Health

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State Awaits Approval Of Medicaid Expansion Plan

Apr 28, 2014

The state is bumping up against an intended start date for Medicaid expansion sign-ups.

The bi-partisan plan agreed to earlier this year originally called for a two-month early enrollment period beginning May 1st with coverage starting in July, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hasn’t yet signed off on the package.

Governor Hassan says her administration continues to work closely with federal regulators.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

The Insurance Department kicked off a series of public meetings on Wednesday looking into network adequacy standards, with a focus on health plans that exclude doctors and hospitals.

Anthem’s ‘narrow network’ plans—the only option available through so-called ObamaCare this year—left out 10 of New Hampshire’s 26 hospitals, forcing some consumers to switch doctors.

The Insurance Department found Anthem’s plans met the current standards for coverage, which take into account the distance patients must travel for care.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

You don’t drop everything to go get a colonoscopy.

But after a decade of waiting, 63-year old Richard Coll of Manchester knew he couldn’t keep putting it off.

“It’s something you got to do, you’re supposed to do," says Coll. "There’s a little history in my family, so I was encouraged to do it.”

But he doesn’t have insurance and the price tag—actually the lack of a price tag-—kept getting in the way.

“[I was] shopping around, and everyone I asked, whether it was the doctor or an institution like a hospital, they looked at me like I was crazy,” says Coll.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is disputing a report that claims a 90% spike in individual premiums under the Affordable Care Act. The report from Morgan Stanley, which has become the latest flashpoint in the political battle over Obamacare, was based on a national survey of insurance brokers.

The number of Medicaid enrollees in New Hampshire is up 4% since last October, according to new data from the federal government. More than 133,000 people were enrolled as of February, compared with roughly 127,000 recipients before the launch of the Affordable Care Act.

Hassan Delays Portion Of Medicaid Managed Care Plan

Apr 3, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

The transition of New Hampshire's Medicaid program to what’s called ‘managed care’ was supposed to be phased in over three years.

First, private companies would take over administration of medical care for more than 100,000 recipients. In year two, services for people with developmental disabilities, including supports such as 24-hour aides and housing would switch over. And then, lastly, newly eligible recipients through Medicaid expansion would get benefits arranged through the managed care companies.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Like many kids with autism, Hunter Picknell has trouble expressing himself.

“His primary form of communication is sign language, but there’s certain things he can’t do with his hands and fingers because of his motor-planning issues,” says Melissa Hilton, Hunter’s mother.

“He makes kind of his own sign language, which is very idiosyncratic. We often joke around and say it is sign language with an accent.”

It's Last Call For Health Sign-Ups In New Hampshire

Mar 26, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

Time is running out for individuals looking to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The cut-off to start the sign-up process is March 31st, and unlike previous deadlines, it looks like this one may actually hold.

That’s got John Carland taking the process more seriously.

“I put things off,” says Carland. “I’m a procrastinator. So, I just put it off until I had to do it, I guess.”

Transition To Managed Medicaid Hits Some Bumps

Mar 20, 2014

It’s been a little more than 100 days since the state of New Hampshire dramatically re-shaped its biggest program. On December 1st, traditional Medicaid became Medicaid Managed Care, shifting administration of the health program into the hands of private companies in the hopes of saving $15 million a year.

Perhaps the biggest change to the program for recipients revolves around something called prior authorizations.

Massachusetts-based Minuteman Health says New Hampshire’s insurance marketplace is "ripe for disruption."

Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

Health insurance products sold in New Hampshire’s exchange would face public hearings under a bill passed by the Senate.

Supporters say the hearings will provide transparency about what exactly the plans cover, and which doctors and hospitals are participating. The move comes in direct response to Anthem’s so-called narrow network exchange plans that leave out 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals.

New Hampshire Surpasses ACA Sign-Up Target

Mar 11, 2014
Data: U.S. Health and Human Services

More than 21,000 New Hampshire residents have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, according to new data released by the federal government.

In February, 4,715 enrolled in coverage, bringing the total since October above the federal government’s estimate of 19,000 total sign-ups for the state.

Women account for 55% of enrollees, and nearly 3-in-4 residents qualified for some level of financial assistance.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A new technology holds the promise of treatment for the nearly one million Americans with epilepsy that don’t respond to medications. The FDA has approved a new implant that uses bursts of electricity to stop seizures before they start. 

That’s good news for people like Chrissy Goodman. She’s 32, from Concord, and had her first seizure at age 14.

Epilepsy has affected every aspect of her life, from where she can live to relationships to education.

Senate Committee Approves Medicaid Expansion

Feb 19, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

 New Hampshire lawmakers moved a step closer to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee voted 4-1 on Wednesday to approve a plan that includes a “premium assistance program” which would require newly eligibly Medicaid recipients to select private health insurance starting in 2016.

Republican Senator Andy Sanborn of Bedford was the lone dissenting vote.

During a Senate committee meeting in Concord on Tuesday, the public had its first chance to weigh in on the Medicaid expansion plan backed by leaders in both parties. 

A wide range of voices spoke favorably of the bill that relies on private insurance for new recipients, including medical providers, hospital executives and business owners.

Justin VanEtten of Meredith runs a private ambulance company, and says despite his philosophical opposition to Obamacare, he backs bringing federal tax dollars into the state.

