Health and health care news

Patty Wight / MPBN

PORTLAND, Maine - It's four days in to the new enrollment period for the online insurance marketplace, and advocates are encouraging those who need health coverage to apply. So far, enrollment appears to be going more smoothly than last year, which was plagued with technological issues. But there are new insurance products to consider this time around, and consumers have half the time to sign up. Advocates say both new and returning enrollees should fully explore their options - and soon.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Six Maine residents, from Pemaquid to Harpswell to Scarborough, are now linked through the largest organ donor chain in the state. Earlier this month, in surgeries at Maine Medical Center that ran from 6 in the morning to 9 at night, three kidneys were transferred from living donors to eager recipients. The six members of the chain met for the first time today at the Portland hospital.


The story starts with one guy: "My name is Stan Galvin, and I reside in Pemaquid, Maine."

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a federal requirement that the state of Maine provide Medicaid coverage to several thousand low income 19- and-20-year-old young adults.  

The state had sought to drop coverage in 2012, but when the federal Department of Health and Human Services disapproved, the state petitioned for review on constitutional grounds.  

Despite providing Medicaid coverage to low-income children whose families met low-income requirements, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services sought to exclude coverage for the group.  

PORTLAND, Maine - In what's described as the largest, first-of-its-kind kidney pair donation chain in Maine, three recipients received kidneys Nov from three donors, in operations Nov. 4 at Maine Medical Center.

Today the three donors and three recipients met for the first time. Dr. John Vella, director of Maine Med's transplant program, says about a third of the kidneys that could potentially be donated to a relative, friend or loved one are biologically incompatible. That's when indirect donations can come into play.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline has introduced a resolution thanking doctors and medical volunteers for helping respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Cicilline says the world owes a "tremendous debt of gratitude" to those risking their lives to treat patients and stop spread of the disease.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine-born actor Patrick Dempsey returned home to accept an award for his work helping cancer patients.

Dempsey — most famous for his role as Dr. Derek Shepherd in the TV series "Grey's Anatomy" — and the Jackson Laboratory were awarded the Maine Creative Industries Award on Saturday in Portland.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine residents seeking health coverage can begin enrolling in plans on the federally-run exchange.

The three-month open enrollment period began Saturday.

Maine consumers will have more options this year with the arrival of Harvard Pilgrim on the exchange. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit is joining Maine Community Health Options and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Advocates are deploying a marketing campaign in the state that targets both residents who remain uninsured and those who already have health care plans on the exchange.

Starting Saturday, Mainers can sign up for insurance on the Affordable Care Act's online Marketplace. Health advocates expect this enrollment period to go more smoothly than last year.

Last year's open enrollment on the federal website was marred by technological glitches. But Emily Brostek, of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, says she does not anticipate the same issues this year.

Still, Brostek says consumers should sign up well before the enrollment period ends on Feb. 15.

Patty Wight / MPBN

SCARBOROUGH, Maine - In the world of supplements, some are more popular than others. For more than a decade, vitamin D has been a star. It's taken for skin conditions, bone health, cancer prevention, and as a boost for the immune system. Vitamin D is also used to prevent diabetes. But whether it can actually reduce the risk of developing the chronic disease is up for debate. A nation-wide study seeks to find the answer, and Maine Medical Center Research Institute is helping in that effort.  


PORTLAND, Maine — Two top managers at Maine's Department of Health and Human Services are no longer employed there, but the agency is not saying why.

Department spokesman John Martins confirmed Wednesday that Guy Cousins, director of the Office of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, and Therese Cahill-Low, director of the Office of Child and Family Services, no longer work for the department.

Martins, saying it is a personnel matter, said he could not provide further details.

Sheldon Wheeler has been selected to replace Cousins.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins was among members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who today questioned leaders of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about the response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and the few cases in the United States that came from Africa.

Collins said the conflicting statements by the agency confused the public and undermined CDC efforts. "From my perspective, it's not surprising that the American public is concerned about whether the response from Washington is the correct response," she said.

Patty Wight / MPBN

PORTLAND, Maine — Chronic pain affects more than 100 million American adults, according to the Institute of Medicine. That's more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. It costs the nation up to $635 billion a year in medical treatment and lost productivity.  But that treatment, according to the Institute of Medicine, is often inadequate.

The enrollment period on the federal health care exchange begins Saturday and ends Feb. 15.

During the first enrollment session from October 2013 through March, more than 44,000 Mainers signed up for coverage on the exchange, nearly double the target set by the federal government. Now, the groups that will help Maine residents sign up for coverage hope to repeat that success.

Here are five things to know about the upcoming open enrollment session in Maine:

New choices and more competition

By Alanna Durkin, The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine health care advocates are enlisting the help of the thousands of Mainers who have already signed up for coverage on the exchange to reach those who remain uninsured.

The first open sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act brought out those who were motivated to get coverage, but advocates and navigators say finding those who still don't have insurance will prove more difficult when enrollment begins Nov. 15.

CONCORD, N.H. — The University of New Hampshire is expanding its nationally-recognized sexual violence prevention program to a younger audience: high school students in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Instead of focusing just on potential victims and perpetrators, the "Bringing in the Bystander" program teaches participants how to safely intervene when they see a risk of sexual assault or dating violence. Starting in January, UNH faculty, staff and students will be implementing the program at 30 high schools, in most cases as part of existing health or psychology classes.