Health and health care news

RUMFORD, Maine - The grandmother of a Pennsylvania girl shot to death four years ago says she was brought to tears at the high school graduation of a Maine teenager whose life was saved with a transplant of the girl's lungs.

Sheri Blackburn and her husband, Jim, of Nottingham, Pennsylvania, drove nearly 600 miles (965 kilometers) to watch Logan Hammer receive his diploma Thursday at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Maine.

A new study by Georgetown University finds that most Medicaid recipients live in rural areas.

In Maine, 38 percent of children on Medicaid live in rural areas, compared with 30 percent in urban areas. For adults, the difference is 19 percent and 13 percent.

Research professor Jack Hoadley says funding cuts to Medicaid being considered by Congress would harm rural patients and hospitals in particular.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The LePage administration wants to require people who receive Medicaid to work or volunteer in order to receive health care. The state imposed a similar requirement for food stamps a few years ago. The administration touts it as a pathway out of poverty, while others call it a roadblock.

s_p_e_x / Flickr/Creative Commons

Two cases of Powassan encephalitis have been identified in Maine.

According to the state Center for Disease Control, two adults from the midcoast were hospitalized in late April with the virus, but have since been discharged.

Powassan is transmitted through woodchuck and deer ticks. Signs and symptoms begin one week to one month after the tick bite and can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Even if you have insurance, trying to access health care can be a frustrating experience. Getting appointments can take weeks or months, let alone a proper diagnosis or treatment. But a company that recently expanded to Maine aims to make accessing optimal health care easy by using the power of data.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The parents of a Lewiston Middle School student who died by suicide this week say their daughter’s story reveals a complete breakdown in Maine’s mental health system. Anie Graham’s parents say there should be distinct protocols to help kids at risk of suicide, and properly trained providers who are available to help.

Another Small Maine Hospital to Stop Delivering Babies

May 24, 2017

CALAIS, Maine — Calais Regional Hospital will close its obstetrics department, a move that will leave Washington County with just one hospital fully equipped to deliver newborns.

Since 2007, the hospital’s delivery rate has dropped from more than 100 births annually to just 60 last year, according to a statement from Calais Regional. That decline, coupled with a shortage of nursing staff, lead to “heavy financial losses” in the obstetrics department that the board determined the hospital can no longer sustain, the hospital said.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Bills to create a uniform teacher contract across the state are set for key committee votes.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage says such an idea would help rural districts compete for teachers.

Bills sponsored by GOP Reps. Matt Pouliot and Jeffrey Timberlake are set for work sessions Tuesday.

Pouliot says his bill would maintain local control while creating a uniform compensation system based upon performance results.

Timberlake says Maine shouldn't just throw more money at education.

Maine’s insurance co-op, Community Health Options, is back in the black after sustaining operating losses of nearly $90 million in the past two years.

A report from Maine’s Bureau of Insurance says in the first quarter of 2017, Community Health Options had a surplus of $3.7 million. The co-op’s Mike Gendreau says the company was able to pull itself out of a deficit by reducing administrative costs, increasing rates and educating members on when to go a doctor’s office or clinic instead of the emergency room.

FILE: Sen. Angus King I-Maine, attends the christening ceremony for the USS Raphael Peralta, the 35th Arleigh Burke Class Missile Destroyer to be built by Bath Iron Works, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Bath, Maine.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

Bangor-area residents took their concerns over the impact of the Republican-led American Health Care Act directly to Independent Maine Sen. Angus King today during a listening session at the Bangor Public Library. The event was organized by the AARP, an advocacy group for 50-plus Americans, and King said that while the measure cleared the U.S. House earlier this month, how the bill will fare in the GOP-controlled Senate remains to be seen.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The LePage administration is seeking federal permission to change the eligibility rules for MaineCare, the state version of Medicaid. If approved, able-bodied adults would have to meet work requirements and chip in on their health care.

State officials say the changes would make the program financially stable and help enrollees become self-sufficient. But at a public comment hearing in Portland on Wednesday, those opposed say the changes will cut access to health care, which contradicts the real purpose of Medicaid.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Under the Republican-backed health care plan passed by the U.S. House earlier this month, the federal Medicaid program would undergo a major overhaul. States would receive a fixed amount of money for the program, versus the open-ended federal support they now get.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 34,000 Americans contracted hepatitis C in 2015. Maine has also seen an increase in reported infections.

Cases of acute hepatitis C nearly tripled nationally from 2010 to 2015, according to the CDC. Maine’s rate also tripled within that time frame, and state epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says it’s likely connected to another public health issue.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

A day after House Republicans passed their health care overhaul bill, the spotlight is now on the U.S. Senate. Advocacy groups for Maine physicians, hospitals and consumers say the American Health Care Act would have disastrous consequences for patients and are looking to the Senate to fix it.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District, who opposed the bill, says advocacy groups aren’t the only ones looking to the Senate to improve the AHCA. She says some House Republicans are as well.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

House Republicans Thursday passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. An earlier version of the bill had failed to garner enough votes, but the addition of two new amendments drew enough support for passage.