Health

The first numbers on enrollment under the new health care law confirm a slow start and mixed results in Northwest states.

Stethescope, Health Care, Doctor, Medical
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Just 338 people have selected health coverage via Idaho's insurance exchange during its glitch-plagued first month.

Your Health Idaho's enrollee figures were released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also gave statistics for the nation's other exchanges.

In total, 106,185 people in the United States have selected plans.

President Obama's administration has predicted about 7 million people will get coverage via exchanges in 2014, with Idaho accounting for 40,000 of that figure.

In an effort to stop a spate of gonorrhea outbreaks, at least one public health department in the Pacific Northwest is offering a helpful service to infected patients: anonymous notification of former sexual partners.

That's right. A government worker will track down and contact each ex for you. Awkward for all concerned? Yes. But at a time when gonorrhea is becoming stubbornly drug-resistant, health officials see it as time — and embarrassment — well spent.

Board members of the Idaho health insurance exchange said Tuesday that they will keep secret the findings of a $15,000 taxpayer-funded investigation into how one of its own members won a lucrative no-bid contract.

Your Health Idaho board chairman Stephen Weeg said the two-week-long review by a private lawyer uncovered "lapses in judgment," though nothing illegal. Exchange executive director Amy Dowd last month awarded a technology contract worth up to $375,000 to board member Frank Chan, who quit the same day the contract was announced.

Public health officials say recent measles cases in the Northwest highlight the need to be vaccinated against the infection.

tanakawho / Flickr Creative Commons

Less than 30 percent of Idaho kids get developmental screenings recommended by doctors. That’s according to a report out this week from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids get screened for developmental problems at nine-months-old, 18-to-24 months and at 30 months.

Perry Brown, pediatric education director at the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho says those screenings are questionnaires doctors give to parents. Brown leafs through a file and pulls one out for parents of a 24-month-old.

medical stock, scale, healthcare
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Because the federal heath insurance exchange website has been plagued by troubles including outages, the head of Idaho's marketplace says the state is stepping up to make it easier for people to sign up for health insurance.

Amy Dowd leads Your Health Idaho, the state’s health insurance exchange. Until next year, Idaho is using the federal portal to sign up consumers online.

medical image
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A southwestern Idaho school district is building an in-school medical clinic at Meridian's poorest elementary school in an effort to boost student health and reduce absenteeism.

Meridian School District Superintendent Linda Clark told the Idaho Statesman that the clinic will be the first in-school clinic in Idaho.

A lawyer hired to review how Idaho insurance exchange leaders awarded a no-bid, $375,000 contract to a board member says he'll be finished within a week.

Fred Mack, a corporate governance specialist at a Boise law firm, said Wednesday the bill for his investigation of the contract between Your Health Idaho director Amy Dowd and former board member Frank Chan won't exceed $15,000.

Last week, Chan canceled his contract to manage a big exchange technology project.

Butch Otter, state of the state
Aaron Kunz / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wants the requirement for everybody to have insurance by 2014 delayed 12 months amid glitches in Internet health care exchanges across the nation, including Idaho.

Idaho is currently relying on federal software to enroll people in coverage via its Your Health Idaho insurance exchange.

nicoasnova / Flickr

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and 39 of his colleagues want tougher regulations for electronic cigarettes. The group hopes the federal government will act by Halloween.

The group sent a letter in September to the Food and Drug Administration. In it, the Attorneys General say e-cigarettes use nicotine, which is an addictive substance.

Drugs, substance abuse
Ed Wohlfahrt / Flickr Creative Commons

  Idaho's drug czar has launched a new campaign focused on the abuse and myths of prescription drug abuse.

Office of Drug Policy Administrator Elisha Figueroa announced the campaign Monday in coordination with the Idaho Prescription Drug Abuse Workgroup.

Together, the groups are getting behind a statewide multimedia blitz to educate teens and adults on the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

An Idaho lawmaker called it "totally inappropriate" for the state's Internet insurance exchange to award a no-bid contract worth up to $375,000 to a member of its board of directors.

Sen. Jim Rice, a Canyon County Republican who sits on Your Health Idaho's 19-member board, on Friday criticized the decision by exchange executive director Amy Dowd to give board member Frank Chan the $180 per hour contract to oversee a big technology project.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

An Idaho insurance exchange board member resigned the same day he got a contract worth up to $375,000 annually to oversee a multi-million technology project with the Internet insurance marketplace.

Frank Chan resigned from the Your Health Idaho board Wednesday.

Chan's company will get $180 hourly to oversee the exchange's technology vendors as Your Health Idaho switches from a software system provided by the federal government to a state-based system to take applications for health care coverage.

Idaho insurance exchange leaders may hike fees by as much as 75 percent within two years, according to emails indicating existing fees could be insufficient to sustain the Internet health coverage marketplace's operations.

The Your Health Idaho exchange opened last week, with the web site disrupted by heavy traffic from potential enrollees.

The exchange now charges a 1.5 percent assessment on each policy, to build operational reserves.

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