Health

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With just days remaining in the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace, public officials are encouraging people to sign up before it’s too late.

Open enrollment ends this Saturday, Dec. 15.

So far, enrollments have been down about 20 percent in New Hampshire compared to last year. State Insurance Department Commissioner John Elias says there are several factors behind that trend, including a reduction in the federal budget for public outreach.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR News

Veterans and families who lived and worked at the former Pease Air Force Base want the government to begin collecting data about their disease rates and possible ties to chemical exposures on the installation.   

At a forum in an aircraft hangar Friday, dozens of people stood at a microphone and told an Air National Guard colonel about their health problems and their experiences at the base.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

State officials say they are still working out how much it will cost to enforce a newly approved work requirement for some beneficiaries of New Hampshire's expanded Medicaid program.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved a request by the state of New Hampshire to implement a work requirement for some Medicaid recipients in the state.

The new rules will require certain Medicaid recipients to log at least 100 hours a month in qualifying activities, including but not limited to holding a job, going to school, or participating in community service.

Certain populations, like people participating in a drug court program, or the parent of a dependent child with a disability, are exempted from the work requirement.

Mothers' Milk Bank

The state’s first donor breast milk dispensary is scheduled to open at the Belmont Medical Center next week.

The new donor milk dispensary will operate like a pharmacy for mothers and babies who have a donor milk prescription.

Naomi Bar-Yam is executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which is partnering with LRGHealthcare to launch the dispensary. She says while donor milk is currently available at hospitals and by direct mail, the dispensary will address the need for mothers who need donor milk on short notice.

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New Hampshire is on track to sign up about 20 percent fewer people under the Affordable Care Act during this year’s enrollment period.

Open enrollment for the New Hampshire ACA marketplace is still open – through December 15. So far about 11,400 people have signed up for health insurance plans. That compares to about 15,000 at the same point last year.

Nationally, sign-ups are down about 13 percent.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

A new program looks to pair Dartmouth medical students as mentors with LGBTQ youth in the Upper Valley.

Qmmunity is a collaboration between the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine and the group Rural Outright.

It’s based on the idea that young people with differing sexual orientations and identities who are living in rural areas face extra challenges to their mental health and well-being.

Matt Mooshian with Rural Outright says pairing up with a Dartmouth med student will give the teens support and a positive role model.

NHPR Photo

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled a draft version of a new 10-year plan for improving mental health services.

The 10-year plan is a roadmap for the reforms needed to strengthen the state’s mental health infrastructure.

In recent years, one of the most pressing issues has been a shortage of beds at in-patient mental health facilities.

FDA

   

In a major new effort to curb smoking, a top U.S. health official pledged Thursday to try to ban menthol from regular cigarettes, outlaw flavors in all cigars and tighten rules governing the sale of most flavored versions of electronic cigarettes.

The restrictions are aimed mainly at reducing smoking in kids: About half of teens who smoke cigarettes choose menthols, and flavored e-cigarettes have been blamed for a recent increase in teen vaping rates.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is preparing to launch a new telemedicine unit focused on intensive care.

Telemedicine, basically doctor’s visits by video conference, is a growing trend in healthcare -- and now Dartmouth-Hitchcock is hoping to use it to support intensive care units all over the region.

Instead of video-conferencing with a patient at home, intensive care specialists at Dartmouth-Hitchcock will connect with other doctors and nurses around the region to provide on-demand consultation.

UNH's nurse practitioner programs will now include training in medication-assisted treatments for addiction.

Nurse practitioners, like doctors, can write prescriptions and can serve as a patient's primary care provider. Thanks to a new $450,000 federal grant, nurse practitioner students at UNH will now be trained in how to use medication to treat addiction.

Gene Harkless is the chair of the UNH department of nursing. She says the new program will increase the amount of addiction treatment available in the state as communities continue to grapple with the opioid epidemic.

Centers for Disease Control

The numbers of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile Virus in southern New Hampshire is on the rise, prompting officials to issue a public health threat declaration for the region.

On Thursday, Governor Sununu and the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 30 municipalities in southern New Hampshire are at increased risk of West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). 

Churches and recovery centers across the state gathered today for Overdose Awareness Day.

New Hampshire has the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, the majority from fentanyl.

