Public access to mental health care dealt another blow

Two years after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel shut down half of the city’s mental health clinics, the Mental Health Movement is charging that the city “is sabotaging its remaining services by refusing to serve people getting health benefits through the Affordable Care Act.” Tens of thousands of Chicagoans signed up for CountyCare, Cook County’s early rollout of ACA’s Medicaid expansion, but the city chose not to join the CountyCare network. A health department spokesman told the Tribune last month that current clients who enroll in Medicaid will be able to keep seeing their therapists. But a clinic staff member told me recently he’d been instructed not to accept CountyCare enrollees as new patients and to transfer patients who joined CountyCare to private providers. “The city is pushing people out and they’re not following up to see if they are getting care,” said N’Dana Carter of the MHM.

Many of Chicago’s uninsured Latinos could be covered under Obamacare

Eight in 10 uninsured Latinos qualify for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Chicago metropolitan area has among the highest concentration of uninsured Latinos in the nation, with nearly six in 10. There are about 288,000 uninsured Latinos in the city. Many of these Latinos could have some type of coverage under the Medicaid expansion and the health insurance market, which started last month as part of the Affordable Care Act. 
A third of uninsured Latinos — or about 3 million — are eligible for state-expanded Medicaid. Twenty-five states have opted out of the plan.

Illinois Medicare, Medicaid costs rising

The news: The funding and use of Medicare and Medicaid have been a divisive issue during the 2012 presidential debates.Behind the news: According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, public spending on medical programs—such as Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program—increased 89 percent in Illinois since welfare reform in 1994, averaging $3,143 per person in 2010, the latest year for which the data are available. The medical programs’ expenses amounted to 43 percent of spending made on all federal benefit programs in the state.Nationally, per-capita public spending on medical programs has increased at a slower rate than Illinois, growing by 75 percent between 1994 and 2010, from $1,842 to $3,239.Public spending on medical programs has increased because of the rising cost of health care and an aging population in Illinois, said Anne Marie Murphy, who served as the Illinois Medicaid director for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services until 2006.Medicare and Medicaid costs alone grew 133.8 percent and 100.2 percent, respectively, since 2000 according to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. And so have the number of Illinois residents who receive medical benefits from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Between fiscal years 2006 and 2011, it increased by 34 percent to about 2.7 million.“This rise is generally due to a poor economy where many have lost jobs, lost income, employers have dropped health insurance coverage and so many more qualify for Illinois Medicaid,” said Murphy, who is now the executive director of Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force.

South Side HIV infections on rise

The news: In June, a Walgreens store near 75th and State streets joined a pilot program that offers free HIV testing and counseling under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Behind the news: Despite a citywide decrease of 22 percent between 2010 and 2011, seven community areas on the South and Southwest sides saw an increase in the number of new HIV infections, shows a Chicago Reporter analysis of the Chicago Department of Public Health data. Four of the community areas are majority-black: Greater Grand Crossing, South Shore, North Lawndale and South Chicago. The other three are in Latino, mixed or white areas.Greater Grand Crossing, the home of the CDC’s pilot program, suffered the greatest increase—by 53 percent—in HIV diagnoses of any area between 2010 and 2011, tallying an average of 70.5 infections per 100,000 people in 2011.Cynthia Tucker, director of Prevention and Community Partnerships for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, listed a number of social determinants that influence the high HIV rates in some neighborhoods. “There’s a lack of jobs, high poverty, a lack of housing and a lack of access to medical care,” she said. “In these places, you have to step out of the community for services.”Rodney Johnson serves as chairman for the HIV/AIDS Ministry at the Trinity United Church of Christ—located in majority-black Washington Heights, near five of the seven community areas that saw increasing HIV diagnoses.