IMPAQ Health News
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In this edition, learn about COVID-19 cases and vaccines, geographical disparities in access to opioid treatment, efforts to address health care workforce shortages, record-breaking overdose deaths, and more.
Health care professionals and policymakers have long been aware of disparities between urban and rural areas of the U.S. in terms of access to health care services. In the first edition of the American Institutes for Research’s new Equity in Focus series, AIR and IMPAQ experts Tanvi Rao, Amanda Latimore, Alberto Ortega Hinojosa, Lauren Kestner, and Parakh Patel explore urban-rural disparities in both needs for and access to treatment for opioid use disorder. The piece features graphics and an interactive U.S. map, and the experts offer considerations for policymakers working to distribute resources.
With the holiday season underway and the weather getting colder in many areas of the U.S., COVID-19 cases are rising across the country. Cases are climbing in children, particularly in southern states, where child vaccinations lag behind national rates. Breakthrough cases also continue, particularly among elderly patients and those with at least one underlying health condition. President Biden addressed the omicron variant, shortly after the CDC expanded booster eligibility to all adults and just days before the first case of the variant was detected in the U.S. This comes as Biden’s vaccine mandate for health workers continues to hit roadblocks.

In other COVID-19 news, tensions are rising over differences in vaccine supply between lower- and higher-income countries.

Administration News
On 11/22, the White House announced $1.5 billion in funding for scholarships and student loan forgiveness for medical, dental, and mental health professionals working in underserved areas. With this investment, the administration aims to address health equity and reduce the health care staff shortages in the U.S., especially in disadvantaged communities. The Washington Post (11/22)
Starting Dec. 27, 2021, issuers will be required to report prescription drug and health service costs under the most recent rule implementing the No Surprises Act. Issuers also will need to report their top 50 prescription drug brands, 50 most costly prescriptions drugs, and 50 prescription drugs with the largest increase in coverage spending from the year before. HHS will summarize this information in a public report. Modern Healthcare (11/17)
Health Policy News
Health officials believe an increased prevalence of fentanyl-laced illicit drugs and social isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic are major contributors to a record-breaking 100,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. this year. Deaths from overdose are now nearly as prevalent as deaths from diabetes, the nation’s seventh leading cause of death. AP News (11/17)

  • A new study in Health Affairs explores the impact of the 2016 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. According to the study, the guideline was associated with significant reductions in opioid prescriptions, though more information is needed about how clinicians consider patients’ individual needs and potential risks when prescribing opioids. Health Affairs (11/2021)
A new Commonwealth Fund scorecard shows considerable health and health care disparities between white and Black, Latinx/Hispanic, Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaskan Native individuals in nearly all U.S. states. Commonwealth Fund experts say they hope policymakers and health officials can use the scorecard to better understand how past and future policies affect health equity. The Commonwealth Fund (11/18)
Graphic of the Week
Stay Tuned: Exciting Changes in Early 2022
Earlier this year, we asked our readers to tell us what they think about IMPAQ Health News. With that information and after nearly 50 issues of IMPAQ Health News, we’re taking the opportunity to refresh the newsletter. Though our look might be a little different next year, we’ll continue to provide you with important health policy news and developments, as well as information from the American Institutes for Research.
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NOTE: The information, analyses, and opinions expressed in the articles, publications, or comments contained therein are those of the authors and should not be considered verified or endorsed by IMPAQ or any of our partners or clients.