Health and health care news

The Cedars in Portland has received a $4 million donation from a Waterville couple to build a first-of-its-kind “household” model of senior homes in Maine.

Cedars’ president Kathy Callnan says the households will look and feel like private homes, starting with a front door that opens into a foyer.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Attorney General says the number of drug overdose deaths in the state through September already exceeds the total number for 2015.

Attorney General Janet Mills says 286 Maine residents died of drug overdoses through the first nine months of this year. The total for 2015 was 272. The 2015 total was a record at the time.

Mills says the increase is mainly due to illegally manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. She says the number of deaths due to other drugs is also increasing.

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump vowed that on his first day in office he’ll ask Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That puts insurance coverage for 20 million Americans, including 84,000 Mainers, into question.

Trump also promised to implement reforms that will make health care more affordable, broaden access and improve quality. But some health advocates in Maine question whether the president-elect’s proposals will actually fulfill those promises.

Two Maine colleges have experienced an outbreak of mumps this fall. The Maine Center for Disease Control says colleges across the U.S. are seeing an uptick in mumps cases.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick has three current confirmed cases of the highly contagious viral disease. Bates College in Lewiston had eight cases of mumps since early October, but all students have recovered.

Spokesmen for both colleges say it has been years since they’ve had a case of mumps. State epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says there do tend to be sporadic outbreaks of the disease.

Questions about pain management will be removed from hospital patient satisfaction surveys, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Physicians and lawmakers, including Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, asked CMS to examine the questions over concerns that they encouraged physicians to prescribe opioids.

Jeff Austin of the Maine Hospital Association says the problem with the questions about treatment of pain on hospital satisfaction surveys is that unless patients reported that their pain was always well managed, hospitals were penalized.

Maine hospitals overall rank in the top 10 in the U.S. for safety, according to the latest hospital safety grades from the Leapfrog Group. But some individual hospitals, like Franklin Memorial in Farmington, did see a drop in grade level.

The Leapfrog Group’s Jillian West says Franklin Memorial dropped from an A grade, which it has scored since fall 2013, to a C grade because of an incident in which a foreign object was mistakenly left in a patient after surgery.

ARUNDEL, Maine - A Maine school district says an unidentified elementary school student in Arundel has contracted viral meningitis.

Superintendent Katie Hawes says the Mildred L. Day Elementary School student did not attend classes on Monday but parents should still watch out for symptoms in their own children.

The federal Center for Disease Control classifies meningitis as an inflammation of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Its viral form is less severe than bacterial meningitis.

Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and fatigue.

Not enough Maine households are testing for arsenic, according to the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

The most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that less than half of the state’s households that rely on well water test for arsenic. Health advocates say the state needs to do more to educate private well owners and achieve a statewide goal of 65 percent testing by 2020.

Maine’s insurance co-op, Community Health Options, is dropping elective abortion coverage for 2017. Co-op officials say it’s a cost-saving measure, but abortion advocates are decrying the move as a step backwards for women’s health.

The backdrop to eliminating elective abortion coverage, says Community Health Options CEO Kevin Lewis, is that the co-op is still digging itself out of a $31 million deficit it accumulated last year.

When enrollment opens next week, shoppers in the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplace will see, on average, double digit increases in premiums. Subsidies will help cushion the blow for most of the 84,000 Mainers who enrolled last year, but some consumers and small businesses will have to absorb the higher costs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its recommendations to protect against sleep-related infant deaths — babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months to one year of life, but on a separate surface.

Putting babies to bed in the same room as their parents can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, by as much as 50 percent, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has denied an additional extension for the state of Maine to comply with the U.S. REAL ID law, which could have an effect on the use of Maine driver’s licenses and IDs for identification.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says he feels it’s important that people know additional restrictions are not going to happen overnight.

“We’re working with our federal partners, our congressional delegation and with the Legislature and the governor’s office to sort of understand what our next steps should be,” he says.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Augusta is moving forward with plans to build a new treatment facility for mentally ill patients who’ve committed crimes and no longer require hospital care as part of efforts to recoup federal certification for a neighboring psychiatric facility.

The Kennebec Journal reports the Planning Board on Tuesday approved plans to build the 21-bed rehabilitation facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

PORTLAND, Maine — Health insurance premiums in Maine are poised to reach unprecedented highs in 2017, and small businesses are expected to be hardest hit as a result.

The Maine Bureau of Insurance reported that state-approved increases for this upcoming year average double-digits for all individual health plans and about half of all small group plans.

The Portland Press Herald reports that because the increases vary significantly depending upon the provider, the most cost-effective plans for 2016 may not remain so next year.

BANGOR, Maine - The Maine Department of Marine Resources has closed the entire Downeast region's mud flats after routine tests detected the presence of a marine neurotoxin that could affect softshell clams, mussels and mahogany quahogs.

Jeff Nichols, a DMR spokesman, said the department has issued a recall on clams harvested between Sept. 25 through Sept. 30, and that the mudflat closure affects all shellfish harvesting areas between Otter Point on Mt. Desert Island east to the Canadian border.