Health and health care news

Maine has had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2003.  Designed to prevent and detect prescription drug diversion, it's an electronic database of all transactions involving controlled substances. In other words, it's a way for pharmacists and physicians to keep track of the types and quantities of pills that are being prescribed.  But the program is voluntary. And with drug overdoes deaths climbing, Maine's attorney general says it's time to beef up the program and its mission.

There's been an alarming spike in the number of child abuse cases in Maine. Data provided by the state Department of Health and Human Services, in response to a request by the Maine Sunday Telegram, show a 58 percent increase in confirmed cases of physical abuse of children between 2011 and 2013 - considerably higher than the national average. The most recently available national data show a rise of just 5 percent from 2011 to 2012.

LEWISTON, Maine — Police are investigating a spate of heroin overdoses in Lewiston.

Police say a 31-year-old woman was rushed to the hospital Friday morning after overdosing.

The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal reports that an ambulance crew administered the drug Narcan, used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose. The woman is expected to fully recover.

Police are investigating to determine if the drug came from the same source linked to four heroin overdoses earlier in the week.

Stephen Melkisethian / Creative Commons

The state of Vermont is the target of a federal lawsuit over its newly-enacted law requiring food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically-modified organisms, or GMO's. Four trade associations filed the suit on Thursday, alleging that Vermont has overstepped its powers. And the outcome of the case is expected to have impacts well beyond the borders of the Green Mountain State.

When a hospital increases the quality of its care, patients are healthier and need fewer services. While that's good for patients, hospitals lose money. It's created a conundrum for hospitals such as Franklin Memorial in Farmington, which serves as the financial underpinning of the community's entire health network. Patty Wight brings us the second of two reports on how the hospital is working to keep in line with expectations under the Affordable Care Act and still remain financially afloat.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Under the Affordable Care Act, the quality of health care you receive is supposed to improve. Hospitals, for example, are expected to reduce readmissions, cut down on unnecessary tests. But these are the kinds of services that have been the bread and butter of hospitals for years. Take them away, and the hospital loses money. So the challenge for hospitals is how to increase quality and still stay in business. Patty Wight visited one hospital in western Maine that's grappling with that task, and tonight she has the first of two reports on what she found out.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says it's moving forward with efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the state's General Assistance Program, and has informed cities and towns that, beginning immediately, the state will no longer be reimbursing them for illegal immigrants as part of municipal general assistance programs.

Last month's mass shooting near a California college campus has revitalized Congress' efforts to reform the country's mental health system. One bill from 2013 that's getting renewed attention is the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Among other things, the law would loosen patient privacy rules to give family members more of a say in the care of loved ones with mental illness. But mental health advocates in Maine oppose the idea of chipping away at patient rights.

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ The VA Maine Health Care System fared better than many other facilities in a system-wide audit, but hundreds of veterans still had to wait more than a month for appointments.

A May 14 audit found that 99 percent of doctor visits took place in 30 days or less in Maine. But 664 veterans had to wait more than a month. It also showed that new patients waited 36 days on average, and six had to wait 120 days or more.

All told, 47,698 appointments were scheduled.

  Just what is "alternative medicine" and what is its relationship to traditional medicine? There are numerous health care practices, products and therapies, which fall outside what is taught at established medical schools or used in conventional medicine. Examples of alternative medicine include homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, energy medicine and acupuncture.

Host Jennifer Rooks speaks with:

Liz Strawbridge, family medicine physician specializing in integrative medicine

Chris Haskell, licensed acupuncturist with Rocky Coast Acupuncture

Maine Communities Adopting 'Project Lifesaver'

Jun 5, 2014
Tom Porter / MPBN

The tragic case last month of Jaden Dremsa highlights the dangers facing autistic children who wander from home - particularly in overwhelmingly rural and sparsely populated states like Maine. The Waterboro teenager, who was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, disappeared May 8, prompting a massive search. His body was found in a nearby lake nine days later. There are estimated to be more than 3,000 children and young adults in Maine listed as having an autism spectrum disorder.

What goes up, as they say, must come down. But the law of gravity doesn't necessarily apply to insurance premiums. Next year, Maine insurance premiums for the Affordable Care Act's online Marketplace will generally go up, but far less than expected.

Forty-one percent. One-hundred percent. Four-hundred percent. These were some of the projections on how much insurance premiums would rise on the individual insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

In Vitro Fertilization

Jun 4, 2014

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body: in vitro. IVF is a major treatment for infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. What, if any, are the risks? What is the latest news on helping those who struggle to get pregnant?

Host Jennifer Rooks speaks with:

Dr. Ben Lannon, medical director at Boston IVF

Anne Brennan Belden MS,PCC, Fertility & Adoption Coach

According to newly released federal data, Maine ranks 17 percent below the national average in Medicare expenditures. While some hold up the report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as evidence of low hospital costs in Maine, health policy advocates say the numbers may not be as promising as they seem.

The latest research on helping people to hear or hear better. Learn the latest on our understanding of why we lose our hearing, what we can be done to prevent hearing loss, and how new technologies, including cochlear implants and smart phones, are helping the hearing impaired.

Host Jennifer Rooks speaks with:

Dr. Matthew Hearst, MD; otolaryngology surgeon at MKM ENT Assoc, division of Mercy Hospital

Cathy Janelle, Speech Pathologist; hear ME now, who works with adults with cochlear implants after implant surgery