Health

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  The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services held a public info session in Manchester Tuesday night to demystify the state’s new Expanded Medicaid plan.

About 15 people, mostly care providers, attended the Manchester session. Questions ranged from how one qualifies for the program and ‘are refugees included?’ (they are), to the application process itself.

In its latest release of statistics aimed at shedding more light on the quality of the nation’s health care system, the Obama Administration targets the use of physical restraints on psychiatric patients.

It collected data from more than 1,500 facilities nationally. The results show Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester with the fifth highest rate of restraint use in the country.

Via Meridien's NH website

One of three private companies brought in to manage administration and benefits within the state’s Medicaid program is ending its agreement. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday Meridian Health Plan will withdraw at the end of July.

“This has not been an easy decision,” says Dr. David Cotton, CEO of Detroit-based Meridian, “but  our  recent growth in the Midwest demands that we refocus our resources to continue to provide top-quality managed care products in our core  markets.” 

The Suddenly Crowded New Hampshire Health Exchange

Jun 2, 2014
healthcare.gov

  Two more insurance companies say they plan to sell policies in New Hampshire’s health exchange in 2015, bringing the total to five carriers. The suddenly crowded field is a sharp contrast to this year, when only Anthem is offering policies through healthcare.gov.

Harvard Pilgrim and Minuteman Health, both based in Massachusetts, announced their intentions to join the exchange earlier this year, and now the New Hampshire Insurance Department says Assurant Health and Maine Community Health Options have also submitted plans for regulatory review.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan has announced a tentative settlement with almost all the hospitals in the state over Medicaid rates and a tax on hospital revenues that two judges have said is unconstitutional.

Hassan told legislative negotiators Thursday the agreement with 25 hospitals hinges on legislation to address constitutional questions raised in court. The hospitals would get more money for the care they provide in exchange for dropping a lawsuit over rates and putting on hold their challenge of the tax's constitutionality.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

The first public meeting between House and Senate negotiators working to fix the state’s Medicaid enhancement tax lasted all of 20 minutes, but parties are optimistic a deal can be struck.

Representative Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, used the hearing to reiterate the House’s position that despite court rulings declaring the tax unlawful, the New Hampshire Supreme Court will see otherwise.

“We continue to believe that our Medicaid enhancement tax is constitutional,” Rosenwald told colleagues. She says it adheres to both federal and state law.

Health Law Proves Big Business For Contractors

May 27, 2014
Josh Rogers / NHPR

There was a time not all that long ago when politicians in New Hampshire had no trouble turning away federal money tied to the Affordable Care Act.

In March of 2011, the Republican-controlled Executive Council rejected a planning grant to explore creation of a state-run health care exchange.

At the time, Republican Chris Sununu said federal money for implementing so-called Obamacare was “like crack to the states.”

Rosie O'Beirn via Flickr CC

Governor Hassan is creating a task force to study ways to improve the state’s workers’ compensation system.

The move comes on the heels of a new report that finds worker compensation costs in New Hampshire are well above regional and national averages.

Insurance Department Holds Hearing On Narrow Network

May 14, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

Politicians in New Hampshire have done plenty of arguing over the Affordable Care Act. Today, lawyers were given a turn.

A long-awaited hearing was held at the state Insurance Department. At issue is a complaint filed by an East Rochester woman over alleged harm suffered at the hands of Anthem’s limited network of hospitals.

Margaret McCarthy was a bookkeeper and office manager, but now, in her early 60s, she’s content volunteering as treasurer of her church.

Nearly 90% of the people who signed up for health care through the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire have paid their first month’s bill.

Anthem, the only insurance company in the exchange this year, says roughly 35,000 out of the 40,000 who enrolled through healthcare.gov are paid up.

That's a higher percent than estimates put out by Republican members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. Their report released April 30th stated that just 67% of enrollees nationally had paid their first month’s premium.

Healthcare.gov Appears To Be A Good Deal For States

May 8, 2014
via RI.gov

New Englanders are a frugal bunch, so they may want to take note that when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, healthcare.gov was more efficient than the state-run exchanges.

A new report out from a former Obama Administration official finds that the cost-per-enrollee was lower in federally-run exchanges than in state-run exchanges.

Enrollment In Obamacare Tops 40,000

May 1, 2014

More than 40,000 New Hampshire residents enrolled in health plans through the Affordable Care Act, according to new figures out from the federal government.

Nearly half the sign-ups came during a March and April surge, erasing a poor showing in the early months when healthcare.gov was plagued by technical glitches.

Even supporters of the law reacted with surprise to the final tally for the open enrollment period.

Via Flickr CC

After several stops and starts, the Insurance Department has agreed to a formal hearing on the adequacy of Anthem’s narrow network of hospitals.

The move stems from a complaint filed by East Rochester resident Margaret McCarthy. She says she’s been aggrieved by Anthem’s decision to exclude Frisbie Memorial Hospital from its network for plans sold through the Affordable Care Act.

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.

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