Health and health care news

Mainers can expect to see petitions circulating in the coming weeks asking if they'd like to see an initiative for physician-assisted suicide on the fall ballot next year.

Valerie Lovelace from the Wiscasset-based Maine Death With Dignity is one of those spearheading the petition drive, to be launched next week. She volunteers for hospice.

"I've sat at the bedside of individuals who have died, and that have not gone well," says Lovelace.

Kateryna Kon / AP Photo

The Sanford school department is warning parents that there have been several cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, at the school.

District Superintendent David Theoharides says there have been four confirmed cases at Margaret Chase Smith primary school, and two at Sanford Junior High.

There is a vaccination for pertussis, and it's most common in school-aged kids. Theoharides says in most cases it's not severe for those kids. He says a bigger concern is when they bring it home to younger family members.

Maine Is Returning To A Familiar Approach To Lower Health Insurance Costs

Apr 12, 2018
Karen Roach / AP Photo

With health insurance premiums for individuals slated to rise nationwide by as much as 20 percent or more in 2019, Maine is looking to revive a mothballed mechanism to help hold those costs at bay.

Maine Senator Susan Collins talked today about bills she's co-sponsoring to address the nation's opioid crisis. At a hearing in Washington, Collins said that one measure deals with pain medications given to hospice patients after the patients have died.

"Hospice staff are not allowed to dispose of these unused medications, even after the patient has died,” she says. “So, this opens the door to diversion, to theft, to abuse."

Collins says the legislation she's cosponsoring would allow hospice staff to retrieve such leftover medications.

Maine law enforcement officials are warning of bad batches of heroin after nine overdoses across four counties in a single night.

The Bangor Daily News reports that police assume the heroin was laced with fentanyl, which is far more powerful that heroin.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department posted a warning on its Facebook page after three overdoses in Washington County and one in Hancock County. Officials say all of those victims were revived with the overdose antidote Narcan.

A two-question screening tool that's now being used at primary care doctor's offices in southern Maine, is helping families experiencing food insecurity to find resources they need.

Maine Medical Partners, a division of Maine Health, is using the "Hunger Vital Sign," to find and help those families. Pediatrician Dr. Lucy Amory says since late January, all kids ages one to five get the two-question screener when they come in for their annual physicals.

The Maine Legislature moved closer Thursday to approving $6.6 million bill to fight a deadly opioid crisis that claimed the lives over 400 Mainers last year. Both the House and Senate have given initial approval to the bill that would direct treatment funding to those without insurance.

The city of Portland filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cumberland County Superior Court against 26 opioid manufacturers and distributors. Attorney Adam Lee says the lawsuit alleges that the companies orchestrated a campaign of fraud and misinformation about the addictive qualities of opioids.

Lee says the suit alleges that opioid manufacturers and distributors orchestrated a campaign of fraud, deceit, and misinformation to shape the public's perception of the addictive qualities of the drug.

Maine Public

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says that she has a solution to the funding stalemate between Gov. LePage and lawmakers that is blocking Medicaid expansion. At the State House Tuesday, Mills announced that Maine will receive millions in additional funds from a settlement with tobacco companies that could pay for expanding health care coverage, which voters approved last year.

The parent company of Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Portland is changing its name.

In October, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems will become Northern Light Health. EMHS Senior Vice President Matthew Weed says the name change acknowledges that the organization no longer just operates in the eastern part of the state.

Weed says what’s more important is that the new name reflects efforts over the past several years to bring different areas of expertise, technology and access together in a system.

The Maine Senate has voted unanimously to increase availability of the anti-overdose drug naloxone in pharmacies.

About two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that temporarily allowed pharmacists to prescribe naloxone over-the-counter to those suffering from addiction. WMTW-TV reports the bill passed this week would remove the "sunset provision" from the previous bill and would make the legislation permanent.

Repbulican Gov. Paul LePage has 10 days to sign the bill.

Emerus and SCL Health / NPR

Central Maine Healthcare unveiled plans Thursday to open what it is calling a first-of-its-kind outpatient health center in the state. The Topsham Care Center is something between a hospital and an urgent care clinic. Officials say the model embraces a more contemporary approach to health care that will offer high quality services at a lower cost.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine health officials are warning residents about an unlicensed tattoo artist who may have exposed multiple people to hepatitis C.
WGME-TV reports the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention received information about an unlicensed tattoo artist who had been working out of their East Machias home for the past six months. The state CDC says at least one client has been infected with hepatitis C.
Officials aren't sure about the number of clients the tattoo artist has worked on.

Maine Senator Susan Collins is among a group of republicans urging colleagues in Washington to include several measures to lower health insurance costs in the budget bill up for consideration this week.

Collins says the package of bills she has crafted with Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander would lower insurance premiums by 40 percent. She is also downplaying opposition to language banning the use of federal funds for abortions, saying the so-called Hyde language has been in use since 1976.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has joined with Republican colleagues to introduce a bill that they say aims to stabilize health insurance premiums in the individual market.