Jack Rodolico

Health & Science Reporter

As NHPR's Health and Science Reporter, Jack covers a far-ranging beat: public health, private insurance, hospitals, scientific research, drug addiction, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, mental illness and developmental disabilities. Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance  reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.

Jack comes from a rowdy family of Italians who wave their hands in the air while talking, and he competed for attention as a child by telling the loudest story. 

Follow Jack tweets about health and science news, and everything else he's tracking.

Flickr

State officials are warning ice conditions are more dangerous than they appear.

After an unseasonably warm December, a hard frost has settled over New Hampshire, coating many ponds and lakes with a layer of ice. That ice may look solid, but in many cases it’s not nearly thick enough for ice fishing or snow mobiles.

Kevin Jordan with Fish and Game says to hike or fish safely you need four to six inches of solid ice, and for snowmobiling you need eight to ten inches.

Jon Ovington

A bill proposed in the state legislature would end Medicaid payments for circumcisions.

The bill’s sponsor, state representative Keith Murphy of Bedford, describes the practice as unethical.

"To me there’s something fundamentally wrong about strapping a baby boy to a board and amputating perfectly healthy, normal tissue," says Murphy.

Murphy adds trimming circumcisions from the state budget will save money, although how much will be determined by the legislature next year.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon

Three New Hampshire hospitals will be penalized next year for potentially avoidable mistakes, such as patient infections and injuries.

The federal government claims Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon and Eliot Hospital and Catholic Medical Center in Manchester should have done more to protect people from a list of "hospital-acquired conditions" in 2013. Those conditions include falls, bed sores, and infections from catheters.

As a result, in the fiscal year starting next October, the feds will penalize those three hospitals one percent of their Medicare payments.

Delaywaves via Creative Commons

Vermont's big experiment in creating a single-payer health care system is over, at least for now.

On Wednesday Governor Peter Shumlin announced he would effectively kill the plan to create a publicly-financed insurance system that was to be known as Green Mountain Health Care. "In my judgment," Shumlin said, "now is not the right time to ask our legislature to take the step of passing the financial plan for Green Mountain Health Care."

Lakeview Neurorehabilitation Center, Effingham, NH.

A new state report documents systemic neglect and abuse at a residential facility for people with disabilities in Effingham.

Now the state will determine if the facility can keep its doors open. But the state may simply be ill-equipped to stop these kinds of problems before they happen.

Lakeview Neurorehabilitation Center, Effingham.

A report due out Monday could determine the future of a facility for people with disabilities. But some advocates are already concerned about how that report was written.

In September, the Disability Rights Center alleged the death of one resident at Lakeview Neurorehabilition Center in Effingham was indicative of a wide pattern of neglect, abuse and isolation.

"There were pervasive problems with clients not being appropriately monitored, clients being injured," says Karen Rosenberg. "Yet the [Department of Health and Human Services] took no action."

The University of New Hampshire Wildcats are heading into a do-or-die quarterfinal football game this week against the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

And whether they win or not, there's one thing you can say about the Wildcats: They are likely the only football team in America trying to reduce concussions by practicing without helmets.

Football has a concussion problem, from the National Football League down to Pee-Wee teams. And there are lots of efforts out there to fix it.

Families First Health & Support Center

Ten community health centers in New Hampshire are getting $486,000 in federal money meant to reward them for being leaders in areas such as chronic disease management and preventive care.

The money from the Department of Health and Human Services is part of the Affordable Care Act and is going to centers that have achieved the best overall clinical outcomes or have exceeded national benchmarks.

CDC

Ebola isn’t in the headlines as much as it was about a month ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a problem in West Africa. Over 6,000 people have died there and more than 17,000 have gotten sick with the virus. The Pentagon has sent troops to Africa to help fight the disease, and healthcare workers from around the country have also volunteered.

NHPR spoke with one of those volunteers. Dr. Elizabeth Talbot is New Hampshire’s Deputy Epidemiologist, and she joined us on the line from Sierra Leone, where she’s been for a month.

