5 Things Texas: Hospitals & COVID, Health equity, Topical Agenda

I hope you have had a great first couple weeks of 2022!

This newsletter features an update on how hospitals are faring in the midst of the Omicron surge, work underway to improve health equity, and vaccine promotion efforts.

As always, thanks for reading! Enjoy the long weekend.

 

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform

1. Lack of supplies, workforce shortage push hospitals to breaking point

As Texas hospitalizations continue to rise to levels not seen since September, THA’s VP of advocacy, quality, and public health, Carrie Kroll, told State of Reform that hospitals continue to be overworked, understaffed, and lack sufficient supplies. “We’ve never had enough of a quiet period during this pandemic to really get on top of anything,” she said. The state recently allocated $128 million in ARPA funds to support hospital staffing and Gov. Abbott requested federal support for additional testing locations, medical personnel, and testing kits last month.

“We just are at a place where without additional supplies, we are going to have a harder time keeping people from being hospitalized,” Kroll said. She said more people without treatment needs are showing up for COVID-19 testing at hospitals, which is compounding the strain hospitals are already experiencing. Spreading awareness of the efficacy of vaccines and boosters, Kroll noted, is one of the best ways to support hospitals as they fight to keep up with the surge.

 

2. ICYMI: Topical Agenda now available!

In case you haven’t seen it, we recently released the Topical Agenda for the 2022 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference, to be held in person in Austin on March 10. Big thanks to our Convening Panel for providing the crucial stakeholder input needed to put together an event like this.

Among our 16 different breakout sessions, this conference will feature conversations on health care coverage beyond the safety net, bringing an equity lens to health care, and price transparency. If any of the lined-up panel topics pique your interest, you can register for the event here!

 

3. DSHS and Texas A&M funding ‘tailored,’ local approach to vaccine messaging

DSHS and Texas A&M University Health Science Center are giving more than $8.6 million to local organizations throughout the state to promote vaccination efforts. The first round of funding—focused on organizations serving rural communities, Texans with disabilities, and Texans of color—was announced in December. The second round—tailored to organizations serving children and Tribal Nations—was announced on Jan. 3.

Olga Rodriguez, chief of staff and associate VP of Texas A&M Health, emphasized that the local messaging this partnership is funding—as opposed to state or federal messaging—is the best way to increase vaccination rates in local communities. “What seems to work the most is when there’s local messaging by trusted leaders when it comes to vaccination efforts … Each community has to decide who’s the most influential messenger in their community, and what the messaging is that resonates most with them.”

4. Texas Health Resources works to increase health equity endeavors

Texas Health Resources was recently selected to participate in the American Hospital Association’s nationwide Hospital Community Collaborative, which fosters collaboration between hospitals and CBOs to advance health equity. THR is partnering with Erath County United Way and Tarleton State University to improve mental health, increase access to food, and improve resource navigation services in Erath County.

Marsha Ingle, THR’s senior director of community health improvement, said the collaborative is laying the groundwork for them to pursue further health equity initiatives in the state. “One of the things that we’re also interested in in that particular program is, if it’s successful [in Erath County], to replicate that in the counties that are in the southern area for our community impact region, which are Kauffman and Johnson.”

5. The status of federal price transparency requirements

On January 1, the No Surprises Act went into effect, putting in place patient protections against surprise medical bills. But that’s just one of several efforts to improve price transparency that are currently underway at the federal level. State of Reform Columnist Jim Capretta offers a status update and a detailed look at some of those other efforts including the hospital price transparency rule and new regulatory requirements on insurers.

To improve compliance with the Hospital Disclosure Rule—which requires hospitals to post certain service prices online in a readable format—the Biden administration finalized a rule change that will increase maximum penalties to nearly $2 million per year beginning in 2022. Though some requirements have been delayed, new regulatory rules will soon go into effect requiring insurers to maintain a consumer pricing tool and to “post online for public consumption their in-network prices, their out-of-network allowed charges, and their negotiated prices for prescription drugs.”