Greetings! I had the pleasure of attending an invitational “salon” last month convened by the Santa Fe Group, an independent dental think tank. Presenters shared some striking research findings that showed significant cost savings when insurers made regular dental cleanings available to older beneficiaries. That shouldn't be surprising. Compelling evidence indicates that treating gum disease can play a major role in keeping chronic conditions in check, but few health insurance plans include adult dental benefits. That leaves patients to pay out-of-pocket for a service they may not be able to afford. This is especially true for older adults. Three-quarters of them have gum disease, but only one-third of them have dental insurance, and half report that they did not visit a dentist in the last year because of the cost.

One solution? Introducing a dental benefit in Medicare. Keynote speaker Representative Donna Shalala expressed optimism  that a planned 2020 Surgeon General’s Report on oral health will broaden support for a Medicare dental benefit. Lawmakers are already laying the groundwork. Senator Ben Cardin introduced a bill in January that would achieve this goal, and on May 23, Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán introduced a similar bill in the House.
There’s also a lot going on in the nursing world. Below you’ll find links to recent news from Propensity, our clients and our collaborators. Look for links to similar items on our website later this summer.

Wishing you all the best —
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What's New
  • Earlier this month, the National Academy of Medicine hosted the first of three regional meetings to gather information for a forthcoming report on the Future of Nursing 2020-2030. The discussion focused on how nurses are integrating the social determinants of health into education, research and practice. You’ll find highlights of what was said in my article for Charting Nursing’s Future.

  • This spring I collaborated with Deb Werrlein on a story about an antiquated Medicare rule that is creating delays in care and putting patients at risk. Anyone who has cared for a homebound loved one knows how vital ready access to home-based care can be. I was happy to see an article by Susan Jaffe drawing attention to the same topic in Health Affairs this month. Legislation to remedy the situation has been introduced in Congress more than once, but policymakers have yet to take decisive action.

  • Y. Tony Yang, ScD, LLM, MPH, has been named executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University (GW). With a dual appointment at the GW School of Nursing and the Milken Institute School of Public Health, Dr. Yang has a strong record of media coverage for his own research. I look forward to seeing how the Center evolves under his leadership. 

  • The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) is now the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL). The name change goes beyond mere semantics. Find out more in AONL CEO Robyn Begley’s editorial in this month’s Journal of Nursing Administration.

  • If, like me, you find yourself battling ticks each summer, you’ll also want to read this story by Bara Vaida in WebMD. It’s reassuring to know the CDC is putting more resources into surveilling these carriers of Lyme and other dreaded diseases.
On the Move
  • In May I attended the Association of Health Care Journalists meeting in Baltimore where I took part in a tour hosted by the Johns Hopkins University medical and nursing schools. We visited bio-medical and surgical innovation labs, learned about opioid harm reduction, and experienced clinical simulations. We started our day at Healthcare for the Homeless (HCH), a clinic serving some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. I enjoyed witnessing firsthand some the exciting work taking place in Baltimore, and the visit to HCH left me thinking about the role of design in creating spaces where people can heal. If you’re intrigued, I shared my thoughts here