Health

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Teton County has seen a big uptick recently in cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Health officials have confirmed eight cases in the county this year, which represents one third of those in Wyoming.

Whooping cough is a bacterial disease that’s easily transmitted from person to person. Teton County Public Health Officer Travis Riddell says it’s hard to diagnose and especially dangerous for infants.

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and Wyoming’s percentage of adults with diabetes continues to cause concern.

Joe Grandpre  is the Chronic Diseases Epidemiologist at the Wyoming Department of Health. Grandpre says higher rates of diabetes in Wyoming can be attributed to the state’s rising rates of obesity, which is the leading cause of Type 2 Diabetes. He says he is also seeing more people being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at younger ages, and that will cost patients more.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the American Cancer Society has introduced new guidelines for breast cancer screening. It now recommends people get mammograms at age 45 instead of 40.

Morgan Powell is the outreach coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health’s Integrated Cancer Services. She says Wyoming recommends starting at age 50, the same as the US Preventative Services.

Still, "There are exceptions to every rule," says Powell. "If there are signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer, that absolutely makes you a priority for the program."

WINhealth To Leave Wyoming

Oct 21, 2015

The health insurance company WINhealth will be pulling out of Wyoming. 

A variety of financial difficulties including low reimbursement via the Affordable Care Act is causing the company to leave Wyoming at the end of the year. Insurance Commissioner Tom Glause says the state will take over management of the company and make sure its financial obligations are taken care of.       

“Do not panic, your claims will continue to be processed and paid and we will assist in an orderly transition of those policies to another carrier.” 

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It’s been a wet summer with lots of bugs. And all those flies and insects have led to the worst outbreak in years of a livestock virus known as vesicular stomatitis. The virus is identical to foot and mouth disease, except it can affect not only cattle but horses and other livestock. It causes sores on the animal’s mouth, ears and feet. State Veterinarian Jim Logan advises stopping the spread of the disease by limiting contact with other’s people’s livestock and with insects.

Wyoming Department of Health

State officials say this has been Wyoming’s worst year on record for human cases of the disease Tularemia, or rabbit fever. Tularemia is a bacterial disease that is passed to humans by animals, insects, untreated water, and even contaminated dust. Once you have the disease, symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, ulcers, and diarrhea.

Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti says they have not pinpointed any one factor leading to the uptick in reports.

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Planned Parenthood came under fire when videos surfaced of its employees discussing the distribution of fetal tissue for research. A bill to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood was blocked by the U.S. Senate, but some House Republicans say they will continue the effort to the defund the organization after summer recess.

Gonorrhea Cases Double

Jul 22, 2015
knowwyo.org

Wyoming health officials say they are seeing a gonorrhea outbreak. They had 61 reported cases earlier this month compared to a total of 31 last year. Half of the cases involve people in their 20’s.

The Director of the state’s communicable disease surveillance program, Courtney Smith, says the problem is that couples are not using condoms. 

Courtesy Annie E. Casey Foundation

Wyoming has improved in national child well-being rankings over the past year, but still ranks very low when it comes to child health. That’s according the Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday by the Annie. E Casey Foundation.

Wyoming saw improvements in economic well-being, education and family & community concerns—and rose from 19th to 16th place overall in the annual rankings. But the Cowboy State still ranks 45th in the nation for child health.

Wyoming's Governor and Congressional delegation have been fighting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act for years.

But with Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling ruling “Obamacare” looks stronger than ever.

Wyoming Minority Floor Leader Mary Throne of Cheyenne says that might force state legislators to finally start talking about how they could work with federal healthcare policy.

Wyoming hospitals are breathing a sigh of relief following Thursday’s United States Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling allows 20,000 Wyoming residents to keep their subsidies to purchase health insurance via the federal Marketplace.

Wyoming Hospital Association president Eric Boley says, if the ruling had gone the other way, state hospitals would have seen a dramatic uptick in uncompensated care. But Wyoming hospitals are still facing imminent financial challenges.

Wyoming’s decision to not set up a set health care marketplace could haunt it if the United States Supreme Court rules that federal marketplaces or exchanges cannot receive federal subsidies. The King vs. Burwell case could impact close to 20 thousand Wyoming residents, especially the 17 thousand who would lose subsidies to purchase insurance. 

