Health and health care news

Patty Wight / MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine - The rate of planned pregnancies in Maine has remained consistent in recent years. According to the latest figures in 2010, it was 61 percent. The Maine Center for Disease Control wants to increase that number to 67 percent by 2020.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A Maine legislator wants to require the state to include products that threaten the health of pregnant women when it sets rules about potentially toxic products.

Rep. Sara Gideon, a Freeport Democrat, says her bill would tighten state laws about such products. She and a group of environmental and health advocates say the bill is needed because of the way the state handled a proposal to elevate four phthalates from "high concern'' to "priority chemical'' status under Maine rules.

File Photo: Patty Wight / MPBN

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case that could eliminate health insurance subsidies and potentially unravel the Affordable Care Act. Plaintiffs in King versus Burwell argue that the health care law only allows the federal government to provide subsidies to those who purchase insurance from state-run exchanges. The decision could affect tens of thousands of customers in Maine.

This month, Medicare began covering annual CT scans for lung cancer screening for those at highest risk of the disease. It's the first time a screening option proven to save lives is available for the disease that causes 160,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Patty Wight / MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine - Over the past two months, the state medical examiner says five babies in Maine have died, and their deaths have been directly related to unsafe sleeping practices.

A new nationwide Gallup poll finds that the number of Mainers without health insurance dropped significantly in the first year since the Affordable Care Act's insurance requirement took effect.

In 2013, 16.1 percent of Maine residents were without insurance; in 2014 that number dropped to 11.6 percent.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Nearly 80 percent of Maine residents who have signed up for health coverage on the exchange have selected plans with a Lewiston-based nonprofit co-op.

Maine Community Health Options CEO Kevin Lewis said Tuesday that 57,600 residents have enrolled with the company through the exchange.

Federal officials said last week that 74,792 people in Maine chose a health plan or were automatically re-enrolled in coverage as of Feb. 15, the last day of open enrollment. A special sign-up period will begin March 15 for some people.

Those who are just realizing that they'll have to pay a penalty in the 2014 tax year for failing to enroll in health insurance — and who missed the latest enrollment period which ended Feb. 15 — are being given another chance to get covered for 2015.

On Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, announced that a special enrollment period will be held this spring those who qualify.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Editor's note: This is Part 4 of our 5-part "State of Withdrawal" series. Click here for the other stories in the series.

This week we've been hearing from doctors and treatment providers about why they object to the state's plan to end MaineCare coverage for about 3,000 methadone patients.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Editor's note: This is Part 3 of our 5-part "State of Withdrawal" series. Click here for the other stories in the series.

LEWISTON, Maine - The LePage administration wants to take an unconventional approach to treatment for opiate addiction in Maine by dropping MaineCare insurance coverage for 3,000 methadone patients and moving them into Suboxone - or even Vivitrol - treatment that can be offered in a doctor's office.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of our 5-part "State of Withdrawal" series. Click here for the other stories in the series.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Under his proposed two-year budget, Gov. Paul LePage wants to end MaineCare coverage for more than 3,000 methadone patients. They would still have the choice of continuing to pay for their medication out of pocket, or - under the governor's plan - they could switch to two other treatments that involve the opiate replacement drugs Suboxone and Vivitrol.

Merrimack River Medical Services

Editor's note: This is Part 1 of our 5-part "State of Withdrawal" series. Click here for the other stories in the series.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine is in the grip of an opiate epidemic, and has been for the past 15 years. Heroin is firmly entrenched in the most rural parts of the state.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The settlement announced last month in a whistle-blower case targeting the Maine Center for Disease Control calls for a former employee to receive $142,500.

The Sun Journal reported that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services will pay to settle a federal whistle-blower claim by Sharon Leahy-Lind. A second plaintiff, Katie Woodbury, will receive $22,500. Their lawyer, Cynthia Dill, will be paid $85,000 for legal fees.

WASHINGTON - Some Maine tax filers may discover they're taking a hit this year for failing to sign up for health insurance in 2014. It's the first year that consumers are held accountable to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

Patty Wight / MPBN

RAYMOND, Maine - When it comes to having claims denied, consumers who buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act's online marketplace have to be savvy.