Health

Brought to you in part by: Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is trying to figure out if the state's largest insurance companies are covering opioid treatment the way the law requires.

The preliminary findings of the department's ongoing investigation are inconclusive.

Even though medical marijuana is legal in many states across the country, it’s still a federal offense, and a recently expired directive prohibited Veterans Administration doctors from recommending the treatment to veterans.

Jack Rodolico

Lexi Gerkin is 14 years old. She has a number of complex disabilities and medical conditions, and she’s been without nursing for four months. And Lexi’s mother, Audrey Gerkin, is hopeful that higher pay rates for pediatric nurses will make it easier to find in-home care for her daughter.

Here & Now has reported extensively on the opioid crisis, the increasing numbers of people becoming addicted to prescription pain pills and heroin, and the spike in overdoses. Often drowned out in the conversations about the current epidemic, though, are the experiences and voices of chronic pain patients, many of whom say opioids are the only drugs that help them live with near-constant pain.

As state officials feared, drug overdose deaths rose significantly in New Hampshire last year, to well over 400 cases.

The latest data from the state's medical examiner show that 414 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 326 in 2014 and 192 the year before.

File photo

A New Hampshire hospital is working to revaccinate hundreds of children after discovering that its vaccines were stored at inconsistent temperatures.

State public health officials have said the affected vaccines from Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon aren't harmful but might have lost some potency. That means they could provide less immunity to disease.

The problem occurred over the course of 14 months, from September 2014 to October 2015. The hospital offered to revaccinate 827 patients at no cost to them or their insurance companies.

Jack Rodolico

A New Hampshire activist passed away Monday. Linda Horan became well-known in recent months for filing a lawsuit that opened up access to the state's sluggish medical marijuana program.

The Executive Council voted Wednesday to confirm Jeffrey Meyers as Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Meyers has been the interim commissioner since early January, when Commissioner Nick Toumpas stepped down. Meyers has held other positions in state government, including as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for DHHS, as well as Chief Legal Counsel to former Governor John Lynch and legal counsel to the state Senate.

Meyers has been appointed to a four-year term as commissioner. 

Sara Plourde for NHPR

Discussions over the future of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion kick off in earnest this week, setting the stage for one of the biggest policy debates before state lawmakers this year.

The question of whether to reauthorize the expansion, known officially as the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, has loomed over the State House for much of the last year.

Flickr/Grape Crush, Indica-4

Three out of four of New Hampshire's medical marijuana dispensaries are now approved to start cultivating cannabis. 

Temescal Wellness just got approval from the Department of Health and Human Services to start growing marijuana. The Manchester company will operate two dispensaries, one in Dover and another in Lebanon. Their grow site will be in Manchester.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 The VA’s Veterans Choice Program has been in place for more than a year now. The federal program is meant to allow veterans who live too far from VA hospitals to receive care in their communities.

But some providers treating veterans under the program say they aren’t getting paid for their services. Recently several clinics in New Hampshire decided to drop Veterans Choice.

File Photo

The 72-acre, sprawling campus of Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center - with about a dozen buildings overlooking lakes and mountains - has always been used as a place to treat people with brain injuries or developmental disabilities. But there has always been controversy too.

    

In 1992 the FBI raided the site when they suspected the original owners of fraud. And then last year, after the Disability Rights Center put out a scathing report on Lakeview’s practices, the state shut it down. The place was notorious for poor care. But Eric Spofford hopes to change all that.

One of the companies planning to dispense medical marijuana in New Hampshire is one step closer to offering the substance to patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a conditional registration certificate to Sanctuary ATC, which plans to open a dispensary in Plymouth, to start growing medical marijuana at a designated cultivation site in Rochester.

Jack Rodolico

There is this monthly meeting that is typically as bureaucratic as it sounds: the Governor’s Commission on Medicaid Care Management. But last month, things were different. A group of mothers were there to testify with their children in tow. 

Garrett Vonk

More people have health insurance in New Hampshire, but they're also paying more for it.  That's according to the Insurance Department's annual report on costs

Greta Rybus for NPR

When Jack O'Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

"This will fix me," O'Connor thought as he went to boot camp. "It better fix me or I'm screwed."

