Health Care

Prescription Drug Treatment Info / Flickr/CC

As health care costs overall have continued to rise, medicines are driving a good share of that trend. We'll look at some of the factors at play, including advertising, patents, and government programs and regulations -- also, plans underway on Capitol Hill to address the issue. 

GUESTS:

Lissa / Flickr/CC

The debate over physician-assisted suicide came to the fore in New Hampshire last month when a Concord man asked about it on a national stage. Jim Kinhan, who himself has terminal cancer, asked Hillary Clinton at a Manchester town hall how she would, if elected president, use her executive power to bring attention to the issue. The conversation made news, but the discussion about aid in dying has been ongoing for decades, legalized first in Oregon twenty years ago, and in California just last year. And while only five states in all have passed a law, some in the Granite State hope that New Hampshire will be the sixth. But there is a lot of debate over the risks of allowing the option at all, and two bills seeking to form a study committee on the topic have passed through the legislature, only to be vetoed by Governor Hassan.  However, advocates are hopeful that this year's study committee bill has enough additional detail to pass her desk, and pave the way for a possible legalization bill in a future term.

NHHealthCost.org

A state website that helps people compare prices across healthcare facilities relaunched this week with an expanded library of medical procedures and new information on hospital-quality measures.

The new version of NHHealthCost.Org features 31 additional medical procedures, including physical therapy, behavioral health and chiropractic care. Cost estimates for 16 dental procedures are now available, as well as new information on the retail price of 65 brand-name and generic drugs.

Steve Smith via Flickr CC

An initial review of whether New Hampshire insurance companies are appropriately covering substance abuse treatment shows significant differences in how often claims are denied, but experts identified problems with only a handful of cases.

The probe comes as New Hampshire seeks to expand treatment and recovery services amid a growing heroin and opioid crisis. The state insurance department began looking into the issue in November after hearing from complaints from providers and advocates, and officials presented their preliminary findings in Concord on Friday.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

As the sunset for New Hampshire's Medicaid expansion approaches, state legislators are debating how best, or whether, to extend the program. And while the prospect of dropping 47,000 Granite Staters who receive this coverage is daunting, some lawmakers are worried about how to fund it when federal support decreases.

Future of Nursing in New Hampshire

Jan 14, 2016
USA College of Medicine / Flickr/CC

As New Hampshire ages, the demands for both in-home and hospital care are increasing. And as medical facilities look for nurses with advanced degrees, finding a place for new graduates to gain training is a challenge. We'll see how nursing is set to change in response and the impact on the health care we all receive in the Granite State.

Primary 2016: Health Care on the Campaign Trail

Jan 6, 2016
Julie Kertesz / Flickr/CC

Health care still a top issue for voters, from the Affordable Care Act to lowering the cost of prescription drugs. And New Hampshire residents have made solving the opioid crisis a national priority. We're looking at where the twenty-sixteen presidential candidates stand.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

The holiday season is fast approaching, and coming along with it is the stress associated with making travel plans or preparing big meals for family gatherings. That stress could take a toll on your body as well as your mind. It could cause back pain, insomnia and stomach problems, just to name a few.

We know that rest is a good way to cut down some of these problems. But now a new study demonstrates that relaxation programs could reduce your medical bills as well. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The heads of New Hampshire health care providers Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Elliot Health System and Frisbie Hospital announced Monday that they are teaming up with insurer Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Brady Carlson for NHPR

Former Senate president Peter Bragdon is no longer executive director of the public risk pool HealthTrust, a job he took in 2013 at the expense of the Senate presidency.

HealthTrust provides health insurance to New Hampshire municipalities and school districts. It was formerly part of the Local Government Center, a risk pool involved in a legal battle with regulators over allegations of mismanaged money. The LGC has since split into HealthTrust and Property-Liability Trust.

Morgan / Flickr/CC

Less Medicine, More Health. That’s the contradictory-sounding title of a new book by Dartmouth researcher and Doctor Gilbert Welch. It’s a challenge to the conventional wisdom among patients and providers that more testing and more treatment is always better.  Welch says in some cases, you can have too much health care – and can even be harmed by it.

Peter Biello / NHPR

VA Hospitals across the country are beefing up their preventative medicine programs. At the VA hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, a variety of programs open to New Hampshire and Vermont veterans are tackling health problems like obesity, tobacco use, and stress. Some of these programs at VAs across New England are still underutilized.

In a small room at the ground floor of the VA hospital in White River Junction, a handful of veterans sit around a table and talk with a dietitian about a battle they all fight: a battle against body fat.

Thomas Fearon

We’ve been listening back to a 1989 report on the state of mental health care in New Hampshire. Last week, reporter Kathy McLaughlin explored the living conditions in the old New Hampshire Hospital buildings, which could be crowded and grim.

Today, we share part two of that report. NHPR’s Martin Murray spoke with Paul Gorman, superintendent of New Hampshire Hospital, who explained how the hospital’s new, community-oriented facility sought to treat patients.

The state of New Hampshire has been officially providing care for its mentally ill citizens for over 170 years. In that time, there have been dramatic changes in the living conditions for patients – and the state’s approach to treatment.

