Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to get flu vaccines, have a preventive health care visit, or receive follow-up care after being hospitalized for a mental health disorder, according to a first-of-its kind federal report that looks at health disparities among people on Medicare Advantage plans. “While these data do not tell us why differences exist, they show where we have problems and can help spur efforts to understand what can be done to reduce or eliminate these differences, ” said Dr. Cara James, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health, which released the report. The report looks at 27 clinical care measures and eight patient experiences to gauge differences in treatment among whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians or Pacific Islanders. It has some bright spots: Blacks and Hispanics reported slightly better communication with doctors than whites did. Hispanics had higher rates than non-Hispanic whites of colorectal screenings, blood sugar testing for diabetes, and treatment for osteoporosis (among women) after a fracture.
Thousands of Connecticut residents are prediabetic but don’t know it and if they did, doctors say, early detection and lifestyle changes could prevent diabetes from developing in most people at risk. The state Department of Public Health reports that 83,000 adults in Connecticut have prediabetes, which occurs when a person’s blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes. Nearly 9 percent of adults in the state—about 257,000 people—have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes has few early warning signs, but a blood test by a primary care doctor can detect at-risk patients. Once detected, changes in diet and exercise, sometimes with medication, can stave off the disease, doctors say.
Health insurance coverage might be more accessible and affordable in Connecticut if the state applied for certain Affordable Care Act and Medicaid waivers, according to advocates who say the options should be explored. Two waivers in particular—Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1332 and Medicaid Section 1115—would let the state disregard certain federal requirements, possibly lowering health care costs for some individuals, according to a policy brief commissioned by the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut and the Connecticut Health Foundation. “What we need to do in Connecticut is really think about … how could we creatively, imaginatively, innovatively use waivers to expand coverage to quality care and really help improve health,” said Frances Padilla, president of Meriden-based Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “We haven’t had that conversation yet in Connecticut.”
The ACA waiver isn’t available until 2017 but the Medicaid waiver is already being used by dozens of other states to lower costs, she said. “It allows a state to get past some of the requirements of Medicaid and do some things that are innovative,” she said of the Medicaid waiver.
Kathy Navaroli, 50, of Windsor, hadn’t seen a primary care doctor in years when she decided to go for a physical this summer. She didn’t ask about preventive care screenings, such as a mammogram or Pap test, in part because she worried they might involve an insurance co-pay or deductible. Her household income is below $30,000 a year. “I got a physical, they did some blood work, and that was it,” she said. Kerrishian McCants, 31, of Hartford, a mother of four, has a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure, but has not discussed those possible risks with her doctor.
Thousands of low-income adults and children have gained access to dental services in recent years as the number of dentists accepting Medicaid and HUSKY patients has soared, according to state data. At the end of last year, there were 2,002 dentists who accepted Medicaid or HUSKY plans. That’s nearly three times the 703 dentists who accepted Medicaid or HUSKY on Dec. 31, 2008, according to the state Department of Social Services (DSS). “That’s a pretty expansive network,” Donna Balaski, director of dental services at DSS, said of the 2014 figure.
Forty-five percent of Connecticut adults in a survey released Wednesday reported that they have been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease or cancer. That rate was “very high,” said Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. She said she was also struck that 28 percent of adults aged 18 to 44 reported in the new Connecticut Health Care Survey that they have one of those serious illnesses. “With so many people reporting chronic illnesses and their complications, we have to have better access to care,’’ she said. Six health foundations released the results of a telephone survey of 5,447 adults conducted between June 2012 and February 2013.