AHIP submits testimony for Senate hearing on COVID-19 and improving health equity

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This week, America’s Health Coverage Options submitted testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee for a hearing concentrated on enhancing overall health fairness and outcomes by addressing overall health disparities throughout the COVID-19 response. AHIP highlighted overall health insurers’ efforts to handle things these types of as social determinants of overall health that can effects the fairness of care people obtain.

The group stated that considering the fact that the onset of the pandemic, insurers have developed new service delivery versions and partnered with companies in various communities to improved provide sources to those enduring pressing overall health and social desires. 

Coverage companies have dedicated to defeat social obstacles to increase overall health even over and above the coronavirus pandemic, AHIP stated.

“We have an understanding of that lots of social obstacles in each-day life play a big position in particular overall health and overall health outcomes,” the group wrote in its letter. “These things include things like minimal entry to balanced foodstuff, dependable transportation, healthcare solutions and unsafe or unstable housing. For years, overall health insurance policies companies have developed local community-unique remedies to handle these social obstacles — from investments in neighborhood neighborhoods to ground breaking local community improvements and immediate help for people and people.”

To exemplify this, AHIP highlighted its own collaboration with the Blue Cross Blue Protect Affiliation and the Biden Administration to start the Vaccine Local community Connectors pilot initiative — a coordinated effort to vaccinate two million seniors aged 65 and older in communities that are most at-danger, vulnerable and underserved, these types of as Black and Hispanic communities. 

The initiative focuses on growing vaccinations for those who could have difficulty signing up for appointments or obtaining to vaccine administration web pages, these types of as those who are house-certain, those with disabilities and those who absence transportation possibilities.

The group cited other illustrations of AHIP users who have built strides in advancing this ethos. Kaiser Permanente, for case in point, has donated grants totaling $500,000 to day to 4 nonprofit, local community-primarily based businesses in Washington to handle systemic racism in the condition. The grants will emphasis on civic engagement and plan, healthcare, instruction and business and cultural improvement.

Blue Cross and Blue Protect of North Carolina, meanwhile, invests in sustainable housing in collaboration with Local community Household Believe in, an firm that supports forever inexpensive housing in communities in Orange County, North Carolina. The undertaking will fund required renovations these types of as upgrading and cleaning HVAC models and ducts, as nicely as make improvements to hearth protection and lights.

AHIP also cited Centene, which partnered with Samsung Electronics The usa to increase entry to telehealth for those living in rural and underserved communities. The initiative supplied Centene’s companies with Samsung Galaxy smartphones to distribute to people who would not normally be ready to entry healthcare just about. The partnership also supplied Samsung Galaxy tablets to companies to carry out telehealth visits with their people.

What’s THE Effect

AHIP floated a selection of plan tips, together with strengthening entry to care for underserved populations as a result of Medicare Advantage. The group stated there are alternatives for Congress to develop on and fortify Medicare Advantage for the 26.5 million seniors and people with disabilities who count on the application, particularly throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 1 way is as a result of telehealth. 

“In the wake of COVID-19, Medicare Advantage programs took decisive motion by growing telehealth solutions, together with providing coverage for telephonic (audio-only) telehealth,” AHIP wrote. “Audio only telehealth will help assure that people who have trouble accessing or distress applying technologies or broadband solutions nevertheless have entry to important care.” To that finish, AHIP pushed for passage of the Guaranteeing Parity in Medicare Advantage for Audio-Only Telehealth Act.

It also advised that efforts could be aided by Medicaid enlargement, HCBS funding and prolonged postpartum coverage. 

All through the pandemic, the Medicaid application has presented crucial healthcare solutions to millions of People in america who normally could not manage overall health coverage,” AHIP wrote. “To assure that Medicaid continues to be a steady resource, we urge Congress to take legislative motion to help long term funding for Medicaid enlargement incentives, HCBS and prolonged postpartum coverage. This help is important not just for the care delivered right now, but the care that will be delivered in the long run following the pandemic has subsided.”


A selection of other witnesses testified at the hearing on Thursday, together with Taryn Mackenzie Williams, handling director, Poverty to Prosperity, Heart for American Progress, who stated those with disabilities have suffered disproportionately throughout the pandemic. Citing a cross-sectional analyze, Williams stated owning an intellectual disability was the strongest unbiased danger variable, other than age, for mortality thanks to the coronavirus. She applauded the Affordable Treatment Act for mitigating insurance policies losses throughout the pandemic.

Abigail Echo-Hawk, executive vice president of the Seattle Indian Health Board, stated general public knowledge infrastructure is just not outfitted to gather knowledge on race and ethnicity, and fails to reveal where by gaps exist. She pointed out that Indigenous People in america have been underneath-enrolled in vaccine trials, adding to a problem in excess of absence of variety in these types of trials.

Gene Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health, also testified, highlighting his organization’s creation of a COVID-19 geographic details process map that gathered knowledge on the virus’ geographic distribute, warm places, testing density, median income, higher poverty zip codes and minority communities to assist in tackling overall health disparities.

THE Much larger Development

Just this week, AHIP praised the introduction of a monthly bill that would increase entry to audio-only telehealth for seniors in Medicare Advantage. The monthly bill, which was originally launched in July 2020, was revived by the U.S. Dwelling of Representatives this week.

In accordance to the internet site of Consultant Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), 1 of the bill’s cosponsors, the Guaranteeing Parity in MA and Rate for Audio-Only Telehealth Act would enable companies to present audio-only telehealth solutions to MA enrollees. It would assure that companies are sufficiently compensated by requiring MA programs to reimburse them for audio-only telehealth visits as if they were being in-human being visits – except if both equally functions have agreed to a different payment plan.

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