Health and health care news

Ed Morin / Maine Public

The oldest among us are getting older. According to the 2010 Census, nearly 2 million people were age 90 or above, and that number is expected to quadruple by 2050. It’s among the fastest growing segments of the population.

PORTLAND, Maine — Health care funding for HIV positive patients at a city-run clinic in Portland, Maine, has been transferred to a private nonprofit, but fewer than half of the clinic’s patients have followed the funding to the new provider.

The Portland Press Herald reports the city last month transferred a $356,000 federal grant to nonprofit Greater Portland Health. The grant covered the cost of care for 229 patients who were treated at the clinic.

A lawsuit alleging that Mercy Hospital in Portland and its billing companies collected millions of dollar from Medicare through a number of fraudulent billing schemes, such as double billing, can move forward now that a federal judge has refused to dismiss most of the counts in the suit.

The complaint was filed in April 2014 by Jennifer Worthy, Mercy’s former patient accounts manager, who also claims in the suit that she was the victim of retaliation because of her efforts to the stop the unlawful billing practices.

Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has set up a new prescription drug drop box for Hancock County in an effort to prevent substance abuse.

The secure drop box in the Sussman Medical Office Building is designed to allow community members to safety dispose of medications that are expired, unwanted or no longer needed. Many Mainers are able to dispose of old meds at police stations and sheriff’s offices across the state.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

The secret behind Gov. Paul LePage’s weight loss is out. He recently revealed on local radio talk shows that both he and his wife Ann underwent bariatric surgery in order to lose weight.

An article in Wednesday’s Twin City Times by LePage Director of Communications Peter Steele says the LePages had a procedure called a sleeve gastrectomy.

A shortage of nurses in Maine may soon improve, thanks to a new grant to St. Joseph’s College.

The Harold Alfond Foundation announced Tuesday that it’s awarding a $1.5 million challenge grant to St. Joseph’s to expand its nursing program, which could position the school as the pipeline the state needs for one of its fastest growing industries.

Nurses account for more than 14,000 jobs in Maine and make an average wage of $31 an hour. It’s a good career, says Labor Department Commissioner Jeanne Paquette, and there’s plenty of room for more to join the field.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Hospitals, especially rural ones, are bracing for a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act. If the 80,000 Mainers who have insurance through the marketplace lose coverage, hospitals say they will have to absorb more costs from patients who can’t afford care.

More than 19,000 Mainers will lose access to mental health and drug treatment if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, according to researchers at Harvard and New York University.

At a time when drug overdose deaths are at an all time high in Maine, health care advocates say the push by Republicans in Congress to repeal the ACA with no clear replacement will make the problem even worse.

We all experience stress at work, no matter the job. But for teachers, the work seems to be getting harder and the stress harder to shake.

A new report out this month pulls together some stark numbers on this:

Nora Flaherty / Maine Public

It's an important time of year for charitable donations, but Planned Parenthood of Northern New England may have had an even more important date: Nov. 8.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Agencies that support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Maine say they’re on the verge of a crisis.

Declining state reimbursement rates have caused staffing shortages, which threaten the viability of their services. But the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services says supporting people with disabilities is a priority for the state, which has boosted funding over the past five years.

The Northeast U.S. bucked a national trend between 2003 and 2013 with a decline in melanoma cases and deaths.

But in Maine, both the incidence of the disease and the death rate from it, rose during that ten years.

The research published in “JAMA Dermatology” attributes much of the drop in the Northeast as a whole to programs that raise awareness of skin cancer and how to prevent it.

But Meghan Rothschild of the Melanoma Foundation of New England says there’s a flip side to that, in that many people aren’t aware of the disease and how to watch for it.

NH Tissue, Organ Research Institute to Benefit Injured Soldiers

Dec 22, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. - The Department of Defense is providing $80 million to establish a bio-research and manufacturing institute in Manchester, New Hampshire, to develop tissues and organs for injured American soldiers and other patients.

The five-year award was announced Wednesday by Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. All three were strong supporters of locating the institute in Manchester and had urged the Defense Department to support the project.

More than 56,000 Mainers have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace insurance plans for next year, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s about 5,000 more enrollments in Maine compared to the same time last year.

Still, Emily Brostek of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says she’s concerned some people aren’t enrolling due to rising premiums.

PORTLAND, Maine — An Augusta advocacy group says its signature drive to get Medicaid expansion on Maine’s ballot has been "hugely successful."

The Portland Press Herald reports the organization, Maine Equal Justice Partners, expects to make an announcement on Thursday.

Expanding Medicaid would insure an estimated 80,000 people.

The group says many of the signatures needed to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot were collected on Election Day. Volunteers collected more this week.