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O'Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

"Same thing," he says. "Percocet, like, off the street. Pills."

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire will receive a big influx of federal dollars to treat addiction and mental illness.

The state will get up to $30 million a year for five years total. And for example, this year it would mean about an added 25 percent on top of what the state has budgeted for mental health and addiction.

That's a big gain for the state says Steve Norton, the executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Services.  But the devil's in the details: like how the money will be spent and how any new services will be evaluated.

NHPR

Now that Gov. Hassan nominated Jeffrey Meyers to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the final word on Meyers’s future with DHHS rests with the Executive Council. And given the weight of the job — DHHS is the state’s largest agency, in size and its share of the budget, and arguably the most complex — councilors are expecting a rigorous selection process.

Jack Rodolico

A new University of New Hampshire study suggests practicing football without helmets can lead to less head trauma.

Jack Rodolico

Last Friday, Linda Horan sat in front of a bank of reporters in the back room of a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Maine. She was beaming.

"My god, I’m over the moon – completely over the moon," she said.

The New Hampshire Attorney General is advising the Department of Health and Human Services to start issuing medical marijuana ID cards to eligible patients. In theory, patients could soon access medical marijuana, even though they can't yet buy it legally in the state.

One of the five insurance companies on the federal health exchange in New Hampshire is unexpectedly backing out early this year.

The CEO of Maine-based co-op Community Health Options says costs have simply gotten too high for them to continue. Community Health Options will continue to sell plans for about another week - and it will continue to insure those who have already purchased plans.

NHPR Staff

After being forced by a lawsuit to spend more on mental health, New Hampshire is winning praise from a national advocacy group for increasing funding and passing bills in 2015 aimed at giving people better access to care.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness on Tuesday released a report tracking state spending and legislation on mental health that shows New Hampshire is one of 11 states that increased mental health funding every year since 2013.

Cottage Hospital

The state is asking the federal government for more flexibility in establishing rural health clinics.

If approved by the feds, the policy will broaden what it means to be a rural health clinic in New Hampshire. The state has 14 federally-approved rural health clinics, which are located in areas with high poverty rates and not enough healthcare providers. These clinics receive more generous reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a policy that would increase Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates for qualified rural clinics that have a shortage of doctors.

The policy also would create the potential for more providers to receive federal and state loan repayment for underserved areas and drive patients to primary care instead of hospitals.

It's called a Governor-Designated and Secretary-Certified shortage area.

Casey McDermott

A judge has ruled the state can no longer stop an Alstead woman’s effort to get medical marijuana.

The legislature passed a medical marijuana law three years ago, but state-approved dispensaries are more than a year behind schedule.

Linda Horan was diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer this summer. Tuesday’s ruling out of Merrimack Superior Court means the state must issue Horan a registration card immediately, allowing her to access medical marijuana in Maine.

Jack Rodolico

Brady Sullivan Properties is a step closer to defending itself before a jury. Forty tenants are suing the property owner and landlord for lead contamination at Mill West, a luxury riverfront apartment complex in Manchester.

Courtesy David Mulder via Flickr Creative Commons

A bipartisan commission says New Hampshire lawmakers should consider adding comprehensive dental benefits to the state's Medicaid program for adults.

The commission, which was created last year to analyze barriers to dental care in New Hampshire, released its final report on Monday. It found that the state does well on some measures, such as having the lowest percentage of third-graders with untreated tooth decay, but did worse on others. For example, about a quarter of New Hampshire adults haven't visited a dentist in the last year.

Courtesy David Mulder via Flickr Creative Commons

A bipartisan commission says New Hampshire lawmakers should consider adding comprehensive dental benefits to the state's Medicaid program for adults. The commission, which was created last year to analyze barriers to dental care in New Hampshire, released its final report on Monday.

healthcare.gov

Healthcare.gov opens for business Sunday. This year there are more insurance plans available on the federal website for New Hampshire residents.

Pages