Health and health care news

The smoking rate among American adults is declining, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2015, 15 percent of U.S. adults were smokers, a 2 percent reduction from the previous year. Lance Boucher of the American Lung Association of the Northeast says Maine’s adult smoking rate is also declining, but trends higher than the national average.

“We’ve been stuck in the 19 or 20 percent range for the last couple of years, through 2014 data,” he says.

Linda Coan O'Kresik / Bangor Daily News

By Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine — More than 3,000 Mainers face bills from the state or federal government because they received too much food stamp funding due to errors by the state.

A Bangor nonprofit that provides addiction counseling and services for the poor will be closing its two faith-based drug and alcohol treatment centers after accepting more than $1 million in Medicaid overpayments from the state.

Leeanne Hewey, a board member for Manna Industries Inc., said that the board has been advised by Manna executive director Bill Rae that the publicity surrounding Manna’s financial problems now threatens contributions that fund its other services.

Mal Leary / MPBN

Gov. Paul LePage says he will ask lawmakers to change the language in a $10 million bond issue for senior housing the voters approved last November.

Appearing on Maine Public Radio’s Maine Calling program, he said he supports the goal of the bond but said its authorizing language needs to be tightened up and sent back to the voters.

“I want to release the bonds but I want them to do good. I want to either keep people in their homes longer by having ramps and mobility issues dealt with,” LePage said.

For years, the cost of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, often called by its brand name Narcan, has been relatively low, a few dollars a vial. Recently, prices have soared. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other members of congress are demanding to know why.

Naloxone is made by several manufacturers but that hasn’t kept a lid on pricing. For example: one auto-inject version of the drug has gone from $575 for two-doses to more than $3,500. Even a generic version used by hospitals went from $1.84 a vial to $31.66 a vial last year. Collins says she is baffled at the price hikes.

A new study finds that people of French-Canadian descent are more likely to have a genetic disease called Familial Chylomicronemia Syndrome, or FCS. This disease puts them at greater risk for acute pancreatitis – a painful, sometimes fatal condition. Researchers say the study shows the need for more and better screening – and effective treatment.

Yasmeen / Flickr/Creative Commons

The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved an overhaul on food nutrition labels. Among the changes is a requirement to include the amount of added sugar in products.

Dr. Tory Rogers of Let’s Go, a childhood obesity prevention program, says that information will be a huge help for consumers.

“The added sugar is one of the biggest issues people have right now when consuming food, and that has a lot of negative health consequences,” she says.

Caroline Losneck / MPBN

The city-run India Street Health Center in Portland will be managed by a private, nonprofit health center by July of next year. Portland city councilors approved a city budget Monday night that draws to a close a contentious debate about the fate of the longstanding clinic.

By David Sharp, The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine - Aetna plans to offer individual plans in part of Maine on the Affordable Care Act's health exchanges, bringing more competition to the market.

A filing with the state indicates Aetna will join Community Health Options, Harvard Pilgrim and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in offering individual plans in the new year. Aetna already offered individual plans but they were outside the health insurance exchanges.

Patty Wight / MPBN

In April, families across the U.S. traveled to Maryland to urge a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee to support a landmark drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Insurance carriers that offer health plans on Maine’s online marketplace are proposing double digit rate increases for 2017.

About 84,000 Mainers bought plans on the marketplace last year. But the news is not necessarily all bad for consumers.

Four carriers: Anthem, Aetna, Harvard Pilgrim and Community Health Options want premium increases that range from about 14 to 22 percent. Mike Gendreau of Community Health Options says the proposed rates are a change for the insurance co-op.

Mainers who planned ahead and bought insurance to cover the cost of end-of-life care are seeing premiums that held steady for years suddenly skyrocket.

Now some policyholders of long-term care insurance are reducing their benefits to afford the cost of their plans or forfeiting them altogether. Maine’s insurance superintendent is looking for ways to offer plans that are affordable for both insurance companies and consumers.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is on the cusp of expanding efforts to respond to the problem of lead poisoning.

It’s a welcome development for some who criticized DHHS earlier this year for failing to act more quickly in connection with a new state law that tightened lead poisoning standards and allocated $1 million toward implementation. There are also concerns about lead in drinking fountains in Bangor Schools.

Mal Leary / MPBN

A task force led by U.S. Attorney Tom Delahanty, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and Public Safety Commissioner John Morris is calling for more money, better coordination, and an increase in medication-assisted drug treatment to address Maine’s opioid epidemic.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The City Council in Maine's capital city has adopted an emergency bedbug ordinance to give officials rules they say are needed to fight infestations of bedbugs.

The emergency rules take effect immediately and will be in place for 60 days. A bedbug infestation at a pair of boarding houses prompted city officials to propose emergency rules about the biting bugs.

The ordinance gives landlords responsibility for having a pest control agent treat bedbug infestations.