One of the ways health officials have tried to stem the growing amount of heroin and prescription opioid abuse in New Hampshire is methadone treatment. Methadone is an opioid, but given in the proper dose, it can reduce cravings without getting users high.

Jack Rodolico

On the field, the UNH Wildcats had a nearly perfect season, advancing into the playoffs as the top ranked team in their division. But off the field, a study using this team is trying to figure out how to reduce concussions. The big idea is to protect player’s heads by having them practice - without a helmet.

It’s no big secret that football, from the NFL down to Pee-Wee leagues, has a concussion problem. And there are lots of efforts out there to fix it: new helmets, softer turf, gentler tackling rules, even diagnostics on the field to identify concussions right after a hit.

Taber Andrew Bain

A task force appointed by the governor says first responders need quick and easy access to a drug that’s been proven to save lives during a heroin overdose.

There were over 1,200 drug related emergency calls in NH last year. Seventy people died from heroin overdoses.

But the drug task force’s expects higher numbers in 2014, which is why it wants first responders to have easy access to a nasal spray called naloxone. That drug has proven to be effective in saving the lives of people in the throes of an opioid overdose.

NRC

Vermont Yankee has announced its official layoff numbers ahead of the nuclear power plant’s closing at the end of the year: 165 people will lose their jobs in January, and 48 of them live in New Hampshire.

Vermont Yankee has been winding down its staff for the past year. Some workers have retired, while 79 have taken jobs with other power plants owned by parent company Entergy.

Marty Cohn, Vermont Yankee’s spokesman, says these workers are well-equipped to enter the job market.

Drug and alcohol abuse put a $1.84 billion strain on the New Hampshire economy in 2012, according to a new study. That figure was almost three percent of the state’s GDP in that same year.

Saturday marked the beginning of the second round of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And in New Hampshire that means a lot more options this time around for the nearly 100,000 residents without insurance.

Here's the problem: five insurers offering forty plans, each with varying premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and co-pays. Who could blame you for being confused?

Jack Rodolico

Ceremonies were held around the state Tuesday in honor of Veteran’s Day. Governor Maggie Hassan and most of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation paid their respects at an event at the State Veteran’s Cemetery in Boscawen.

About 2,000 people were in attendance for the morning ceremony. Veterans with leather vests and chest-length beards stood alongside trim soldiers on horseback; they and their families listened to top state officials express gratitude for their patriotic service.

Jack Rodolico

Once you hit 65, there’s a line of thinking that goes like this: Medicare is there to protect your health, and your wallet.

That’s mostly true. But about 10 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in New Hampshire – about 26,000 people – are susceptible to hospital charges that would be illegal on the private insurance market.

And most of those people are probably unaware if and when they pay those charges.

Richard Greene is one of those people. It all started with a pain in his shoulder.

NHPR

The Department of Health and Human Services is delaying part of New Hampshire’s Medicaid Managed Care program.

Transferring New Hampshire’s Medicaid program to so called managed care is a huge, sprawling puzzle. The idea is for private insurance companies to take over the state program that provides health insurance for low income residents. And the trickiest part will be transferring the care of the sickest residents – people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries.

NHPR Staff

A new data set gives a bird’s eye view of New Hampshire’s uninsured residents – and how they stand to gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The data itself is not shocking. State health officials and insurers alike know New Hampshire’s most rural communities have the highest rates of uninsured. But this is the first time that information has been aggregated into a map that viewers can navigate on a county-by-county basis.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Democrat Maggie Hassan and Republican Walt Havenstein met in their second televised debate last night on WMUR TV.

Governor Hassan and former defense contractor Havenstein both pressed their cases energetically. They spoke at length about energy prices, which are on the rise this winter.

"The fact of the matter is for the last decade and certainly for the last two years, we’ve heard a lot of talk and zero action," said Havenstein.

