What We’re Reading: Urban-Rural Health Disparities; Therapists Respond to No Surprises Act; Stroke, COVID-19 Risk

New CDC data highlight urban-rural health differences; mental health providers object to some parts of the No Surprises Act; COVID-19–associated stroke most likely within 3 days of diagnosis.

Rural Residents Report Worse Physical Health

A new CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that during 2021, working age adults self-reported worse physical health depending on their area of residence, with those in small/medium urban counties and rural counties faring worse than those in large urban counties. Geographical disparities in physical health are not new, but researchers noted a lack of recent data on rural-urban differences. They concluded the disparities seen are largely due to differences in socioeconomic status, while policies that increase access to livable wage jobs—especially among those without a college degree—would likely help address these gaps.

Mental Health Providers Seek Exemption From Surprise Billing Act

Some mental health therapists contend a newly enacted law aimed to curb surprise medical billing could discourage patients from seeking care, NPR reports. Although they do not object to the main goal of the act, they are concerned a price transparency provision that requires medical practitioners to give up-front cost estimates and a diagnosis does not fit well with mental health care, as diagnoses can take time and change over treatment courses. If the price estimate is off by at least $400, uninsured or self-pay patients could also challenge the bills in arbitration. Mental health organizations laid out their concerns and sought exemption from the law in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Stroke Risk Among COVID-19 Patients

Study findings reported by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy revealed that among older adults, the risk of COVID-19–associated stroke is the highest within 3 days of diagnosis. In addition, researchers devised a new scoring system that could help predict the risk of stroke in this population. To do so, they examined the health records of 37,379 Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with COVID-19 between April 2020 and February 2021. Any strokes occurring 7 days before diagnosis or 28 days following diagnosis served as controls; stroke risk within 3 days was 10 times higher than in the control group.