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State public health officials today released their final report looking into the outbreak of Hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital. The document provides new information into just what took place inside the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab, where a former employee stands accused of stealing narcotics and returning tainted needles. 

NHPR’s Todd Bookman tells All Things Considered Host Brady Carlson about the important new information in the case.

Medicaid Expansion Left Out Of Next State Budget

Jun 20, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR


The heavy lifting on the state’s next two year budget wrapped up a little past 3 a.m. Thursday. So when the two sides gathered less than twelve hours later to make it official, House budget leader Mary Jane Wallner was happy to call it a day.

“That’s it. I think we’re done. We’re adjourned!”

But despite that celebratory flourish, lawmakers are far from done when it comes to Medicaid.

Leaders in the Democratically-controlled New Hampshire House are seeking to cut a deal with Senate Republicans that would expand the state’s Medicaid program.  But hours after receiving the proposal Tuesday, members of the upper chamber said they can’t move forward with the plan, and offered their own course of action.

Medicaid expansion remains a key sticking point as lawmakers seek to finalize the state’s next budget by Thursday’s deadline.

New Hampshire can withdraw from an expanded Medicaid program at any time, according to a letter received Thursday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

The letter comes as legislative negotiators are poised to meet to finalize the state’s budget.

A point of impasse between the Democratically-held house and Republican-controlled Senate has been an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

 Women’s health advocates took to the statehouse today, calling for an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. The issue remains a sticking point as lawmakers work to finalize the state’s budget.

Planned Parenthood’s Jennifer Frizzell estimates that 61% of those able to sign up for an expanded Medicaid program are women, and she accuses GOP lawmakers of being oblivious to what they want.

Governor Hassan today announced the reopening of 12 psychiatric beds at New Hampshire Hospital. They'll be used to treat adults over the age of 55 in need of both psychiatric help and medical attention, and are meant to shore up a mental health system that the Governor calls deeply strained.

New Hampshire's Health Exchange Monopoly

Jun 10, 2013
via WUKY

It wasn’t exactly a victory lap, but the president was in California last week praising an early success of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking in San Jose on Friday, Obama touted the California health insurance exchange--one of the new online marketplaces where individuals and small business employers can shop for coverage and apply for subsidies starting October 1.

California's exchange will have 13 companies competing for business and rates far below what experts predicted.

State public health officials say another person has tested positive for Hepatitis C stemming from last year’s outbreak at Exeter Hospital. 

That brings the total number to 33.

A former hospital employee was arrested last July in connection with the spread of the virus inside the cardiac catheterization lab. Prosecutors say David Kwiatkowski reused syringes on patients after injecting himself with powerful pain killers.

Dr. Jose Montero, the state’s public health director, says it appears this latest case, though, is from sexual contact.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Supporters of Medicaid expansion filled the lobby of the Legislative Office Building in Concord for a mid-morning press conference. The show of force comes in advance of Thursday’s budget vote in the Senate.

Flanked by reform advocates, hospitals administrators and doctors, Governor Hassan pressed lawmakers to take advantage of the federal government’s promise to pay 100% of the costs of expansion for the first three years.

She quoted New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who supports expansion and says it will save money for taxpayers in his state.

One of the biggest and most contentious issues of this spring’s budgeting process remains whether or not the state should expand Medicaid. When the Supreme Court ruled last summer on the Affordable Care Act, it said the Federal government can’t force states to expand. Instead, states must be given a choice about growing the health care program for the poor.

Governor Hassan and the Democratically controlled House favor expansion, and the House included it in its proposed spending plan.

Group Prenatal Care Takes Root In New Hampshire

May 29, 2013

Just off from a circle of cushioned chairs, behind a privacy screen, Jessica Densmore greets patients inside a Cheshire Medical Center conference room, in Keene.

“Let’s take a listen and see if we can hear this baby today,” she says, positioning a fetal heart monitor.

Today’s mothers, ten in total,  are all between 22 and 29 weeks pregnant. They come once a month, and then every two weeks as due dates approach, for their Centering Pregnancy appointment: basically a group check-up.

GOP Budget Writers Vote Down Medicaid Expansion

May 22, 2013

Saying there’s simply too much uncertainty, top Senate budget writers voted 4-2 against expanding the state’s Medicaid program on Wednesday.

Senate President Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) says he has concerns the Federal government won’t be able to meets its promises to fund the expansion long-term.

And he says it’s unclear if the program would even improve care for the uninsured.

State Hears Ideas For Launching Health Exchange

May 17, 2013

Health providers, small business owners and reform advocates attended a brainstorming session in Concord on Friday. State Insurance Department officials organized the event, seeking input on how best to implement the new health exchange in New Hampshire.

A range of ideas were offered, from social media campaigns to informational events at hardware stores to old-fashioned word of mouth. Participants stressed a need to reach all communities, including minority and non-English speaking groups, and to do so quickly.

State officials continue to press for action on $340,000 in federal money meant to help implement the health exchange in New Hampshire. 

Speaking to the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee, Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny repeated the need for quick acceptance of the grant money. Last month, a different legislative body, the Joint Fiscal Committee, delayed the funds, citing concerns over a lack of information.

Sevigny says the money would help "put flesh on the bones" of his Department's effort to help consumers understand the new health law.

N.H. Panel Urges Action On Health Overhaul Funding

May 11, 2013

A committee advising New Hampshire on implementing the federal health overhaul law is urging state lawmakers to move quickly in accepting federal money intended for consumer assistance and outreach.

The Health Exchange Advisory Board, whose members represent consumers, health care providers, insurers and businesses, drafted a letter Friday saying that timely, effective outreach will be impossible unless the Legislature accepts the money.

