform. This year, Massachusetts led the nation, while Mississippi was at the bottom. [Health News Illinois] 

    Illinois outperformed Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Missouri, but was behind Iowa and Wisconsin. 

    “Looking across states and comparing their healthcare systems is an important way of telling us what is and what isn't working in American healthcare,” Dr. Joseph Betancourt, president of the fund, told reporters. 

    Overall, Illinois ranked:

    ·    14th for reproductive and women’s health.

    ·    19th for access and affordability.

    ·    25th for prevention and treatment.

    ·    46th for avoidable hospital use and cost.

    ·    16th for healthy lives.

    ·    33rd for income disparity.

    ·    17th for racial and ethnic health equity.

    Illinois performed well compared to others by having lower percentages of women between 18 and 44 without regular checkups, women with recent live births reporting no postpartum checkup visits and teens with a major depressive episode not receiving mental healthcare. 

    Its worst performances were for a higher percentage of nursing home residents with antipsychotic medication, a lower percentage of adults with age- and gender-appropriate cancer screenings and a higher hospital readmission rate for recently discharged seniors. 

    Illinois improved the most in recent years for potential avoidable emergency department visits for seniors, preventable hospitals for adults between 18 and 64 and preventable hospitalizations for seniors.

    However, the state worsened the most for measures related to premature deaths from preventable causes, children who did not receive needed mental healthcare and adults with age-appropriate vaccines. 

    Overall, all states saw large jumps in avoidable deaths between 2019 and 2021, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    For the first time, the scorecard ranked states’ healthcare systems on health outcomes and access to care for women, mothers and infants. Data were primarily collected in 2021, prior to the Supreme Court overturning the constitutional right to abortion.

    Meanwhile, health insurance coverage rates reached record highs in 2021, thanks to temporary policies that kept people on Medicaid, decisions by several states to expand the program, enhanced subsidies available for Affordable Care Act plans and ACA outreach. 

    The gains through Medicaid’s continuous coverage requirement “may prove ephemeral” since it ended earlier this year and states are now facing the "complicated and complex task" of redetermining eligibility, the report noted. 

    The study offers a bevy of recommendations to reduce the number of preventable deaths, like lowering insurance and administrative barriers for addiction treatment, expanding the primary care workforce and integrating behavioral healthcare with primary and pediatric care.

    Lawmakers could create a federal insurance option for those with low income in states that have not expanded Medicaid and make temporary enhanced ACA subsidies permanent to help boost accessible and affordable healthcare coverage.

    Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to a year, advancing policies that support access to reproductive care, funding community-based organizations focused on maternal health, and diversifying and growing the maternal health workforce could help improve women’s healthcare. 

    “Our findings are important, urgent and deserve our nation's full attention,” Betancourt said.


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