Health

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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. 

NHPR Staff

Lawmakers returned to Concord Wednesday, and House Democrats wasted no time passing a bill to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Their latest Medicaid plan, which was tacked onto a different bill they’d planned to kill, would send some newly eligible recipients into the exchange for coverage, but not until 2017.  

The past few weeks served as a cooling off period after last November’s special legislative session failed to produce a deal on Medicaid expansion between the Democratically-held House and GOP-controlled Senate. 

The debate will roar back to life on Wednesday, though, when Democrats in the House say they’ll tack an expansion plan onto an unrelated bill.

Teens Having Harder Time Buying Tobacco

Jan 6, 2014
Justin Shearer / Flickr Creative Commons

 Illegal sales of tobacco to minors in New Hampshire dipped in 2013, as more retailers in the state refused underage customers.

The Department of Health and Human Services, along with Division of Liquor staff members, sent underage buyers into more than 300 retailers around the state. Roughly 89% of vendors turned away sales, up two percent from 2012.

State public health director Jose Montero says convenience store clerks aren’t the only ones who can protect children.

New Hampshire could soon have a new system for determining who gets to make medical decisions on behalf of patients who lack the ability to do it themselves.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Peggy Gilmour, are pushing a bill that creates what’s called a surrogate decision-maker system.

“I think people assume that, for instance, I could speak for my husband,” says Gilmour. “Or, one of my children could speak for me. But that’s just not the case.”

New Hampshire consumers looking for information about the health law can now turn to a local website.

CoveringNewHampshire.org bills itself as the gateway for the health insurance marketplace. Browsers can learn about the law, use an online calculator to see if they qualify for tax credits, and window-shop the 11 different insurance plans Anthem is offering through the Affordable Care Act.

The state of New Hampshire has agreed to settle a major class-action lawsuit over its treatment of residents with serious mental illness.

Under the terms of the agreement announced Thursday, the state will spend an additional $30 million on expanding services for the strained mental health system over the next 4 years. 

N.H. Insurance Department '2012 Medical Cost Drivers Report'

A new report finds health care costs in the state continue to rise, even as New Hampshire residents visit doctors less often.

The Insurance Department’s annual report, based on 2012 rates, finds average premiums were up just about 1% from the year before. But Tyler Brannen, an analyst with the Department, says those premium dollars are actually buying consumers less coverage.

HIV In New Hampshire: A Problem For 'Over There'

Dec 18, 2013

Three decades after the start of a global epidemic, roughly 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide, and more than a million in the United States. New Hampshire maintains one of the lowest rates of infection in the country, but stigma and misinformation about the virus persist locally.

As an AIDS outreach worker with Dartmouth Hitchcock in Nashua, Jean Adie works against those forces.  

She acts out a typical interaction:

“Jeez, you know, you’re having unprotected sex. When was the last time you were tested?” she’ll ask.

“Oh, I’ve never been tested.”

Via U.S. Digital Maps Archive

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.

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