Michael Brindley / NHPR

About 100 people gathered at the State House Plaza on Thursday to highlight children’s mental health awareness.

Many there said more funding is needed to make sure children have access to proper mental health care.

Francine Gagne with the Greater Nashua Mental Health Center says children are often overlooked in the discussion about funding for mental health programs.

New Hampshire Not Alone In Health Exchange Setbacks

May 6, 2013
via WUKY

The new health exchanges are often described as something akin to Orbitz or Travelocity. A central place--a website--where insurance can be researched, compared, and purchased.

“Competition in markets, of course, is the way in this country we try to make reasonable prices and good quality available to people and so that is one of their roles,” says Professor Timothy Jost with Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

Jost says another key role of the exchanges is subsidies.

robson / Flickr/Creative Commons

As part of the Affordable Care Act, pharmaceutical company payments to doctors will become public information starting in 2014. But a slice of those disclosures is already available, and the impact of transparency is being felt across New Hampshire.

In the last four years, New Hampshire doctors and nurse practitioners have taken in $5.8 million in money from drug companies.

But in 2012, for the highest earning doctors, there was a noticeable decline. In fact, every one of the top 10 recipients in the state saw his or her total compensation go down or hold flat last year.

N.H. Residents Breathing Easy

Apr 24, 2013

A report out today from the American Lung Association says that New Hampshire’s air quality continues to improve.

The level of smog is falling in Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties. Both received a grade of ‘C’ this year compared to a ‘D’ in 2012.

Cheshire and Grafton earned an ‘A’, ranking them among the cleanest areas in New England. Coos County also saw its grade improve.

The figures come from readings taken by the Environmental Protection Agency between 2009 and 2011.

State lawmakers today put off a key vote on whether to accept Federal funds meant to support a partnership health exchange.

Earlier this month, the Feds awarded the state’s Insurance Department $5.4 million to pay for implementation of the Consumer Assistance portion of the new health exchange marketplace.

But on an 8-2 vote, members of the Joint Fiscal Committee tabled the motion, effectively delaying use of the portion of funds allocated for this fiscal year, roughly $340,000.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

“I have Crohn’s Disease, I have diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and I had a stroke. From all of this, I am on medication for depression as well.”

Chalk it up to bad genes: Amanda St-Amour struggles with a lot of health conditions.

She’s 30, lives in Merrimack, and pulls out a small laundry basket full of pill bottles.

“Basically, I take about 1, 2, 3…15 pills a morning.”

Recently, one pill has gone missing from the stack. It’s a drug called Trilipix, which St-Amour has taken for years to keep her triglyceride levels down.

A report out today estimates that 96,000 New Hampshire residents will be eligible for health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. The credits will be available starting in January, 2014, when the individual mandate kicks in.

Governor Maggie Hassan announced today the creation of a new Commission to monitor the transition of the state’s Medicaid program to a managed care model.

The 11-person body includes public health experts, advocates for the disabled, doctors, as well as Donald Shumway, former Commissioner of DHHS, who will co-chair the group along with Mary Vallier-Kaplan.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

With an October 1st deadline looming, the state continues to move forward with implementation of a partnership health exchange.  In agreeing to that partnership, state Republicans say they were promised input on a planning document called a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU.

But last week, the Feds said partner states don’t have to submit an MOU. Republicans say that shuts them out of the legislative process.

Knee And Hip Replacement Goes Robotic

Apr 4, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

It’s been two weeks since Bonnie Parker had her hip replaced.

She is 50, petite, a tattoo artist. So she’s no stranger to pain, but says the past few years have been really tough.

“I watched my mother suffer from arthritis, and she sat down one day and never got back up. And I found myself sitting down more and more and not getting up, and I thought, ‘No, I can’t do this.’"

After non-surgical solutions failed to help, Parker spoke with her doctor, and decided to try a new robot-assisted procedure: something called MAKOplasty.

Michael Brindley / NHPR

On Thursday, the New Hampshire State Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that’s getting a lot of attention in the dental community. The measure would expand the role of some hygienists. Advocates say this could help increase access in the state, but dentists argue it’s a misguided solution for a problem that may not exist.

Bill To Ban Medicaid Expansion Voted Down

Mar 20, 2013

The New Hampshire House has killed a bill intended to block the state from expanding its Medicaid program.

Opponents of expansion argue that the state can’t afford to grow the health care program for the poor.

But Thomas Sherman, a doctor and Democrat from Rye, told lawmakers the issue is one of social responsibility.

Sherman: “These are New Hampshire people. Our constituents. These are your family, your neighbors, and my patients.”

Medicaid Overhaul Plan Hits A Road Block

Mar 15, 2013

It’s been three years since state lawmakers began touting managed care as the salvation of Medicaid.

The number of dangerous infections acquired at hospitals in New Hampshire is falling. A new report shows that there were 110 acquired infections in 2011. That’s a 20% decrease from 2009 levels.

State law mandates that hospitals report infections following certain procedures, including heart, colon and knee surgeries.

Beth Daly, Chief of Infectious Disease Surveillance at the state Health Department, says these are important numbers to track.

A day after the Federal government approved the state’s application for a partnership health exchange, the public had its chance to weigh in on the new insurance marketplaces.

Small business owners, parents and advocates lined up in Concord at an event organized by AARP and NH Voices for Health. Speakers expressed concerns about affordability.

Many called for more transparency.

Another fear is the sheer complexity of shopping for health insurance. Lisa Kaplan Howe with NH Voices hopes the new marketplaces will streamline the process.