NHPR News Primer: The Latest Medicaid Expansion Plan

Feb 13, 2014
Sara Plourde

Full details of a Senate plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are out.

Calling the deal a “responsible resolution,” Judge Steven McAuliffe approved a major settlement agreement on Wednesday that will bring more resources to people in crisis.

Plaintiffs had brought a class action suit against the state, alleging that a lack of services resulted in unnecessary institutionalization of people with mental illness. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the case, saying the state was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

 

The Obama administration says about 5,000 more New Hampshire residents selected a health plan through the new federal insurance market last month.

Judge Rules Disputed Hospital Tax Unconstitutional

Feb 12, 2014

A Superior Court Judge has ruled that a state tax paid by New Hampshire hospitals is unconstitutional.

Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem paid $1.4 million to the state in 2011 under what’s called the Medicaid Enhancement Tax. Hospitals pay a set percent based on revenues.

Northeast Rehab argues it’s unfair that it has to pay the tax while other medical providers that do the same procedures--but aren’t classified as hospitals--don’t.

New Hampshire Lawmakers Agree To Expand Medicaid

Feb 6, 2014
Redjar / Flickr Creative Commons

News of a deal on Medicaid expansion emerged just before Governor Maggie Hassan took to the microphone on Thursday to deliver her first State of the State address in Concord. The first-term Democrat relished in bringing one of her biggest priorities closer to fruition.

“With today’s positive step forward, it is clear that we can work through this together, and help working people access critical health coverage,” says Hassan.

Any insurance plan sold in the online exchange would first face a public hearing under a bill before State Senators. The measure comes in reaction to Anthem’s decision to cut out 10 of the state's 26 hospitals for plans sold on the new marketplace, a move many lawmakers and consumers say they were blindsided by.

The company defends the decision, saying it helped lower costs by 25%.

Jeremy Wilburn / Flickr Creative Commons

It is the rare 20-year old who sits around a dorm room comparing deductibles or provider networks.

“No, we don’t talk about health insurance,” says Colby-Sawyer College nursing student Maria Antonio.

Up until now, she didn’t much have to think about it. She was covered as a teenager through Medicaid.

“And I knew a little bit, but I didn’t pay attention to it, because I’m not a type of person that is always in the hospital. But now that I’m growing up, I know that I need to know this, just in case that something happened.”

Bill To Expand Role Of Dental Hygienists Voted Down

Jan 30, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

State Senators voted down an effort Thursday to expand the role of some dental hygienists, instead opting to study the issue.

With additional training, advocates say new dental hygiene practitioners could expand access to oral health care, especially in rural and low-income communities. Under the supervision of a dentist, these mid-level professionals would be able to pull baby teeth and fill cavities.

Dentists, however, were dead set against it.

NHPR Staff

Medical technicians would have to register with the state under a bill passed Wednesday by the New Hampshire House. The measure was prompted by an outbreak of Hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital, where an employee reused needles on patients resulting in 32 infections. The employee had been accused of drug diversion at similar hospitals but continued to gain employment.

Lawmaker Seeks To Expand Anthem's Narrow Network

Jan 28, 2014
via WUKY

As the only company participating in New Hampshire's insurance exchange, Anthem is facing additional scrutiny for its decision to exclude 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals from the plans it’s selling under so-called Obamacare. 

Six Months After Attack, A Family Works To Recover

Jan 21, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

The state’s mental health system has been under tremendous strain in recent years. Cuts to services in the community, combined with dwindling in-patient beds, mean patients in crisis end up waiting days for treatment--sometimes longer-- inside ill-equipped emergency rooms.

Last summer, two violent attacks inside Manchester’s Elliot Hospital ER brought to light just how unstable the situation has become. 

Donald Wyman was one of the victims of those assaults. He worked as a nursing assistant, but six months later, he’s still working toward recovery.

New Hampshire teens use marijuana at one of the highest rates in the country, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

It finds that one in ten minors between the ages of 12 and 17 say they’ve smoked marijuana in the past 30 days. That’s the 9th highest rate in the country, and a full two-percentage points above the U.S. average. The figures are based on a 2012 national survey.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A new report finds New Hampshire veterans face stigma and a complicated health system when seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

The findings come from a Commission created by the state legislature to investigate barriers to care and treatment of PTSD and TBI for the state’s 115,000 veterans.

The Commission, which is composed of military and civilian leaders, surveyed 1,100 vets. Thirty percent responded they weren’t getting the help they needed because of stigma over their mental health needs.

Anthem Gives Customers More Time To Pay First Bill

Jan 15, 2014

Customers who bought health insurance in the new exchange are getting more time to pay their first month’s bill. Anthem Blue Cross says New Hampshire consumers who signed up before the deadline for coverage starting January 1st now have until the end of the month to pay their first month’s premium. The deadline was originally today.

Last week the company’s president acknowledged that many new customers still hadn’t received their insurance ID cards and that a help line was overwhelmed with calls.

N.H. Enrollment In ACA Marketplace Plans Tops 11,000

Jan 13, 2014
Data: U.S. Health and Human Services

After a slow start, December saw a surge in the number of New Hampshire residents shopping for health insurance on the new exchange. The federal government reports nearly 10,000 consumers in the state selected a plan between Dec. 1 and Dec. 28.

In total, about 11,500 people selected a plan during the first three months of open enrollment, which runs through March 31. 

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