Health

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Casey McDermott, NHPR

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday endorsed a proposal meant to protect patients from surprise out-of-network bills at in-network medical facilities — otherwise known as “balance billing.”

But that stamp of approval came only after several last-minute rounds of negotiations to respond to lingering concerns from lobbyists representing the state’s doctors and hospitals.

N.H. Department of Health and Human Services

The scene last June at the offices of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness was cautiously optimistic as Gov. Chris Sununu and other leaders gathered to sign into law House Bill 400 — hailed as a major step forward for the state’s mental health system.

via UFL.edu

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program more than doubled in size last year, and many see it as an alternative to using opioids for pain management.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Pediatrician Julie Kim wrote an article for the Huffington Post about how she sometimes prefers to recommend medical marijuana to her patients. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with her about how medical marijuana has helped her with concerns over prescribing opioids to certain patients.

 A website developed by the New Hampshire Insurance Department has new features aimed at helping consumers make educated choices about health care.

The department's health price transparency website, NHHealthCost.org, allows residents to compare the price of various health care services across doctors, hospitals and outpatient facilities.

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In its first hearing on the proposal, the Senate Finance Committee heard from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, an economist and even a doctor urging them to endorse a paid family and medical leave program.

But they also heard from the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Employment Security, Richard Lavers, who cautioned that setting up such a program would require a significant time, money and staff resources.

Sara Plourde/NHPR

A plan to extend New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion another five years cleared a major hurdle in the House of Representatives on Thursday. The House approved the bill by a vote of 222-125, over the objections of some Republicans who argued Medicaid expansion has been a failure and has driven up health insurance costs.

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The plan to keep New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion in tact for another five years got its first hearing in the House on Tuesday. Patients, health providers and other supporters spent hours urging lawmakers not to let the program expire at the end of this year.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

A plan to extend New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion will have its first big test on Thursday, when it goes before the full Senate for a vote.

A bipartisan measure to protect patients against so-called “balance billing” got a strong endorsement from the New Hampshire House on Tuesday – sailing through with no debate and passing with a vote of 326-5.

elliothospital.org

The state Attorney General's office will allow a proposed affiliation between two New Hampshire hospital systems to move forward.

A Medicaid rule that's been on the books since the program was created bars states from using federal money on care provided in many residential mental health and substance use treatment facilities with more than 16 beds.

Sara Plourde/NHPR

Supporters and opponents alike are gearing up for a high-stakes battle over the future of the of the state’s Medicaid expansion to start in earnest next week — when Senate Republicans will formally present their plan for extending the program another five years.

LRGHealthcare on Facebook

By the end of this year, New Hampshire families will have lost two places to turn to give birth, continuing a years-long trend of maternity unit closures in the Granite State and across the country.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

New Hampshire health officials say 20 people in the state have died of the flu or flu-related complications this season.

WMUR-TV reports seven of the deaths were included in last week's report. All of the victims have been adults.

Last year, there were 45 flu deaths in the state, and flu season peaked in mid-February.

State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan says so far, New Hampshire doctors have treated more than 2,100 people who were suffering from flu-like symptoms.

A New Hampshire medical center is getting a $900,000 federal grant to address prescription drug misuse by creating a network of doctors, mental health providers, and addiction treatment centers.

Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth Hitchcock in Keene is receiving the grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Rural Health Policy.

The medical center says a lack of coordination among doctors, recovery centers and mental health professionals means prescription drug use isn't being monitored optimally.

KOMUNews | Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/aDWgGW

This story has been updated with a statement provided by Envision Healthcare.

When Seabrook resident Donna Beckman got a surprise medical bill after a trip to her local emergency room last summer, she eventually learned it was because the doctor who treated her wasn’t part of her insurance network.

But Beckman’s story doesn’t just serve as a cautionary tale about how patients can be unexpectedly “balance billed” for out-of-network services at in-network medical facilities. It also illustrates how little the average patient knows about who’s involved in their medical care.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

A lot of people assume that if a hospital is in their insurance network, the doctors who treat them there will be, too. But that’s not always the case — and it can leave patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in unexpected charges. 

NHPR’s Casey McDermott took a look at how this is playing out in New Hampshire, and what lawmakers are trying to do to address it.

Peter Biello / NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate has passed legislation allowing physicians from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center to continue treating patients at outside facilities while the flood-damaged VA hospital is being renovated.

Other hospitals agreed to let VA providers use their facilities after a burst pipe in July caused severe flooding at the VA hospital in Manchester. But under New Hampshire licensing rules, doctors with out-of-state medical licenses can only practice at the VA hospital.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Have you ever gone to an ER that you thought was in-network, but ended up getting stuck with a surprise bill because the doctor you saw there was out-of-network? That’s known as “balance billing,” and New Hampshire is one of a growing number of states looking at ways to protect patients from these unexpected — and often large — invoices.

Flickr/ Anne and Tim (Creative Commons)

In recent days, Gov. Chris Sununu has used the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program as a key talking point in his efforts to publicly pressure New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation to vote in favor of deals to avert a government shutdown. When news broke Monday that such a deal had been reached, Sununu offered a sigh of relief.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

A public hearing on plans to combine Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Health drew a who’s who of local influencers in Manchester last night – all of them with positive reviews for the prospect of seeing the two hospitals join together.

New Hampshire is one of 49 states reporting “widespread” flu activity, meaning the virus is rearing its head in more than half of the state. And according to the latest data from the Department of Health and Human Services, at least 10 adults have died from the virus in New Hampshire since September.

Dank Depot via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9c93J6

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program has more than doubled in size since 2016. About 4,700 patients were enrolled in the program by the end of 2017.

Michael Holt is the Therapeutic Cannabis Program Administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services. He joins us now to talk about how the state’s medical marijuana program has grown.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for broadcast.)

Peter Biello / NHPR

It’s been nearly six months since problems at the Manchester VA made national headlines.

Whistleblowers came forward with accusations of dangerous delays in care and unsanitary conditions. A task force formed in the wake of those accusations has been meeting to figure out the best way to deliver care for New Hampshire veterans.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello who attended a meeting of the task force yesterday.


Laura Greenberg knows firsthand how important housing supports can be for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. The Nashua resident said being involved in the Bridge Program at Harbor Homes helped her to avert homelessness during her own crisis several years ago. Today, she's “back on track” and working as a licensed nurse assistant.

LRGHealthcare on Facebook

Citing financial challenges, LRGHealthcare says it’s reviewing whether it will need to cut or change some of its programs – including its maternity unit.

Dank Depot via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9c93J6

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program has more than doubled in size since 2016, according to the latest available data from the Department of Health and Human Services. About 4,700 patients were enrolled as of Dec. 20, up from just over 2,000 patients the same time last year. 

Keren Fenton / thebirthphotographer.com

The New Hampshire House is expected to vote this week on a bipartisan bill to create a family medical leave insurance program in the state. The bill was originally on the docket for last week but is among a slew of votes that had to be rescheduled because of the winter storm.

The bill would allow workers to pay into a family medical leave fund that could cover up to 12 weeks of paid time off for things like serious medical conditions or the birth of a new child.

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