Health

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While the Affordable Care Act is a federal law, it’s playing out very differently across the states. In New Hampshire, strong opposition from Republican lawmakers and a lack of competition between insurance companies has marred the roll out advocates had hoped for.

 Consumers will have more health insurance options in New Hampshire starting in 2015. Massachusetts-based non-profit Minuteman Health says it plans to compete in the state’s exchange with a wide network of hospitals.

CEO Tom Policelli says his company has already begun talks with many of the state’s providers.

“We believe that we can come into New Hampshire and offer a much more broad network than Anthem has, and still deliver an excellent price point, and that’s what we intend to do,” says Policelli.

Anthem is the only company selling products in 2014.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is denying a complaint filed by Frisbie Memorial Hospital over its exclusion from Anthem’s provider network for individual policies.

In November, 1,300 New Hampshire residents were able to select insurance plans through HealthCare.gov. That brings the total to 1,569 since the start of enrollment on October 1st.

New data out from the federal government show more than 8,700 people in the state completed applications for health insurance in the new marketplace.

Maine has seen activity similar to New Hampshire.

The Dartmouth Atlas

 A new study from the Dartmouth Atlas Project finds many children in northern New England receive potentially unneeded medical care that could have harmful side effects.

Researchers compared data for a range of care across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for children under age 18.

Anthem Blue Cross says it’s still having trouble processing some new health insurance enrollments because of computer problems.  

Kwiatkowski Sentenced To 39 Years In Prison

Dec 2, 2013

More than a year and a half after an outbreak of Hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital first emerged, a traveling medical technician has been sentenced to nearly four decades in federal prison. 

David Kwiatkowski, his hair trimmed short, looked heavier than at his last court appearance in August, when he pleaded guilty to 16 federal charges.

For nearly a decade, the defendant admits he routinely stole syringes of powerful pain medication. He would inject himself, and then reuse those needles on patients.

NHPR Staff

Anthem Blue Cross says it’s extending the renewal date for canceled health insurance plans to December 16. 

Last month, the company sent cancelation notices to 22,000 New Hampshire customers because current plans didn’t satisfy stricter new protections in the Affordable Care Act. Customers looking to renew originally had until November 15 to start the process, though that deadline was pushed back to December 1. Today's announcement gives policyholders an additional two weeks.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Richard Polonsky is an organizational consultant, and can, if prompted, easily talk like one.

“Being an outsider to an organization, I think people tend to listen to you more than when you are part of the organizational structure,” says Polonsky.

Based in Bedford, he has spent a career advising companies and non-profits on big campaigns. It’s a role Polonsky excels in: working from the outside, thinking strategically, and being blunt with management.

But as an independent contractor, he never received the same health benefits employees could access.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Much has been made of the changes introduced, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, to the health care markets, but many still struggle to understand how they will be personally affected.

While only making up 3.5% of New Hampshire's overall market, the individual market is seeing the greatest level of upheaval, with the addition of the newly insured, the merging of the high-risk pools, changes to the small group market, shifting premiums, changing benefits, and federal subsidies.

The graphic below aims to make sense of many of the changes happening in the individual market.
[Click to view full size]

The New Hampshire Insurance Department wants to keep open a program that provides health coverage for 2,750 residents with pre-existing conditions. The $45-million high risk pool operated by the New Hampshire Health Plan was set to close at year’s end.

Since health insurance companies can no longer deny people because of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, state-run high risk pools around the country are winding down.

Anthem Blue Cross says it’s extending the renewal date for customers who buy individual policies. The state’s largest health insurance company informed brokers earlier this week that current policyholders who want to keep their plans will have until the end of the month to renew,  a two week extension from the original deadline of November 15.

Emily Corwin

  Governor Maggie Hassan made an appearance in Hampton on Friday morning at the public library. There, she called on Republicans in the Senate to come to an agreement with Democrats on how to expand Medicaid. 

Hassan began with her now familiar pitch for expanding Medicaid to more low-income people. Her choice of Hampton, however, was no coincidence.  The Governor had come to the hometown of Republican Senator Nancy Stiles with a message for the Senator:

Parties Continue To Negotiate On Medicaid Expansion

Nov 14, 2013

House and Senate leaders continue to debate an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program to more low-income New Hampshire residents.

A key difference between the two sides is how quickly New Hampshire moves an estimated 35,000 individuals from Medicaid into the exchange to obtain private insurance.  

House leaders and the Governor say the GOP’s plan to shift people in 2015 won’t work. Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, are defending their proposal.

Breaking Down A Big Day In Health News

Nov 14, 2013

A big day in the world of health policy, nationally and in New Hampshire. State regulators are still trying to gauge how to handle the President’s offer to let consumers keep canceled insurance plans. And in Concord, lawmakers continue to negotiate over Medicaid expansion, one week into a special session. NHPR’s Health Reporter Todd Bookman talks with All Things Considered Host Brady Carlson.

