Health

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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. 

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