Category Archives: Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Oct 23 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: CPR for Ebola patients, freezing women’s eggs, the inevitability of failure, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

The New York Times reports on remarks by medical ethicist Joseph J. Fins, MD, in which he calls for clearer guidance on whether clinicians should administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to Ebola patients whose hearts stop beating. In a commentary published on the Hastings Center Report website, and cited by the Times, Fins argues against administering CPR because of the danger of transmission of the virus to clinicians, the slim likelihood that Ebola patients will recover, and other clinical factors. Fins, an RWJF  Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, urges a dialogue on the question leading to clear guidelines from hospitals and government officials.

In an article for CNN, Rene Almeling, PhD, and co-authors say that while Apple and Facebook made headlines last week for offering to cover costs for their female employees to freeze their eggs, people should be suspicious of egg-freezing as a “solution.” The technology carries risk and has high rates of failure, they write. “But even if the technology were perfect, the proposal to help women put motherhood on ice so they can focus on their jobs is shortsighted,” they add. “[R]ather than making fundamental changes to the structure of work in our society to accommodate women’s reproductive years, technological optimists reach for an engineering solution. ... Instead, the goal should be to build systems of production that allow us to live our lives without constantly watching the clock.” Almeling is an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna.

The consumption of sugar-sweetened soda might be promoting disease independent of its role in obesity, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumni Belinda Needham, PhD, MA, and David Rehkopf, ScD, MPH. The study shows that telomeres—the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells—were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more soda, Science Blog reports. Shorter telomeres have been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

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Oct 10 2014
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BSN Qualifications Recommended for the Nation’s Nurses: Four Years of Progress

Linda H. Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Claire Fagin Professor of Nursing, professor of sociology, director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, and senior fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Olga Yakusheva, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Linda Aiken Linda H. Aiken

Four years ago the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark report on the future of nursing was released. The study was remarkable in multiple respects including the interdisciplinary perspectives of national experts comprising the study committee, the breadth and scope of the study, its actionable recommendations, and the commitment of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to provide philanthropic funds to help implement the study’s recommendations—a rarity. One net result of the IOM Report, as viewed on the 4th anniversary of its release, is its notable impact on the commitment of stakeholders to finally make the transition of the nation’s nurse workforce to BSN qualifications, after many decades of limited progress.

Olga Yakusheva - medium enlarge Olga Yakusheva

Changing trends in nurse employment and education: The IOM recommended that 80 percent of nurses in the United States hold at least a baccalaureate in nursing (BSN) by the year 2020. The recommendation was quite bold considering that two-thirds of new nurses still graduated with less than a BSN, despite numerous previous reports and commissions over decades recommending the BSN as the entry qualification for professional nurses.  

While the percentage of nurses with bachelor’s and graduate education had been slowly increasing over time, when the IOM report was issued only about 49 percent of nurses held a BSN. However, the IOM’s recommendation, based upon a growing research base documenting that patient outcomes were better in settings that employed more BSN-qualified nurses, acted as a tipping point to mobilize responses from many stakeholders that together are impacting changes in nurses’ qualifications.

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Oct 2 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Autism and birth order, nurse staffing and underweight infants, long-term care insurance, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

There is an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) among children born less than one year or more than five years after the birth of their next oldest sibling, Forbes reports. The study, led by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Keely Cheslack-Postava, PhD, MSPH, analyzed the records of 7,371 children born between 1987 and 2005, using data from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism. About a third of the children had been diagnosed with ASD by 2007. Researchers found that the risk of ASD for children born less than 12 months after their prior sibling was 50 percent higher than it was for children born two to five years after their prior sibling. “The theory is that the timing between pregnancies changes the prenatal environment for the developing fetus,” Cheslack-Postava said. 

The health outcomes and quality of care for underweight black infants could greatly improve with more nurses on staff at hospitals with higher concentrations of black patients, according to a study funded by RWJF’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI). The study, led by Eileen Lake, PhD, RN, FAAN, found that nurse understaffing and practice environments were worse at hospitals with higher concentrations of black patients, contributing to adverse outcomes for very low birthweight babies born in those facilities, reports Health Canal. More information is available on the INQRI Blog. The study was covered by Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses, among other outlets.

