This month’s newsletter includes Medicaid Director Jennifer Strohecker’s comments on Medicaid redetermination planning and other upcoming changes to the program, data about deceptive COVID self-reporting practices with input from State Epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen, and Gov. Cox’s new strategy for addressing social media’s impact on youth mental health in the state.
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State of Reform
1. Medicaid Director Jennifer Strohecker discusses changes underway
Utah Medicaid Director Jennifer Strohecker recently spoke with State of Reform about numerous changes impacting the state’s Medicaid program, including work being done in preparation for the end of the PHE. “We can just be planned on the back end of who we’re going to review over the 12 months, when we’re going to review them, and really get them set up on a nice schedule so that our staff is prepared,” she said.
Another key priority for her is replacing the state’s current Medicaid Management Information System with a new one, called the Provider Reimbursement Information System for Medicaid (PRISM). Strohecker said this new platform, which will be operational sometime in early 2023, will streamline the claims process for Medicaid providers and make it more transparent.
2. Chief Epidemiologist Nolen weighs in on deceptive COVID status self-reporting
In a recent University of Utah survey of 1,733 American adults, 41% said they knowingly misrepresented their COVID-19 status and/or didn’t follow public health measures during the height of the pandemic. 47% of respondents said they weren’t vaccinated when they took the survey. State Epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen attributed this to the state’s “unfortunate” intertwining of health and politics.
“We have people who are feeling a need to not tell the truth and feel a need to present sort of a different face than what they really are doing at home and what they do in their life in order to fill in some narrative,” Nolen told State of Reform. In spite of this concern, she pointed to Utah’s successful efforts promoting statewide vaccine uptake, including strategically placing vaccine locations in easy-to-access locations in communities with low uptake.
3. What They’re Watching: Rep. Rosemary Lesser, Utah House of Representatives
During our “What They’re Watching” interview with Rep. Rosemary Lesser (D – Ogden) at our Utah conference earlier this year, the lawmaker described a bill she’s working on during the interim and plans to present in next year’s legislative session. The legislation would increase postpartum Medicaid coverage in the state from 60 days to 1 year after birth and raise the income threshold for Medicaid coverage of prenatal care.
“In our state, we realize that the medical and mental health complications that are a result of pregnancy often extend beyond that 60-day mark and leave women in the lurch … More than 20 other states have extended coverage to the 1-year mark, and I’d love to see that in Utah.”
4. Cox outlines plan to improve youth mental health
Despite having nation-leading levels of overall health, Utah continues to have among the worst rates of mental health issues in the country. At a recent address, Gov. Cox emphasized that addressing youth mental health issues—particularly those caused by social media—is a key priority of his. He also announced the creation of the Office of Families under the Division of Family Health, which will focus on reducing social media’s impact on Utah’s teens.
Another part of the governor’s strategy for addressing the youth mental health crisis is implementing “cell phone free” policies in schools to reduce the negative influence of social media on students. He is working with legislators on a policy that requires parents to give permission for their children to create social media accounts, and called for stricter accountability on the part of social media companies like Meta in mitigating negative mental health impacts for youth who use their services.
5. Intermountain launches drone medication delivery services
Intermountain Healthcare launched a drone delivery service for prescriptions and medical products in partnership with Zipline earlier this month. The new program is intended to promote accessibility for patients in need, with Intermountain’s AVP of Supply Chain Logistics saying: “Combined with our telehealth services like Connect Care, it’s possible to virtually see a doctor and get medication you need delivered from Zipline, without having to travel to a clinic or the hospital.”
Intermountain anticipates the program to become capable of delivering to 90% of it’s patients’ homes over the course of the next 5 years. The Utah Division of Aeronautics intends to submit data on air mobility needs in the state to the legislature next session in order to explore legislation to improve Utah’s air mobility infrastructure.