In 1989, New Hampshire Hospital built a state of the art facility that sought to provide individualized care for patients with the most severe symptoms.

To mark that occasion, NHPR produced a two-part report on the history and future of New Hampshire Hospital. In part one today, you’ll hear reporter Kathy McLaughlin chronicle the living conditions in the old hospital buildings. Barred windows, dim lighting, and crowded sleeping wards fostered a rather gloomy environment.

From the archives this week, the inside history of New Hampshire Hospital, from reporter Kathy McLaughlin.


The number of health insurers in New Hampshire shrank by one this morning with the news that the state’s two largest players, Anthem and Cigna, have agreed to merge in a deal worth more than $48 billion.

Giving Matters: Telephone Game

May 9, 2015

When doctors in this country work with patients originally from other countries, it can feel like a bit of a telephone game. This feeling is compounded when there’s a translator in the room passing messages back and forth. 

Allison Quantz for NHPR

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is bringing together health care providers and insurers to explore why spending on health care is high and rising, and what can be done to change that.

Giving Matters: Keeping Health Care Close To Home

Apr 4, 2015
istock photo

When Lorraine Sevigny moved to New Hampshire, she still had health insurance through COBRA from her previous job but had to stay in her HMO network. “I became ill about a month or two after I came up and I did end up going down to Massachusetts to see my doctor,” so that her insurance would cover the cost. 

StopnLook via Flickr CC

A commission studying ways to reduce workers compensation costs in New Hampshire released its final report Friday, but did not go so far as to recommend a cap how much health providers can charge for the care of injured workers.

Instead, in the 38-page report, a majority of commission members recommends the panel continue its work for another year.

Delaywaves via Creative Commons

Vermont's big experiment in creating a single-payer health care system is over, at least for now.

On Wednesday Governor Peter Shumlin announced he would effectively kill the plan to create a publicly-financed insurance system that was to be known as Green Mountain Health Care. "In my judgment," Shumlin said, "now is not the right time to ask our legislature to take the step of passing the financial plan for Green Mountain Health Care."

Giving Matters: CDN Provides Dental Care To Uninsured Kids

Oct 25, 2014
Courtesy David Mulder via Flickr Creative Commons

The Children’s Dental Network offers preventive dental services in 27 schools in and around Derry, NH to children who wouldn’t otherwise have access to those services. Jeanne Carroll and her husband are both college grads, and considered themselves “middle class;” they never thought they would have difficulty providing dental health care for their three children. 

Via Lakeview's website

Officials at a brain injury rehabilitation center in Effingham are disputing allegations that residents at its facility have been subject to abuse and neglect, including a death in 2012.

Governor Maggie Hassan has ordered that no further patients be admitted as the state reviews the charges.

A pair of reports issued Monday by the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire detail problems at Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center in Effingham.

A New Hampshire Center for Public Policy study predicts the state's aging population will reshape its health care system.

The center's annual report, titled "What Is New Hampshire," says that by the year 2020, nearly 20 percent of the state's population will be 65 or older, a dramatic jump from 13.5 percent in 2010.

The report also notes that the economy is changing significantly.

Giving Matters: Farnum Center Helps People Get Clean

Jul 19, 2014

The Farnum Center provides treatment to people with substance use disorders. It recently moved to a new facility which includes a new medical detox unit, the only one in the state not connected to a hospital. 

Dr. Cheryl Wilkie works with patients at the center. “We have a five day detox, a 30-day residential treatment center and then outpatient services that follow them as long as they need it.

N.H. Insurance Department

Consumers will have more than 50 plans to choose from next year on the Affordable Care Act health exchange, according to the New Hampshire Insurance Department.

During the first of two public hearings, department officials on Tuesday said five insurance companies will compete in the marketplace in 2015.

Anthem was the only participant this year, and it’s decision to include just 16 of the state’s 26 hospitals in its network sparked frustration even among supporters of the health law.

New Hampshire veterans who have been waiting more than three months for an appointment to see a specialist at the Manchester VA Medical Center now have the option of receiving treatment from a non-VA physician.

Staff at the center are in the process of contacting 118 Granite State veterans who are on an “electronic wait list” of former troops who have been unable to see a VA physician in 90 days or less, said Tammy Krueger, director of the Manchester VA Medical Center.

Veterans seeking an appointment at the VA Medical Center in Manchester were able to see a doctor in 30 days or less 98 percent of the time,  according to a nationwide audit released today by Department of Veterans Affairs.

But as many as 118 Granite State veterans waited 90 days or more for their first appointment, and 98 former troops who enrolled for treatment in the last decade have yet to see a physician in the VA network.

Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

New Hampshire will seek a waiver from the federal government Friday hoping to get $275 million more in matching funds over five years for health care services provided by the state, county and local governments.

The joint legislative Fiscal Committee approved the waiver application Wednesday.

Jeffrey Meyers, director of intergovernmental affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the federal government is not sharing the cost of about $80 million in annual health care spending in New Hampshire. The waiver asks the federal government to pitch in.

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 state will appeal a superior court judge's ruling that a tax on New Hampshire's hospitals that brings in $185 million annually is unconstitutional.

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