In New Hampshire, 269 residents have selected health plans through the new marketplace, according to figures released Wednesday by the federal government. 

A Concord-based PR firm is getting $1.9 million to launch a statewide media campaign promoting the federal health law.

Louis Karno & Company says it will use the money to create a website with New Hampshire-specific information on the Affordable Care Act by December, and then begin a broader media push including television and radio ads meant to educate consumers.

The New Hampshire Health Plan awarded the federal funds. Executive Director Mike Degnan says information on this health law is greatly needed.

Chris Jensen, NHPR News

Governor Maggie Hassan and House Democrats are offering to adopt the Senate’s plan for Medicaid expansion provided they make certain changes, but GOP leadership says the proposal falls short of a compromise.

On Wednesday, Hassan and House Speaker Terie Norelli outlined a package that would use the Senate’s language for expansion, but changes how and when individuals would access private insurance.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

On Tuesday, both the House and Senate held public hearings on competing Medicaid expansion bills. 

Supporters of growing the health program pulled out the same blue stickers they’ve worn at other recent public hearings. And many of the voices were the same, including doctors, nurses, advocates and citizens who shared stories about how access to health insurance would benefit low-income New Hampshire residents.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Ethan Wallace, head down, decisively storms out the backdoor of his group home in Plymouth. He checks on the garden, the shed, and then climbs onto some boulders edging the property.

“One thing about a guy like Ethan,” says Stuart Wallace, “he’s very healthy and very active. And with Ethan, there is no such thing as sitting still and relaxing.”

Ben McLeod / Flickr Creative Commons

  Lawmakers returned to Concord Thursday to debate a major part of the federal health overhaul law: expansion of Medicaid. In New Hampshire, such a move would provide insurance coverage to an estimated 50,000 low income residents.

For the next two weeks, lawmakers will be in Concord to discuss Medicaid expansion, including an up-or-down vote. Governor Maggie Hassan says she’s open to ideas for how to expand the health program, but wants to make sure any final plan works for the state.

Hassan and leaders of both parties have been meeting privately to discuss ways to expand Medicaid, but as of yet haven’t hinted at a deal.

Many New Hampshire residents who buy their own health insurance are finding cancelation notices in their mailbox. Anthem, the state’s largest carrier, says it’s dropping more than two-thirds of its individual plans because they don’t satisfy new regulations in the Affordable Care Act.

Linda Allen of Allen Associates in Manchester says her brokerage house has been flooded with calls about the discontinuation notice.

“I’d say our phone is ringing probably triple what it usually does with questions from our clients and from people who are not our clients,” says Allen.

DavidWilson1949 via Flickr Creative Commons

Governor Hassan is tapping former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau to lead a review into mental health services in Manchester following two high-profile incidents. 

In July, a 34-year old patient allegedly attacked two staff members at Elliot Hospital while awaiting transfer to the state psychiatric hospital in Concord.

Fewer premature babies were born in New Hampshire in 2012. A new report from the March of Dimes shows the state’s pre-term birth rate dropped from 9.5% to 9.3%. New Hampshire has the 5th lowest rate in the nation.

Births before the 37th week of pregnancy are the leading cause of newborn death.

Doctor Rebecca Ewing with March of Dimes in New Hampshire says statewide efforts to slow elective early births and anti-smoking campaigns are having an impact.

Food Stamp Cuts Hit State Recipients

Nov 1, 2013

Food stamp benefits to 54,000 New Hampshire households are being cut, as a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus bill expires. 

During the recession, the federal government added more than $45 billion to the program nationally. But with that money spent, the nutrition assistance program now called SNAP is being scaled back.

New Hampshire families will receive up to $65 less each month. Terry Smith with the Department of Health and Human Services says that will have broader impact.

Small Brewers Seek Tax Cuts To Spur Growth

Oct 31, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

Henniker Brewing Company is a little more than a year old, and this month, could break-even for the first time. That’s good news for investors, but the 5-man operation is still facing some growing pains.

Manager Dave Currier says the beer is good, but the facility needs some improvements.

“Well, as an example, we have two new bathrooms for the tap room that we want to finish,” says Currier, a former Republican state lawmaker.  “And we’ve kind of run out of money in terms of our overall investment, to complete that.”

Conservative activists are warning lawmakers that an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program would lead to a fiscal crisis in New Hampshire.

Doctors Look To Phone Apps To Treat Mental Illness

Oct 30, 2013

Researchers at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center in Lebanon are developing mobile apps to assess and treat patients who have severe mental illness. These apps could help patients in crises and also help them manage their illnesses in the crucial time between visits to the doctor.   


Senator Jeanne Shaheen continues to press the Obama administration to extend the enrollment period for those looking to buy coverage through the new health law. In an op-ed in USA Today, Shaheen says consumers shouldn’t be penalized by a failed website roll-0ut.

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