Health

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Newborns Facing Withdrawal Symptoms On Rise In State

Oct 25, 2013

In 2009, 120 infants exhibited symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), more than double the number of cases from five years prior. NAS is caused by maternal opioid use, and can result in respiratory problems, feeding difficulty and seizures in newborns.

A new report from the N.H. Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services and the N.H. Charitable Foundation says the average hospital stay for an NAS baby is 16 days, compared to three days for other births.

Federal Grant To Market Health Law Again Delayed

Oct 22, 2013

A flawed bid process is further delaying efforts to market the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire, as the group in charge of awarding a $2 million contract has decided to reopen its application process.

The New Hampshire Health Plan committee voted 3-2 to award the contract to an unnamed vendor on October 9, but the group, for reasons left unstated in meeting minutes, then decided not to finalize that recommendation.

New Hampshire Health Plan Executive Director Michael Degnan wouldn’t go into detail, but says the committee was divided.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

When Michael Justice was laid off from a local college last year, he lost a job he liked, a paycheck he needed and an insurance plan he relied on.

At 63, he’s now buying a policy to cover him and his wife. The bill every month is $1,638.

“It’s more than we pay for mortgage, its more than we pay on property taxes, which in New Hampshire is saying a bit,” says Justice. “It’s more than we pay for heating oil, more than we pay for electricity, more than we pay for water.”

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Brushing up against its October 15th deadline, on Tuesday a special commission studying a possible expansion of Medicaid in New Hampshire finalized its recommendations.

This was the final meeting of a nine-member group that spent the summer debating if and how to expand Medicaid to more low income residents.

While the issue still proves divisive, the commission did find common ground accepting the contents of the final report, voting unanimously to send it to the Governor and legislative leaders.

We've heard a lot about the new health insurance exchanges (A.K.A. marketplaces) since they launched this month. What follows is a blog of my attempts to navigate New Hampshire's marketplace. So far, it's been an error-ridden process with recurring visits to a virtual waiting room.

Day 1: October 1st

11:15 a.m.

Creating an account. 

Using Google Chrome browser, I go to Healthcare.gov. I click log in at the top right corner of the first screen.

Medicaid Expansion Plan Approved By Commission

Oct 8, 2013

New Hampshire is one of just a handful of states that hasn’t yet answered the Medicaid expansion question. Remember, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the federal health law last summer, it said Washington could not force states to expand their  Medicaid programs that provides health care to the poor. States, instead, must be given a choice.

And so, for the better part of three months now, a special commission has been studying whether to add 50,000 more low income individuals to the program.

Members of the special commission studying whether to expand Medicaid in New Hampshire continue to hash out their differences in the face of a looming deadline.

NHPR / Michael Brindley

Open enrollment began today for the New Hampshire health insurance marketplace.

State health officials say 11,000 people have signed up for Medicaid managed care since the open enrollment period launched a little more than two weeks ago.

The Department of Health and Human Services has scheduled a series of forums to help others sign up.

Medicaid recipients were given until late November to select from one of three out-of-state companies to manage their health care plans starting in December.

Liz Faiella

Researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice have been at the forefront of research on unnecessary diagnosis and treatment.

The problem is big, and solving it may require a major change in the way the whole health system treats illness.

Earlier this month, Dartmouth hosted the first ever international conference on preventing overdiagnosis.

Speaking to a crowd of doctors at the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference, Dr. Steven Woloshin began by diagnosing his audience.

Lowering Insurance Costs Like 'Turning A Battleship'

Sep 26, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

 Insurance company executives told regulators on Thursday there’s no quick fix for the rising cost of health care in the state.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides a snapshot of premium prices for health plans sold in the new marketplaces. When they launch October 1, individuals will be able to comparison shop for plans in their state's marketplace and apply for subsidies meant to make insurance more affordable.

The Fuller Public Library in Hillsborough hosts book groups, a story hour for preschoolers, and the occasional knitting workshop.

Also on the calendar this month? An hour-long presentation on the Affordable Care Act.

“Tonight, this is probably going to feel like you are drinking from  a fire hose,” says Kelly Clark, State Director for AARP New Hampshire.

She runs through a slide show for a group of about two dozen residents. It touches on all the main points of the law: the exchanges, the mandates, subsidies, and Medicaid.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

  At an event organized by the New Hampshire Women’s Health Network and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Senator Shaheen praised the law as the single biggest advancement in women’s health in her lifetime.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

New Hampshire Senators expressed frustration with Anthem Blue Cross on Wednesday about the insurance products they plan to sell in the new health marketplaces. 

