Health

Health and health care news

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal appeals court has delivered a serious setback to President Barack Obama's health care law, potentially derailing subsidies for many low- and middle-income people who have bought policies.
 
    If upheld, the decision could mean premium increases for more than half of the 8 million Americans who purchased taxpayer-subsidized insurance under the law.
 
    It affects consumers who purchased their coverage through the federal insurance marketplace _ or exchange_ that serves 36 states.
 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is among three Republicans who voted in favor of a Democratic-backed measure aimed at dealing with the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.

Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mark Kirk of Illinois, voted in favor of the measure, which fell four votes short of the 60 needed to move forward, according to The Associated Press.  The final vote was 56 - 43.

The bill would reverse the court's ruling last month that allowed "closely held" businesses whose owners have religious objections to deny women contraceptive coverage.

In the land that came up with the phrase "Thank God it's Friday," and a restaurant chain to capitalize on the sense of relief many feel as the work week ends, researchers made an unusual finding in 2012.

Moms who worked full time reported significantly better physical and mental health than moms who worked part time, research involving more than 2,500 mothers found. And mothers who worked part time reported better health than moms who didn't work at all.

Gay and bisexual men, and their friends, turned out today to participate in a National Gay Blood Drive event at the American Red Cross donation center in Portland.

Michael Quint, a local organizer of the Gay Blood Drive event, says gay men were only able to donate blood at today's blood drive by proxy - meaning each person had to have a non-gay friend, or a woman, give the blood on their behalf. The ban does not extend to gay women.

Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King told a conference on medical technology in Washington that legislation he is co-sponsoring will reduce the federal regulatory burden imposed on new health technology. by the federal Food and Drug Administration based on outdated laws.

King says the goal of the measure is simple: to lighten the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulatory requirements for so-called low-risk software - "the kinds of things you might have on your iPhone to keep track of how many steps you take, or your pulse, those kinds of things," King says.

Tom Porter

The Portland City Council tonight is expected to repeal an ordinance that allows for a protest-free buffer zone around a downtown health clinic that provides abortions.

In response to a spate of overdoses this week, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is warning people about a deadly mixture of heroin, caffeine and fentanyl, and also about a new mixture called acetyl fentanyl.  These appear to be causing users to overdose more quickly than if they were using straight heroin. 

Jennifer Mitchell

Registered nurses and union supporters picketed in the rain outside Mount Desert Island hospital today. They're upset over contract talks, which they say are stalled over issues of patient safety at the Bar Harbor hospital. Although hospital administrators say they've made their final offer, the nurses want more say over the hospital's technology and equipment. 

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Maine has been increasing the level of Medicaid funding it devotes to home-based care for the disabled since a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave people a choice to live outside institutions.
 
    Data provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates Maine was providing 50.9 percent of Medicaid long-term care money for disabled people living in home- or community-based settings in 2012. That compares to 43.8 percent in 2002.
 

Child Abuse

Jun 25, 2014

  State officials are reporting a dramatic increase in child abuse cases in Maine. Confirmed cases of the physical abuse of children in Maine climbed by 58 percent over the past two years, following a decline over the previous two decades. Some of the recent spike might have to do with stronger reporting, but drug problems and a struggling economy have also been identified as factors.

Lung Cancer

Jun 24, 2014

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, and until recently, there was no good method of detecting the disease early enough to prevent people from dying of the disease. But a large national study has found that using a form of a CAT scan to screen for lung cancer can reduce mortality in current and former smokers — the two groups at highest risk for lung cancer. But the disease doesn't just affect smokers. Learn more about this type of cancer, including the risk factors, such as smoking, secondhand smoke, lack of exercise and environmental factors.

This fall, Medicare will penalize hospitals with the worst rates of patient injury. Two Maine hospitals are on the preliminary list.

PORTLAND, Maine — St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston and Maine Medical Center in Portland may face federal penalties for high rates of complications and infections.

The Sun Journal reports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has placed the two hospitals on a preliminary list of 761 hospitals that could be penalized. Some of the hospitals on the list could avoid penalties after the agency does more analysis.

The Portland Press Herald is releasing poll results Monday that show Maine is divided over welfare. The survey, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, found 46 percent of those asked believe most people need state welfare benefits, but 41 percent said most people don't need the benefits they get. Forty-six percent of those polled also said giving people welfare benefits does more harm than good; 43 percent said the reverse.

Patty Wight

No one likes paying medical bills, much less being over-billed.  About five years ago, the federal government created a program to guard against overpayments in Medicare.  It's called the Recovery Audit Contractor - or RAC - program. So far, it's identified about $5 billion in overpayments.  But many hospitals say that's little return for the enormous administrative cost that's required to comply, and that the program does nothing to improve patient care.  Patty Wight reports on what the RAC program means for Maine hospitals.

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