Because of a “medical-industrial complex” that provides financial incentives to overuse and fragment health care, patients nearing the end of their lives need an advocate to fight for their interests, Joan Teno, MD, MS, writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times. Teno encourages readers to “find a family member or friend who can advocate for the health care that you want and need. Find someone to ask the hard questions: What is your prognosis? What are the benefits and risks of treatments? Find someone not afraid of white coats.” Teno is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient. 

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Sep 26 2014
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Lack of Coverage for Undocumented Patients Puts Pressure on the Health Care Safety Net

Michael K. Gusmano is a research scholar at the Hastings Center in Garrison, New York and former president of the American Political Science Association’s Organized Section on Health Politics and Policy. After completing his PhD in political science at the University of Maryland at College Park, Gusmano was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Scholar in Health Policy Research at Yale University from 1995 to 1997.

Michael Gusmano

The nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants constitute a “medical underclass” in American society. [1,2] Apart from their eligibility for emergency Medicaid, undocumented immigrants as a population are ineligible for public health insurance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and subsidies available to purchase private health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, because they are not “lawfully present” in the United States. [3] Federal health policy does provide undocumented immigrants with access to safety-net settings, such as an acute-care hospital’s emergency department (ED), or a community health center (CHC). Since 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) has required that all patients who present in an ED receive an appropriate medical screening and, if found to be in need of emergency medical treatment (or in active labor), to be treated until their condition stabilizes. CHCs such as Federally Qualified Health Centers and other nonprofit or public primary care clinics serving low-income and other vulnerable populations trace their origins to health policy that includes the Migrant Health Act of 1962. [4]

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Sep 22 2014
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Young Adults Offer Suggestions to Improve HealthCare.gov

Charlene A. Wong, MD, is a pediatrician and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  

Charlene Wong

“This plan is $20 to see a primary doctor, and this one is 10 percent coinsurance after deductible—and I just don’t understand that.  What is the deductible to see my primary doctor?” asked a 29-year-old uninsured Philadelphian as she shopped for health insurance on HealthCare.gov in February. 

As she tried to make sense of the plans being offered to her, she realized—as most people who have chosen a health insurance plan for themselves or their families know—that health insurance is complicated.  This young woman found the process particularly challenging and overwhelming as she was choosing her own health insurance for the first time. Though she wished “a good plan could be recommended for me, based on my needs,” she did ultimately select a new health insurance plan on HealthCare.gov.

She was one of 33 young adults, ranging from 19 to 30, who participated in our study at the University of Pennsylvania from January to March 2014.  The study explored the young adult user experience with the federal health insurance exchange website.  We asked these so called “young invincibles” to focus not on the technical failures of the website, which were being covered and criticized extensively by the media, but rather on how the website could be improved to better support them in choosing a health insurance plan that was right for them.  

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Sep 18 2014
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New Government Funds Will Support Health Workers, Expand Access to Care

The federal government announced new funds this month to expand primary care services and improve access to care.

On Sept. 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $295 million to nearly 2,000 health centers across the country.

Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, the money will support salaries for an estimated 4,750 new health care providers and other staff; allow centers to stay open for longer hours; and add new services in the areas of oral and behavioral health and pharmacy and vision services, according to an HHS statement.

The agency says the money will enable centers to reach an additional 1.5 million new patients nationwide. Today, nearly 1,300 community health centers provide care to some 22 million patients across the nation, according to HHS.

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Sep 4 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: The nursing shortage, ADHD, meaningful online communications and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

NBC 2 (Buffalo, New York) interviewed Carol S. Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, co-director of RWJF’s RN Work Project, for a story about the nursing shortage and job prospects for nurses early in their careers. “We are not seeing as much demand for brand new graduates,” Brewer said. However, the anticipated retirement of many older nurses and the increasing demand for health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act could combine to create a 19-percent increase in demand for nurses in the near future, Brewer said. In the meantime, she suggests that new nurses be willing to relocate and look for nursing jobs in rural communities, where demand is greater.

It is important to keep media and public focus on the Affordable Care Act, Jake Haselswerdt, PhD, an RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research, tells the Independent Voters Network website, because some states are still blocking full implementation of the law. “In order for the more stubborn states to move forward with implementation and expanding care, there may need to be some continued pressure,” he said. “That’s going to require the media to pay attention to the big disparities that are emerging between states that tried to implement the law and those that resisted.”

