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Health Briefs: Ellsworth hosts immunization clinic

(graphic by Minnesota Department of Health)

Pierce County Health Department will hold an immunization clinic 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, at the Pierce County Office Building, 412 W. Kinne St.

The clinic is for children through 18 years of age who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, American Indian or Alaska Native, or have insurance without vaccine coverage. Some adult vaccinations also are available for a fee.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 715-273-6755.

Mayo Clinic Health System Hospice offers 'Coping with Holidays' program

Mayo Clinic Health System's Hospice department will offer a program to help cope with the holidays after the loss of a loved one. Program times are 1-2:30 p.m. and 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Professional and Community Center, 1407 W. Fourth St.

Holidays are often perceived as a joyful time of year; however, for those who are grieving, they can be difficult. Bereavement coordinator Pam Roe will be joined by Kathy Bang, a licensed social worker, and Kelley Adelsman, a spiritual care coordinator, to discuss how to grieve the holidays, coping strategies for intense emotions, importance of rituals in our grieving journey and how to support others.

The program is free and open to anyone who has experienced a loss through death. No registration is required.

Hospitals see drops in bad debt, charity care

Uncompensated care costs at hospitals have decreased by 16.7 percent in Minnesota since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, according to a new analysis by the Minnesota Department of Health.

In 2015 alone, hospital uncompensated care fell for a second straight year, from $305 million to $268 million. This one-year drop of 12 percent brings uncompensated care down to 2008 levels, when hospitals also spent $268 million.

Uncompensated care has two components: charity care and bad debt. Charity care is care that hospitals provide without expecting payment, while bad debt is payment that hospitals expect but do not receive. In 2015, both components of uncompensated care declined. Charity care dropped by $18.7 million (a 15.1 percent decline) and bad debt declined by $18.5 million (10.2 percent) compared to 2014.

Lack of insurance coverage is a primary factor in spending for both components of uncompensated care, but bad debt is also accumulated by people with insurance coverage who struggle with cost sharing, for instance through higher-deductible policies, the MDH says.

An estimated 213,000 more Minnesotans had health insurance in 2015 compared to 2013. The state's uninsured rate fell to 4.3 percent in 2015, down from 8.2 percent in 2013. In 2015, uncompensated care decreased for both insured and uninsured patients.

"While we still have significant challenges to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to high-quality health care at affordable rates, this drop in charity care and bad debt is a positive sign that reflects our progress in reducing the number of Minnesotans going without coverage," Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a news release. "We need to continue our work in addressing the underlying causes of high health care costs through smart reforms, and at the same time we need to sharpen our focus on keeping people healthy."

The majority of hospitals saw a decline in uncompensated care costs, but 34 hospitals had an increase. Hennepin County Medical Center was the largest provider of uncompensated care followed by the two Mayo hospitals in Olmsted County.

Grant funds study into racial inequities in nursing homes

The Department of Human Services is partnering with the University of Minnesota to study racial inequities in nursing homes under a recently awarded National Institute of Health $1.8 million, five-year grant. The effort builds off work Dr. Tetyana Shippee, assistant professor in the University's School of Public Health, has been doing in recent years under contract with DHS. Shippee has used data from the department's nursing facility quality of life survey for her initial research.

By 2030, minorities are expected to be overrepresented in nursing homes. More information on the study can be found at