The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) held its annual conference last week in Boston, bringing together a diverse group of healthcare professionals and policy experts to discuss the top issues shaping the current healthcare landscape. Maternal and infant health, healthcare workforce challenges, and health-related social needs were among the topics addressed.
Here are five key takeaways from the event:
- Advancing maternal and infant health through innovative policies: Perinatal health policy innovations were the focus of a breakout session. State officials from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Connecticut shared how value-based payment models can enhance birth and maternal health outcomes. New areas of focus, such as lactation support and doula services integration, were highlighted as essential components of Connecticut’s Maternity Bundle Payment program. As a component of the multi-payer Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative, Arkansas utilized a value-based payment model for maternal health, including a perinatal episode of care which was a component of the Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative. The perinatal episode of care was discontinued in 2021 as part of a broader phaseout of all episodes of care over a two-year period.
- Challenges within the healthcare workforce: Discussions centering on the healthcare workforce highlighted the importance of addressing workforce gaps and ensuring the well-being of healthcare professionals. A panel discussed leveraging non-licensed healthcare workers, including community health workers and peer support specialists, to address workforce gaps. Panelists also talked about the importance of rethinking educational and licensing pathways to fill clinical worker needs. Other topics included the significance of cultural competency and diversity in healthcare settings and strategies to manage burnout. ACHI continues to track and provide information related to healthcare workforce needs, including the release of a recent explainer on the role of community health workers and another on efforts to protect healthcare workers from violence.
- Tackling health-related social needs: A breakout session focused on health-related social needs, defined by the Kaiser Family Foundation as an individual’s unmet, adverse social conditions that contribute to poor health and are a result of underlying social determinants of health (conditions in which people are born, grow, work, and age). Representatives of the Medicaid programs of Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota discussed their experiences with policies aimed at addressing these needs. For example, Massachusetts and Oregon utilized Section 1115 Medicaid demonstration waiver authority to cover health-related social needs, while North Dakota employed a 1915(i) state Medicaid plan amendment to provide home and community-based services for individuals with behavioral health conditions. Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me, or ARHOME, the state’s Medicaid expansion program administered through a Section 1115 demonstration waiver, includes a component aimed at improving health outcomes for certain high-risk populations through an approach called Life360 HOMEs.
- Data-driven insights for informed health policy: The National Association of Health Data Organizations (NAHDO) hosted its annual meeting at the same site as the NASHP conference, which included a crossover session with representatives from both conferences. Kenley Money (pictured), ACHI’s director of information systems architecture and board chair of NAHDO, discussed a collaboration between ACHI and the Arkansas State Police to collect and assess vehicular crash data to inform planning efforts with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other panelists underscored the importance of data integration and collaboration across departments, showcasing how states such as Utah and California are leveraging data for more effective health policy decisions.
- Privatization of health care — benefits and concerns: The privatization of health care emerged as a major topic, starting with the opening keynote by Dr. Zirui Song, associate professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School. He shared insights on the increasing acquisition of medical practices by hospitals, as well as hospital system mergers, and the impacts of both on the healthcare delivery system. Song said inroads into health care by large private entities such as Amazon and Walmart have raised questions about potential benefits and drawbacks. He also noted the importance of finding opportunities for innovation and cost savings in care delivery that do not compromise high-quality care for patients. His presentation was followed by a panel discussion featuring perspectives from various sectors, with an emphasis on the role of regulatory oversight in maintaining a balanced healthcare privatization landscape.
The NASHP conference served as a dynamic platform for professionals to engage, collaborate, and become better informed on pressing challenges in health policy. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, the information shared at the conference will offer valuable insights as we continue to move Arkansas forward on these key healthcare issues.