Tina Bloom, PhD, RN, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, led training for nurses in Columbia, Missouri, aimed at helping them identify the risk factors and symptoms of domestic violence, and then to support victims, ABC17 News reports. The training is consistent with preventive care provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the article says. Among other things, Bloom teaches nurses to look for certain types of injuries and for issues in patients’ medical histories that do not make sense.

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Aug 21 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Costs for blood tests, dentists testing for hypertension and HIV, fudging medical history, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

A new study uncovers vast variation in pricing for common blood tests by California hospitals, reports the Washington Post. Renee Hsia, MD, MSc, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars program alumna, says she was “very surprised” to see such variation among more than 160 hospitals studied. Hsia’s research found that during 2011, some hospitals charged as little as $10 and others as much as $10,169 for a basic cholesterol test. The study found no clear explanation for the price differences for what Hsia categorized as ten “simple and standard” tests in which blood samples are inserted into a machine that performs the analysis. Time magazine, the Boston Globe and Kaiser Health News also cover Hsia’s research.

Dentists could offer a variety of medical tests in the future, including diagnostic tests for health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV, Harold Pollack, PhD, tells Ozy.com. The mouth, Pollack says, “is the gateway to the human body.” He is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient.  

“There’s an overabundance of evidence that shows hospitals that have better staffing have better outcomes when we look at things like mortality,” Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, FAAN, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican. In an article about nurse staffing ratios, McHugh, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program alumnus, says hospital readmissions, failure to rescue patients in distress, and patient satisfaction also correlate with increased staffing. “If you compare any two hospitals—one that’s good at staffing and one that has not as good staffing, but are similar in other factors—the hospital with better staffing is much less likely to be penalized” for bad patient outcomes by Medicare and Medicaid, McHugh notes. 

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Aug 7 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: The ACA and mental health treatment, HIV training for nurses, the rise of superbugs, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

An Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that allows parents to keep adult children on their health insurance plans under they reach age 26 has resulted in millions more young people with mental-health and substance-abuse problems getting treatment, according to a study led by Brendan Saloner, PhD. Time reports that over two years, young adults ages 18 to 25 who had screened positive for mental health or substance abuse disorders increased their use of mental-health treatment by 5.3 percent compared to a similar group who were not eligible for their parents’ coverage. Vox and HealthDay were among the outlets to report on the study. Saloner is an RWJF Health & Society Scholar.

Infection Control Today quotes Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, CRNP, on the growing need to train nurses to provide HIV care. An RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, Farley developed new HIV curriculum for the John Hopkins School of Nursing, where he is an associate professor. “For many years these specialty training programs in HIV have been available for physicians,” he says. “This is the first time we’re offering them to non-physician providers. It’s quite an important development. When you look at data comparing patient outcomes with physician care and with nurse practitioner care in HIV, whether in the United States or in sub-Saharan Africa, those outcomes are the same.”

Magda Cerdá, PhD, MPH, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna, explores the stressors that lead to high numbers of returning National Guard soldiers abusing alcohol, reports Science Codex. Cerda is the lead investigator of the study, which examined 1,095 Ohio National Guard soldiers who served primarily in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009, and found that having just one civilian stressor such as job loss, or legal or financial problems, raised the odds of alcohol use disorders. Medical Daily and Medical Xpress also cover Cerda’s work.

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Aug 5 2014
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Staffing Mattered: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Got a Big Boost from Assister Programs

Healthy enrollment figures from state and federal marketplaces—topping 8 million sign-ups—during the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) first open enrollment period got a significant helping hand from 28,000 full-time staff and volunteers in 4,400 assister programs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

The survey, which is the first nationwide assessment of these programs and their impact, found that navigators and assisters provided in-person help to an estimated 10.6 million people.  Programs in states running their own marketplaces helped people at twice the rate of programs in states that relied on the federal marketplace.

Around one in eight assister programs reported that consumer demand exceeded capacity, and that share grew to one in four during a surge in March as open enrollment neared its deadline. Among the most difficult challenges programs faced were helping consumers with online technical problems, helping consumers understand plan choices, and helping consumers who had a limited understanding of the ACA.

The survey was designed to capture issues that came up with consumers, assisters’ experiences with the enrollment process, and suggestions for improvements during open enrollment next year.

Read the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Survey of Health Insurance Marketplace Assister Programs.