Health and health care news

Maine’s hospitals came out in support Friday of a November ballot item that would expand the state’s Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands more state residents.

Maine Hospital Association vice president Jeff Austin says the group is generally wary of using voter referendums to make policy. But now that the question is on the ballot, he says, the association feels obligated to support the goal of helping those without good medical access get care.

And he says it will help the hospitals’ bottom line.

Maine’s nursing shortage is becoming critical, with some regions poised to lose about half of their nursing staff to retirement in the next 10 years, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Maine Nursing Action Coalition.

Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a registered nurse and co-chair of the coalition, says that during the 2008 recession, many nurses due to retire chose to keep working. Now she says they’re getting out of the workforce, along with others nearing retirement age, contributing to a projected shortage of 3,200 nurses in the next eight years.

The Maine People’s Alliance has launched a campaign to put a universal home health care initiative before voters in 2018.

“There are far too many Maine families right now that are going broke because they can’t afford to care for their elders,” says Mike Tipping with the Maine People’s Alliance.

Tipping says the citizen’s initiative would establish a program to provide in-home services and support for those with disabilities, and for those over age 65. He says the program would be funded through a 1.9 percent payroll tax on incomes over $127,000.

CARIBOU, Maine - A medical group is offering free trainings for those who prescribe opioid medication.
A 2016 state law that addressed the opioid drug abuse crisis set education and training standards for opioid prescribers. The Maine Medical Association is holding a training session in Caribou on Wednesday evening.
Maine saw 376 drug overdose deaths last year. Lawmakers and advocates for individuals say that too often, addictive and potentially deadly prescription painkillers wind up in the wrong hands.

Maine is seeing a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Maine CDC epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says that follows a national trend.

“So far this year we’ve had 55 cases of syphilis. At this same time last year, there were only 22,” she says. “We’re also seeing very large increases in the number of gonorrhea cases. So far this year, we’ve received reports of 400 cases of gonorrhea.”

Over the weekend, Congressional Senate Republicans revamped a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to win over key voters to their side, including Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

One of the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, told the Washington Post that the new version of his bill would kick more funding to Maine. But health policy analysts question that claim.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Dozens of people rallied in Portland Monday to urge Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to oppose the latest GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Sarah Thomson of Portland came because she’s a freelancer and relies on the ACA for insurance.

“I’m watching my health care and my daughter’s health care on the line, and it’s absolutely terrifying,” she says.

Tom Long of Portland said being able to buy insurance on the ACA marketplace freed him from so-called “job lock”

Maine will get almost $6 million in federal money to continue its home visiting program for pregnant women and new parents.

The $5,944,280 is part of $342 million that the Health Resources and Services Administration is providing to 55 states, territories and nonprofit organizations to continue the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine - A Maine family is searching for help after their developmentally disabled son was evicted from a federally funded group home for using medical marijuana to help calm seizures.
The Portland Press Herald reports that 34-year-old Mark Madore was evicted from his Embden group home in July after staffers discovered he was receiving medical marijuana. Madore is currently staying in a makeshift room at a hospital.

Gov. Paul LePage says Maine will get a 44 percent increase in health care funding under a GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In a press release issued Friday, LePage touted a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report that concluded the bill would give a financial boost to Maine. But consumer advocates disagree with the report’s findings.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union and several abortion providers have filed suit over a Maine law that they say severely restricts access to abortion in a rural, medically underserved state.

Seven physicians — including four in the emergency department — are resigning from Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth.

Hospital officials say the departures are due to changes the hospital is making to improve quality. But other physicians who have left in recent years say the turnover stems from the administration’s increasingly caustic relationship with providers.

Flu Arrives Early in Maine

Sep 20, 2017
Evan Vucci / Associated Press/file

The flu has arrived earlier than usual in Maine this season, prompting health officials to ramp up their annual push for vaccination against the illness.

Multiple hospitals in the state have reported positive lab tests for influenza, according to a Sept. 13 alert issued to health providers by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to join a nationwide lawsuit against manufacturers of opioids.

Officials say the prescription painkillers have contributed to Portland’s rise in drug overdoses. Portland city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin says the epidemic is placing big financial burdens on social and other services.

“Clearly the opioid epidemic has reached crisis levels here in Portland, and so it takes a toll on the city municipal services, whether it be fire, police, public health. And clearly there needs to be some more money for treatment,” she says.

The Maine Hospital Association is urging U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine to oppose the latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The president of the association says the Graham-Cassidy bill is similar to previous efforts that have been rejected.