Patty Wight

News Producer

Patty is a graduate of the University of Vermont and a multiple award-winning reporter for Maine Public Radio. Her specialty is health coverage: from policy stories to patient stories, physical health to mental health and anything in between. Patty joined Maine Public Radio in 2012 after producing stories as a freelancer for NPR programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She got hooked on radio at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, and hasn’t looked back ever since.

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More than 76,000 Mainers have signed up for insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s 2018 marketplace, compared to about 79,000 who signed up last year.

Steve Butterfield of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says those are strong numbers, given the enrollment period was cut in half this year.

“For a lot of people, the ACA is a great deal, with the subsidies and the tax credits that they get to purchase coverage,” he says. “It does make it affordable.”

The deadline to enroll in the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace is Friday, Dec. 15.

The Trump administration cut the sign-up period in half this year, and some consumers are feeling a time crunch — particularly those who want to buy catastrophic coverage, which requires a special exemption from the federal government that can take weeks to process. Some are still waiting as the enrollment period closes.

Maine’s national health ranking is slipping, according to a new report.

America’s Health Rankings now places Maine at No. 23, falling from an all-time best of 8 back in 2010. The report, which is based on Centers for Disease Control data, cites a number of factors, from drug deaths to diabetes and infant mortality.

Ed Morin / Maine Public

It has been nearly three months since Congress failed to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Now, some states are scrambling to fill a looming budget shortfall.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District is co-sponsoring a bill that would reauthorize funding for the insurance program, which covers 9 million children. Maine’s CHIP has enough money in the bank through June of next year, but children’s advocates warn that the clock is ticking.

Tom Porter / Maine Public

MaineHealth announced Thursday that its 10 member organizations, including 8 hospitals, are uniting under a single board and a $2.5 billion budget.

Unification has been touted as a way to more easily share resources between hospitals and preserve services. But some experts say consolidation leads to higher prices.

The idea was first pitched about a year ago to address a challenge in health care, says MaineHealth president Bill Caron. That is, the increasing financial pressure on smaller, rural hospitals as more profitable services shift to larger health centers.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Oxford County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to file a formal complaint to remove Sheriff Wayne Gallant from office for inappropriate sexual conduct. The matter is now in the hands of Gov. Paul LePage.

After spending most of the day in executive session, the three commissioners convened in open session by midafternoon, when commissioner David Duguay promptly made a motion.

“To issue a complaint to the governor with respect to the sheriff in the form reviewed by the commissioners in executive session,” he said.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The case against a Lewiston dentist accused of putting the health and safety of his patients in immediate jeopardy is significantly weaker than it was a few weeks ago.

The Maine Board of Dental Practice dismissed the majority of claims made against Dr. Jan Kippax on Friday. Kippax temporarily lost his license last February amid allegations that he extracted the wrong teeth and continued painful procedures even though patients asked him to stop.

Maine Things Considered Host Nora Flaherty and Maine Public Reporter Patty Wight discussed the case.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

For Mainers recovering from a mental health problem, peer centers can offer a place to socialize and provide critical support. A year ago, Androscoggin County, home to Maine’s second-largest city, lost both of its mental health peer centers, and those who had used them say the loss has had an isolating effect in their community.

Peer centers are different from other mental health programs because they’re less structured and they’re free. It’s a place to do group activities, learn life skills or just sit and chat with others.

Susan Walsh / Associated Press

To pass a tax overhaul bill, the U.S. Senate needs to sway key Republicans who have been on the fence — including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Collins has expressed reservations about the bill, in part because it would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. But after a meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Collins indicated that she could support ending the mandate if Congress takes action to mitigate the effect on premiums.

About 3.5 million people in the U.S. are living with hepatitis C. New, blockbuster drugs have transformed the treatment and prognosis for the deadly disease. But there’s a catch — they’re expensive.

A single course of treatment, which lasts about three months, can cost as much as $90,000. The sheer volume of patients combined with the price tag for treatment limits access.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Treatment for hepatitis C was at one time complicated, requiring weekly visits to specialists and harsh drugs that often came with severe side effects. And the cure rate was less than 50 percent.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The White House has declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency. But it’s also fueling another epidemic: a rise in hepatitis C.

Mary Esch / Associated Press

This week, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory about kratom, an herbal supplement that’s used to treat pain, anxiety, depression and addiction.

The FDA warns that kratom has similar effects to the narcotics in opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse. But those who use the botanical say it’s a safe, alternative treatment that helps people.

About 50,000 Mainers would lose health insurance under the proposed Senate Republican tax bill, according to progressive-leaning state and national policy organizations. They say the tax bill’s provision to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate tugs at a thread that would significantly unravel the federal health law.

Aisha Faquir / World Bank

Nearly half of adults in Maine likely have high blood pressure under new guidelines announced Monday. A national physician task force has changed the definition of hypertension, and is recommending more patients receive treatment earlier.