Health and health care news

GORHAM, Maine — Six people were taken to the hospital and four others were treated at the scene after they were exposed to dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide in a Gorham apartment building.

Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre says a resident called authorities at about 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Tenant David Aldrich tells WGME-TV he had a headache, while his neighbors complained of headaches, blurred vision, trouble breathing, dizziness, sleepiness and vomiting.

Three of those treated were children.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine officials are taking public comments for one more week about proposed regulations of household chemicals that focus on products targeting children younger than 12.

The proposal would elevate four phthalates from "high concern" to "priority chemical" status under state rules. Manufacturers would need to report use of the chemicals in products sold in Maine. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is taking public comment through Feb. 17.

Patty Wight / MPBN

LEWISTON, Maine - Health insurance co-ops were created under the Affordable Care Act with the rationale that they would increase competition and lower prices.

AUGUSTA, Maine - More than 64,000 people in Maine have signed up for health insurance on the exchange with just more than a week left before the open enrollment period ends.

Federal officials said Wednesday that 64,069 people have enrolled as of Friday. Nationally, nearly 7.5 million people enrolled as of January 30 in the states where the federal government is running the insurance markets.

The open enrollment period, which began Nov. 15, runs through Feb. 15.

WASHINGTON - Maine freshman Congressman Bruce Poliquin was one of only three Republicans in the House to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday.

In a statement, Poliquin criticized the health care law, saying it stifles the economy. But Poliquin says, at this point, more than 60,000 Mainers have invested their time and energy in choosing health care plans that work for their families, and that Congress can't repeal the law until there is an immediate free market replacement.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The recent measles outbreak that surfaced at Disneyland in California has fired up the debate over vaccinations, with high-profile politicians like U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie weighing in on whether they should be mandatory.

Patty Wight / MPBN

LEWISTON, Maine - Maine hospitals are seeing bad debt and charity care costs skyrocket. It comes at a time when individuals have more options to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

AUGUSTA, Maine — There has been triple the number of confirmed cases of the flu in Maine so far this season when compared to the same time last year.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says Maine has seen 2,322 confirmed cases of influenza as of last Sunday. Last year on the same date there were 765 cases.

Agency chief Dr. Sheila Pinette tells the Sun Journal that one problem is that this year's flu vaccine doesn't cover the most common kind of flu being seen.

Patty Wight / MPBN

It's been more than a year that Mainers have been able to buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act's online marketplace. The goal of the marketplace, say advocates, is to provide affordable insurance and increase access to healthcare. But what is it really like to use these plans?

As of 7:00 am Monday, the state's only 24-hour pharmacy opened at Maine Medical Center.  

Senior Director of Pharmacy Brian Marden says the goal is to improve patient outcomes and reduce re-admissions, in part by providing a convenient way to get important medications.

"Spending time with people too - we have three consult rooms in our pharmacy that are available for conversations between patients and families and our pharmacists so that they can do the appropriate education and spend time answering questions that people may have," Marden says.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine is getting its first 24-hour pharmacy.

Maine Medical Center in Portland is scheduled to open the state's first round-the-clock pharmacy on Monday.

It will allow patients to fill their prescriptions before being discharged, and will also be open to the public.

The closest 24-hour pharmacy is in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Patty Wight / MPBN

LEWISTON, Maine - The number of Mainers who purchased insurance in the Affordable Care Act's online marketplace has already sky-rocketed beyond last year's record statistics.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine has slipped from being the first  - and only - state in the nation to achieve straight A's in an annual Lung Association tobacco control report to earning two D's. 

Ed Miller, senior vice president of public policy for the American Lung Association of the Northeast, says the latest report finds that Maine falls short in two areas: the cigarette tax, and spending on tobacco prevention and control.

Patty Wight / MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine - The new legislative session has barely gotten underway, and pro-choice groups are already gearing up for a fight over an innocuous-sounding bill they say could restrict abortion access.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A dentist with a private practice in Augusta is heading to Belarus this spring to train pediatricians on preventing dental problems in young children.

Jonathan Shenkin, who's also a clinical associate professor at Boston University, was named a Fulbright Scholar in global and public health.

Shenkin says the grant will allow him to spend two weeks in the Eastern European country to work with a group pediatricians and provide them with the basic tools they need to educate parents about how to prevent dental problems in their children.