Anthem Blue Cross is providing a snapshot of some of the rates it will charge for insurance plans bought in the new health marketplaces.

Individuals looking to purchase health insurance through the new marketplaces will have only one company to choose from in New Hampshire.

Democratic lawmakers are criticizing a Republican-backed alternative plan to Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire. 

Todd Bookman / NHPR

The star attraction this week at the special 9-member commission studying a possible expansion of the state's Medicaid program was Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and popular conservative blogger with Forbes.com.

With Managed Care Launching, Let The Marketing Begin

Sep 10, 2013

The state's long-coming transition to what's called Medicaid managed care takes a big step Wednesday, when most of the state’s 130,000 Medicaid recipients enter into an open enrollment period.

Health Insurance Shake Up Continues In N.H.

Sep 9, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

For the second time in less than a week, the health care landscape in New Hampshire is absorbing a major announcement.

Anthem Blue Cross is defending its move to reduce the number of hospitals in its network for individuals buying coverage through the new health exchange marketplaces. 

The state's largest carrier and only company to participate in the exchange is dropping ten New Hampshire hospitals from its provider network for all individual policy holders. That includes plans bought both inside and outside of the new health exchange marketplace that rolls out October 1st. It doesn’t apply to employer-sponsored plans or plans for some Medicare recipients.

Eight patients who underwent operations at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakod Disease (CJD), a rare and fatal brain disorder that affects only one in a million people worldwide.

Public health officials say a patient underwent a successful procedure in May of this year to remove a brain cyst at Catholic Medical Center. The patient then began displaying symptoms for CJD, which causes cognitive difficulties and a rapidly failing memory.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A second employee at a Contoocook restaurant has tested positive for Hepatitis A, prompting state health officials to open vaccination clinics.

The bartender worked only two days at the Covered Bridge Restaurant: on August 13th and August 20th.  

Public Health Director Jose Montero says an estimated 100 to 200 people may have been exposed, though the risk of transmission is small.

"This is a really low-risk situation, I want to over-emphasize that," says Montero. "We are doing this just as a preventive measure."

Planning For The End: A Look At Advance Directives

Aug 29, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

Advance directives—sometimes called living wills—let people decide who can make medical decisions for them and what invasive treatments should be avoided at the end of life. Many in the healthcare system say they are vital plans that ensure a patient’s voice is heard, but only 25% of Granite Staters have signed advance directives.

In this series, Health Reporter Todd Bookman looks at efforts to increase that number, gives an introduction to the form and its latest re-write. and examines the impact of not having a completed advance directive.

Sometimes, even thoughtful planning for the end of one's life can't foresee all the possible outcomes.

That was certainly the case for Reverend Canon Randy Dales of Wolfeboro, and his father-in-law. Canon Dales is a vocal advocate for the use of advance directives to maintain dignity in death, with his position formed by four decades of ministry and 30 years of work in a hospice he co-founded.

We continue our series on advance directives in New Hampshire with this audio postcard.

Other Stories In Our Series

Todd Bookman / NHPR

This week, we’ve been looking at end-of-life planning in the Granite State, and some efforts to streamline and increase the use of  advance directives--the legal documents that let people name who can make medical decisions for them and what treatments should be avoided to preserve dignity. We continue our series with this look at what can happen when there is no plan in place, forcing the medical system to turn to the legal system for answers.

Dr. Tim Lahey prefers to spend his days in hospitals and clinics, not courtrooms.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A survey from the National Hospice Foundation finds that Americans are more comfortable talking to their kids about sex than they are talking to their elderly parents about death. End-of-life remains simply a taboo subject in many households. But these important conversations are necessary to create the living wills that can help keep dignity in dying. We continue our 3-part series on advance directives with this look at efforts around the state to get more people talking, and planning, for their end-of-life.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

The terms used in advance directive forms can be tough to understand and have the possibility for misinterpretation, given that their specific legal definitions can sometimes clash with common usage. Understanding the terms on the forms is vital to creating an advance directive that is properly representative of one's wishes.

As part of his series looking at the issues and changes around advance directives in New Hampshire, NHPR's health reporter Todd Bookman explains the following terms as they relate to end-of-life planning:

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