Vanderbuilt.edu

When her son came home from school one day last March, Jessica Giberson was disturbed. She noticed her son’s genitals were bruised and swollen. Giberson’s son is developmentally delayed.  

"He is nine years old. He’s more like a three year old in a nine year old’s body," says Giberson.

Giberson says she complained to the Crotched Mountain Foundation School, but that nothing ever came of it. Then in June, she got a call from the school.

Chris Jensen/Ryan Lessard for NHPR

Democrat Maggie Hassan and Republican Walt Havenstein faced off in their first televised debate Wednesday night on NH1.

Hassan and Havenstein agreed on one thing: those responsible for the riots in Keene should be held accountable.

After that, there was plenty of daylight between them. At times the two seemed to talk past one another, both defending their own records - and distorting their opponents.

Havenstein repeatedly accused Hassan of fomenting “toxic partisanship” in Concord. Hassan said Havenstein is misinformed.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

State health officials say in the highly unlikely event any Ebola patients are identified in New Hampshire, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon has agreed to accept them.

The Department of Health and Human Services says each of the state’s 26 hospitals are prepared to identify and isolate a potential Ebola patient, but that long-term care would be better managed at the Lebanon hospital, or a designated national center.

Outside of three cases in Dallas, Texas, no one in the U.S. has been diagnosed with Ebola.

Nicole McCracken

State health officials say a survey shows there’s progress being made in the battle against childhood obesity in New Hampshire.

A statewide survey that tracked the actual weights of third-graders finds obesity rates have dropped by a whopping 30 percent since 2008.

Director of Public Health José Montero says when he saw the numbers, he recalculated them all himself to make sure there wasn’t a mistake.

He says they’re correct, and mark a tremendous step forward in childhood health.

FinnaRageTV.com

This weekend, Keene’s annual Pumpkin Festival ended in chaos.

The main part of the festival downtown was mostly untouched. But just down the road, in a neighborhood abutting Keene State College, young people charged through the streets, hurling beer bottles at police in riot gear.

And city and state officials are laying at least some of the blame on social media, and they've named one small party-hosting company. 

So, how in the world did Keene’s annual Pumpkin Festival - a subdued, family event - turn into this…

Patrick Ireland

Prescription drug abuse causes more deaths in New Hampshire each year than car accidents, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

New Hampshire’s prescription drug monitoring program launched Thursday.

David Strang, an emergency room doctor and chairman of the advisory board to the New Hampshire Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, says the program will make it harder for addicts and drug dealers to do what’s called “doctor shopping.”

Maine Community Health Options

One of the new insurers set to begin offering plans on New Hampshire’s health care exchange next year announced its rates Thursday.

Maine Community Health Options is one of five insurance companies offering plans in 2015.

The non-profit, member-run co-op, was the first to announce its rates, saying it will offer ten different plans and will include all of the state’s 26 hospitals in its provider network.

Dr. John Yindra, the company’s Chief Medical Officer, says people with chronic conditions will be able to choose from a range of plans, and costs should be low.

Jack Rodolico

Yusuf Valera resents that he has to buy health insurance. He’s never had it, and he says he doesn’t want it now.

"I don’t have much of a choice. If I don’t do it, then they’re going to take money out of my taxes anyway," Valera says.

The irony is Valera stands to gain - in a big way - from the Affordable Care Act. Yet like most New Hampshire residents, he simply doesn't like the law.

Mr.Ripp

State health officials say a New Hampshire resident has died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE.

The Manchester resident was likely exposed to EEE in August, then passed away in September. This is the second EEE-related death and the third human case of EEE this year.

The virus spreads from birds to humans through mosquito bites. Symptoms come on like the flu, then in some people lead to encephalitis, or severe brain swelling.

Associated Press

Hospitals across the state say they’re ready for the unlikely possibility that a patient with Ebola could walk through their doors.

There are a lot of reasons it is unlikely Ebola could come to the Granite State. There are no direct flights from West Africa to any New England airport. Also, Ebola only spreads from direct contact with an infected person.

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