The yr 2022 is behind us, and though we started final yr hoping for a gradual return to regular after two years in a public well being emergency, we proceed to really feel reverberations from the pandemic. Continued well being care supplier staffing shortages, a psychological well being disaster and surging drug overdose deaths have dominated headlines. After a assessment of the 2022 panorama in well being and well being care final yr, listed here are a few of my highlights:

  1. A Pandemic Hangover: COVID-19 continued to be a driver of hospitalizations and deaths amongst Arkansans and can doubtless be the third main reason behind dying for the third straight yr, behind solely coronary heart illness and most cancers. Misinformation continued to impression prevention of and remedy for COVID, and COVID mixed with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, created what has been known as a “tripledemic.”
  2. An Omni-Increase: The tip-of-year omnibus price range invoice handed by Congress included main well being care-related provisions — extension of telehealth flexibilities for Medicare beneficiaries and safety-net suppliers for an outlined interval past the general public well being emergency; protections for breastfeeding employees; funding for psychological well being, substance use dysfunction and disaster response companies; and necessities for states to maintain kids constantly enrolled in Medicaid protection for 12 months.
  3. A Settled Matter: Arkansas started receiving its share of opioid litigation settlement proceeds, a complete award of greater than $200 million shared between the state, counties and municipalities. The Arkansas legal professional basic directed greater than $140 million to the state’s basic income fund to be allotted by the Basic Meeting, whereas the counties and municipalities fashioned a three way partnership, the Arkansas Opioid Restoration Partnership, to supervise the strategic disbursement of opioid settlement funds.
  4. An All-Round Approval: Federal officers authorised the state’s plan to supply care coordination and community-based companies to deal with health-related socials wants via the Life360 program. The Life360 program targets at-risk pregnant ladies and others and is predicted to completely launch in 2023.
  5. A Main Resolution: Following the leak of a draft opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court docket issued its choice in Dobbs v. Jackson Girls’s Well being Group, which ended constitutional abortion protections and triggered state legal guidelines prohibiting abortion, together with Arkansas’ personal, which prohibits abortion besides to save lots of the lifetime of a pregnant girl in a medical emergency.
  6. A Welcome Reopening: With the help of a gross sales tax authorised by county voters and the infusion of greater than $6 million in federal restoration funds from the state, Sevier County noticed the reopening of its hospital, practically three years after the De Queen Medical Heart closed in 2019.
  7. A Motive to Smile: Lyon School introduced plans to determine a dental faculty in Little Rock as a part of the Lyon School Institute of Well being Sciences, which will even home a veterinary faculty. The dental faculty expects to welcome its first college students within the fall of 2024. The dental skilled diploma program was authorised by regional accreditors in November, and the college expects to see its first college students within the fall of 2024.
  8. A Stunning Act: Protections for Arkansans below the federal No Surprises Act grew to become efficient. The laws bans shock billing from out-of-network suppliers for many emergency companies.
  9. A True Lifeline: In July, the nationwide suicide prevention hotline quantity modified to 988. For these in disaster, a easy textual content or name to 988 will lead to connection to educated counselors who will hear and supply help. Arkansas recorded 619 suicides in 2021, up from 583 in 2020.
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Let’s briefly flip to 2023. Listed here are a number of issues to maintain your eyes on:

  1. With ongoing staffing challenges and inflation pressures, hospitals are in a transition interval. Search for laws to determine state-based necessities for rural emergency hospitals. Although federal officers have established the brand new emergency hospital designation, the state has not but established such a designation, a should for these varieties of hospitals to be acknowledged and paid by state Medicaid packages and personal payers.
  2. Look ahead to laws to increase postpartum Medicaid protection for pregnant ladies, presently set at 60 days in Arkansas. The current price range invoice handed by Congress made everlasting the flexibility for states to increase postpartum protection for 12 months. The American Rescue Plan permits 12-month postpartum protection for as much as 5 years. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia are providing or planning to supply this feature.
  3. Talking of Medicaid, look ahead to an enormous Medicaid eligibility redetermination course of to start in April. Most Medicaid protection terminations weren’t permitted in the course of the public well being emergency, however the current federal price range invoice permits states to start their processes for redetermining eligibility for present enrollees in April. Notably, state regulation requires Medicaid officers to finish this course of in six months. There are presently multiple million Medicaid enrollees in Arkansas.

We’ll proceed to face disruption in our well being care system and challenges in our private capability to remain wholesome, however right here’s to the promise of 2023, hoping that it’s going to convey resilience and innovation within the midst of those pressures.

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Editor’s observe: Craig Wilson, J.D., M.P.A., is the director of well being coverage for the Arkansas Heart for Well being Enchancment, an impartial, nonpartisan well being coverage heart in Little Rock. The opinions expressed are these of the writer.