Health and health care news

The Maine-based Environmental Health Strategy Center has joined two lawsuits that challenge the Trump administration’s rule changes to how toxic chemicals are regulated.

Center Deputy Director Patrick MacRoy says the changes allow the Environmental Protection Agency to pick and choose how extensively — or not — to evaluate toxic chemicals.

For the second year in a row, average premiums in Maine’s Affordable Care Act marketplace will see double-digit increases. Maine’s insurance superintendent has approved rate hikes for 2018 plans that range from 18 to 27 percent.

Despite the increase, health policy analysts say the market is not imploding, as President Donald Trump has predicted — but they do say that Congress must take immediate action when it reconvenes in September to stabilize the market.

Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General

The state of Maine is failing to adequately protect people with developmental disabilities, according to a federal report released Thursday.

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General finds that both state and community-based providers do not properly report and investigate critical incidents involving the nearly 3,000 individuals in community based care.

Maine’s insurance superintendent has approved double-digit rate increases for 2018 marketplace health insurance plans.

Average rates will increase between about 18 and 27 percent for plans offered by Community Health Options, Anthem, and Harvard Pilgrim. Steve Butterfield of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says higher health care costs as well the uncertainty the Trump administration has created about the future of the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace are to blame.

A new report from the advocacy group Disability Rights Maine looks at numbers from the state Department of Corrections, showing about a third of the young people committed to Long Creek Youth Development Center — the state’s only correctional facility for juveniles — came directly from residential mental health treatment programs.

People who receive MaineCare — the state’s version of Medicaid — may soon have to work and pay monthly premiums in order to get benefits.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services officially filed an application this week to the federal government to make those changes. Critics say Maine’s plan would erect barriers to health care that will drive up costs for everyone.

With the aim of fostering a more competitive generic drug marketplace and driving down the price of prescription medications, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins spoke today in favor of a measure to reauthorize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The measure includes provisions co-authored by Collins aimed at lowering, or at least moderating, escalating drug prices, which she says are a key cost driver in the U.S. health care system.

GARDINER, Maine — Only certain adults over 18 could buy overdose-reversing medication over the counter under draft rules drawn up by state regulators.

The state pharmacy board on Thursday reviewed draft regulations to allow Maine pharmacists to prescribe and dispense naloxone to individuals at risk of opioid overdose and their loved ones.

Two children attending a day camp in Portland have been diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant skin infection known as MRSA.

It's unclear where the children contracted the infection, but city of Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin says the camp cleaned its communal spaces for two days out of an abundance of caution. 

"It is, unfortunately, very, very common these days for kids, and anyone, to contract this," she says.

Gov. Paul LePage has signed into a law a bill that supporters say will make it easier for first responders to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Until now, police, firefighters and EMTs in Maine who sought workers compensation benefits for PTSD had to prove that they developed the disorder from their work. This new law no longer puts the onus on first responders; instead, it creates a presumption that if they’re diagnosed with PTSD, it’s work-related.

Consumer advocates are concerned about a proposal by two insurance companies to offer benchmark plans on Maine’s health insurance market that provide skimpier coverage.

Anthem initially sought permission for what’s known as a Silver-level plan at a cheaper rate with fewer benefits, and now Community Health Options wants to offer something similar to stay competitive.

Steve Butterfield of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says if the Maine Bureau of Insurance grants approval, it would be harmful for consumers.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

It’s been a year since Maine enacted the toughest opioid prescription limits in the country, which came in response to an addiction epidemic where, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription painkiller.

More Maine Parents Refusing Vaccines, as Measles, Whooping Cough Cases Increase

Jul 20, 2017
Troy R. Bennett / Bangor Daily News

A greater percentage of Maine kindergarteners entered school last year without being fully vaccinated, according to new data released as the state faces a surge in whooping cough cases and its first measles case in decades.

Five percent of kindergarteners, or about 620, were exempted by their parents from immunizations during the 2016-17 school year, according to updated data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 4.5 percent the prior school year.

This week Maine lawmakers will consider whether to make it easier for first responders to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

If approved, PTSD would be considered a work-related injury for police, firefighters and EMTs. Supporters say it would reduce stigma and make it easier to receive treatment. But the Maine Municipal Association says it’s a mismatched solution that fails to prevent PTSD.

HAMPTON BEACH, N.H. - New Hampshire health officials are warning the public about potential exposure to measles at one of its most popular beaches on the Atlantic Ocean.
State officials say an out-of-state resident with measles visited Hampton Beach on July 9 and spent time there at several outdoor locations.
 They say people who are vaccinated shouldn't be concerned, but any beachgoers should still monitor for symptoms.