Health

Idaho's 2013 Medicaid Rolls At Highest Level Yet

Feb 6, 2014
Medicaid
Data: Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders

The number of low-income Idahoans on Medicaid increased 3.5 percent in 2013, a figure the Idaho Department of  Health and Welfare says marks a slow-down in growth of the program.

On average, 236,352 Idahoans were signed up for Medicaid each month of 2013. That's the highest average monthly enrollment the state has ever recorded.

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

A federal judge says a Boise-area hospital violated federal antitrust laws when it purchased Idaho's largest independent physicians' practice.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill made the ruling Friday, ordering St. Luke's Health System to undo its buyout of the Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group.

Idaho insurance exchange officials don't know if the 20,000 people signed up for coverage effective Jan. 1 come from the ranks of the uninsured, or if they previously had insurance but switched to exchange policies because they're now eligible for financial assistance.

Your Health Idaho board chairman Stephen Weeg and director Amy Dowd gave their first report to the Idaho Legislature yesterday.

Afterward, Weeg and Dowd acknowledged nobody is collecting that information about those getting coverage.

Public health officials in the Northwest say a series of gonorrhea outbreaks shows little sign of letting up. In fact, in some places, rates of the STD may be getting worse.

Idaho health insurance exchange officials say 19,922 people have bought insurance plans from the newly-created online marketplace. Nearly a third of those who purchased policies are between 55-and 64-years old. YourHealthIdaho.org is the portal Idaho set up to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Enrollment in Idaho's insurance exchange has blossomed after the federal government fixed the website that residents use to sign up for health insurance coverage.

Roughly 20,000 people signed up for individual and family coverage in time for it to begin Jan. 1.

That's up from 1,730 people who purchased coverage available via Your Health Idaho through Nov. 30.

The new total was announced Friday by Your Health Idaho spokeswoman Jody Olson.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Washington, Oregon and Idaho are among 25 states now facing widespread cases of the flu.

emergency room, hospital
Chealion / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study has found that previously uninsured people who were given health coverage through Medicaid used the emergency room 40 percent more than others who weren't able to join the program.

The findings were published Thursday by the journal Science. They suggest that hospitals and health officials around the nation need to be prepared for an increase in emergency room trips as millions of Americans gain insurance this week under the federal health care law, many of them through Medicaid.

The deadly side of the flu emerged in Idaho this week, with an adult over 60 becoming the first person to die this season after being infected with the virus.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare made the announcement on Monday.

Every year, influenza contributes to the deaths of 36,000 people in the United States and causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations.

Idaho's share of the tragedy last flu season amounted to 35 people.

The dominant strain of flu being detected is a strain that first began circulating in 2009.

An annual report from the Idaho Supreme Court shows that the state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of involuntary commitment cases filed for people with mental illness.

Idaho's insurance exchange will begin paid marketing around Dec. 20, a delay of more than a month.

Still, don't expect to see Your Health Idaho television advertising over Christmas.

Consultants told the exchange's board Thursday holiday TV spots were too expensive, so this initial "bridge" marketing will concentrate instead on radio, Internet and newspapers.

The exchange's $3 million-plus ad campaign has been pushed back due to software problems since Oct. 1.

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

While the number of Idahoans who've signed up for subsidized health plans through the state's insurance exchange increased in November, enrollment hasn't made much of a dent in the number of uninsured people in Idaho.

“The number of individuals who have selected a marketplace plan and are considered enrolled through the process is 1,730 as of November 30,” says insurance exchange director Amy Dowd.

That's a big jump from the 338 people who signed up for a plan in October, the first month the online marketplace was available to consumers.

medical, stethoscope
Jasleen_Kaur / Flickr Creative Commons

Enrollment in Idaho's insurance exchange accelerated in November as the federal government raced to fix software problems that had hampered operations during the first month.

In all, 1,730 people have purchased health care plans available through YourHealthIdaho.org through Nov. 30.

The figure, announced Wednesday, was about five times the 338 people who managed to select plans during the exchange's first month.

The numbers in Idaho are similar to the national trend.

LeonardoRodriguez / Flickr Creative Commons

Bannock County commissioners have decided to include electronic cigarettes in the smoking ban in county buildings.

The Idaho State Journal reports commissioners unanimously approved the resolution Wednesday.

Commissioner Howard Manwaring says they received some complaints about the use of e-cigarettes in county facilities. He says their use is still perceived as smoking and they do have some odor.

Manwaring says no one spoke against the resolution during the public hearing before Wednesday's vote.

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration report says the Idaho State Department of Agriculture detected abnormalities in yogurt at a Chobani facility two months before the company issued a recall, but state officials say that's not true.

Chobani told grocery stores in late August to destroy 35 varieties of yogurt reported to have been contaminated by a mold associated with dairy products. More than 300 people reported getting sick after eating Greek yogurt produced in Twin Falls.

telephone, buttons, hotline
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Since the end of October, Idaho's Suicide Prevention hotline has fielded more than 800 calls. Now, the year-old hotline is expanding its hours of operation and may soon receive national accreditation.

The suicide prevention hotline continues to see an upward trend in the number of people calling for support. Currently, volunteers from Idaho answer the phone from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Outside those hours, all calls to 1-800-273-TALK are answered by people out of state.

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

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is telling Idaho health insurance companies it's up to them whether they want to extend canceled policies.

Last month, millions of people around the country and in Idaho got notices cancelling their insurance policies. Insurance companies said those plans had to be dropped, because they did not comply with new standards under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Amy Dowd
Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Since Idaho’s health insurance exchange launched on October 1, just 7 percent of applicants chose to enroll for subsidized coverage. Amy Dowd is at the helm of operating Idaho's marketplace, and she's pleased with enrollment in the first month.

Three versions of a synthetic hallucinogenic drug appear bound for Idaho's list of illegal substances after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration placed them on the same list as marijuana, heroin and LSD.

The federal drug agency made the announcement on Tuesday for drugs known by their street names that include 25i, Smiles, and N-Bomb.

For substances declared by the federal government as among the most dangerous drugs, Idaho law requires the Idaho State Board of Pharmacy to control the substance after 30 days — unless state regulators find reason to object.

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

An Idaho business group urged Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to study how Arkansas won permission from Washington, D.C., to use federal Medicaid funding to help poor people buy private insurance.

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry sent Otter a letter Friday, calling Arkansas' program a "market solution" that was of great interest to members that include hospitals St. Luke's Health System and Saint Alphonsus Health System.

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