Health

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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.

Divorce On Hold Along With Health Care Website

Oct 29, 2013

Among those eagerly waiting on a fix for the troubled health care website are couples wading through divorce proceedings. Health insurance costs have long been a factor in divorce negotiations, but with consumers struggling to calculate and sign-up for coverage through the exchanges, some settlements are now on hold.  Kysa Crusco is a family law attorney based in Bedford. She talked with Morning Edition.

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.

 

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