James Jordan / Flickr CC

The number of towns in New Hampshire at risk for West Nile virus is growing. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services elevated Manchester’s level of risk for West Nile to high, automatically elevating the surrounding towns to medium risk.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The national pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA is joining New Hampshire organizations to combat the opioid crisis. The new effort is called the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) New Hampshire.

Ten community health centers in New Hampshire are splitting over $835,000 in federal grants to improve health care delivery. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the money last week after reviewing the performance of all 1,400 federally qualified health centers in the United States. Eight of the ten centers in New Hampshire receiving awards were also named “Health Center Quality Leaders” for ranking in the top 30th percent of centers nationwide. 

The federal defense spending authorization bill President Trump signed Monday includes added funding for a national health study on PFAS chemicals – and neighbors of Pease International Tradeport will be the first group studied.

The study will analyze health effects for children and adults exposed to PFAS in the Tradeport's drinking water years ago.

The man-made chemicals have been linked to cancer and other diseases, and were left at Pease by past military operations.

AP

A recent federal study found the Northeast, and most of all New Hampshire, had the highest rate of childhood cancers in the country between 2003 and 2014.

Now, the state's congressional delegation wants to know what public health officials are doing to respond. They requested more information on the issue in a letter this week to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Courtroom One Gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

The juvenile justice system in New Hampshire is built around the idea of rehabilitation. Instead of going to jail, young people who commit crimes gain access to services like counseling and substance abuse treatment to address the underlying causes of their behavior.

But a blind spot in the state’s juvenile justice system can keep some kids from getting the help they need.

Britta Greene / NHPR

New Hampshire health officials decided to prioritize a specific demographic this year when allocating scarce federal funds toward the opioid epidemic: pregnant and newly post-partum women.

The choice reflects stark statistics both in New Hampshire and across the country. 

NHPR Staff

Frisbie Memorial Hospital is closing a recovery center in downtown Rochester.

In a statement, Chief Nursing Officer John Levitow says the decision will eliminate "redundancy of service" and allow the hospital to better target its resources. Rochester is also served by the SOS Recovery Center.

Levitow says the hospital will work to avoid any disruption in care as patients are sent elsewhere for services.

The Frisbie recovery center opened in the fall of 2016 as a partnership between Frisbie and the city to provide 24/7 substance use disorder support and treatment.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A group of recovery centers from all across New Hampshire met with top state officials on Wednesday to plead for more funding, saying the state has placed added demand on their organizations without offering any extra financial support. 

AP

New Hampshire saw a 15 percent drop in opioid prescriptions between 2016 and 2017 — the largest drop, in percentage points, of any state in the country — according to a new report from the healthcare research firm IQVIA.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday endorsed a proposal meant to protect patients from surprise out-of-network bills at in-network medical facilities — otherwise known as “balance billing.”

But that stamp of approval came only after several last-minute rounds of negotiations to respond to lingering concerns from lobbyists representing the state’s doctors and hospitals.

N.H. Department of Health and Human Services

The scene last June at the offices of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness was cautiously optimistic as Gov. Chris Sununu and other leaders gathered to sign into law House Bill 400 — hailed as a major step forward for the state’s mental health system.

via UFL.edu

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program more than doubled in size last year, and many see it as an alternative to using opioids for pain management.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Pediatrician Julie Kim wrote an article for the Huffington Post about how she sometimes prefers to recommend medical marijuana to her patients. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with her about how medical marijuana has helped her with concerns over prescribing opioids to certain patients.

 A website developed by the New Hampshire Insurance Department has new features aimed at helping consumers make educated choices about health care.

The department's health price transparency website, NHHealthCost.org, allows residents to compare the price of various health care services across doctors, hospitals and outpatient facilities.

pixabay.com

In its first hearing on the proposal, the Senate Finance Committee heard from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, an economist and even a doctor urging them to endorse a paid family and medical leave program.

But they also heard from the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Employment Security, Richard Lavers, who cautioned that setting up such a program would require a significant time, money and staff resources.

Sara Plourde/NHPR

A plan to extend New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion another five years cleared a major hurdle in the House of Representatives on Thursday. The House approved the bill by a vote of 222-125, over the objections of some Republicans who argued Medicaid expansion has been a failure and has driven up health insurance costs.

istock photo

The plan to keep New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion in tact for another five years got its first hearing in the House on Tuesday. Patients, health providers and other supporters spent hours urging lawmakers not to let the program expire at the end of this year.

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