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Health Equity and Access Weekly Roundup: July 14, 2023


The Center on Health Equity and Access spotlights the latest health equity news, research, and initiatives to reduce health care disparities and improve access to care.


CMS Proposals Aim to Increase Access to Behavioral Health Services

CMS is proposing a series of policies aiming to expand behavioral health service access, the agency announced in a press release. While Medicare currently covers and pays for services such as inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, partial hospitalizations services, and outpatient therapeutic services, there is a gap in coverage of services more frequent than individual outpatient therapy sessions but less intensive than partial hospitalization, according to the release. The agency is seeking comment on the proposed new rule, which would establish payment and program requirements for additional behavioral health settings, such as outpatient departments at hospitals, community mental health centers, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, and opioid treatment programs.


Income Inequality, Social Mobility Associated With Deaths of Despair

A study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that higher county-level income inequality and lower social mobility are associated with deaths of despair across Black, Hispanic, and White individuals. Deaths of despair, including deaths from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholic liver disease, have been increasing but are avoidable and preventable, the authors noted. Proximal responses to the opioid crisis and addressing the socioeconomic conditions linked to deaths of despair are key to mitigate what the study authors deem an epidemic.

Neighborhood Racial Segregation Linked to Shorter Life Spans

Living in a highly segregated neighborhood was associated with a shorter life expectancy by 4 years, according to a research letter published in JAMA Health Forum. The nationwide, cross-sectional study showed statistically significantly lower life spans, with neighborhood-level socioeconomic factors partially mediating the findings. While the results do not confirm causation, the findings help quantify how residential segregation drives racial inequities and add to evidence that residential segregation limits access to resources that promote health, such as education, employment, and wealth; and may increase exposure to factors such as air pollution that are harmful to health. 

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