Over 40,000 Wyomingites live in areas with limited or no access to grocery stores, according to a recent report from the Mountain States Regional Health Equity Council.

The report names areas in Platte, Goshen, Crook, Big Horn, Carbon and Fremont counties as being food “deserts:” defined as areas where fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are hard to find.

Renee Gamino is with the Wyoming AARP and is a coauthor of the report. She said even where fresh food is available, it’s often too costly for low-income residents.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer could affect health coverage for nearly 21,000 Wyoming residents. The court will decide if subsidies can be provided to low-income individuals in states that don’t have their own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming is one of more than 30 states without its own insurance marketplace.

Of the 21,000 citizens enrolled in a health care plan under the federal government run marketplace, 91% receive the premium tax credit, which on average pays for more than 70% of their monthly premiums.

EmpRes Healthcare

Washington-based EmpRes Healthcare Management has committed to a lease on Rock Spring’s troubled nursing home.

The home’s former owner, Deseret Health Group, abruptly announced its closure and cut off its access to funds last week. Nursing Home Director of Nursing Karen Muto says they got the call that EmpRes was stepping in Tuesday afternoon.

"Right away we called the staff together as well as the residents to make the announcement," she said by phone. "You could not believe how happy everyone was. Everybody was crying, they were so happy."

The State of Wyoming has delayed the transfer of residents from two troubled nursing homes after learning that two private companies are considering purchasing them. The state was contacted by the companies over the weekend.

Wyoming took over operations of nursing home facilities in Saratoga and Rock Springs after Deseret Health Group said it was promptly closing the homes due to financial difficulties. State Health Department Director Tom Forslund says they were looking to place residents of the facilities into new nursing homes. 

The Wyoming Department of Health is taking over private nursing homes in Rock Springs and Saratoga after their parent company, Deseret Health Group, abruptly announced their closure.

Laramie’s Ivinson Memorial Hospital is considering an expansion that could lead to a new Internal Medicine Building among other things. 

Hospital CEO Doug Faus said the expansion also could include the Jeannie Ray Cancer Center, parking areas, and space for University of Wyoming Medical students who are part of the WWAMI  program. The biggest priority is the Internal Medicine building. Faus says a better facility will help recruit and keep doctors.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has launched a new program to crack down on prescription drug abuse in the emergency room.

Fatal prescription drug overdoses have more than tripled in Wyoming since 1999.

The state does have a database system that allows doctors to look up the prescription history of suspicious patients, but emergency room doctors don’t always have the time to go through that process, said Cheyenne Regional Emergency Room Director Tracy Garcia

Getting doctors to move to Wyoming has long been a big problem, but maybe just borrowing them could be an alternative. A new interstate compact law could make it easier for more out-of-state doctors to practice in Wyoming by fast tracking their licensing process. The state continues to wrestle with a severe shortage of physicians that’s left many rural communities without adequate health care. Representative Sue Wilson of Cheyenne sponsored the bill and was excited to see Wyoming be the first to pass the law.

A survey of Wyoming teens finds that their use of alcohol and cigarettes is declining.

The 2014 Prevention Needs Assessment student survey provides detailed state, county, and school district data on self-reported substance use and participation in problem behaviors among Wyoming youth.

The survey was conducted for the Wyoming Department of Health by UW’s Survey and Analysis Center. Researcher Eric Canen says the information is notable. 

Even though Medicaid Expansion was killed in the State Senate last week, Wyoming’s free clinics will continue providing primary care to the so-called “working poor.”

Sarah Gorin is the Executive Director of the Downtown Clinic in Laramie, which supported the bill.

"It’s pretty disappointing because it would have benefitted our clients," she said.

While a Medicaid Expansion bill has its skeptics in the State Senate this week, a waiver to expand it for Native Americans is getting warmer reception.

The Joint Appropriations Committee has included a waiver in the state supplemental budget that would provide health care to some 3,500 low-income Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Representative Lloyd Larsen from Lander says just last year about 40,000 health care visits went uncompensated. Larsen says Wyoming has a legal obligation to pay up.

Yoga and competition are not two words people tend to put together. But in Pinedale this weekend, Wyoming will host its first regional yoga competition. 25 competitors of all ages are scheduled to demonstrate a three-minute silent routine with five poses. Darcie Peck is the event’s organizer and the owner of Wind River Yoga and Bodyworks. She says yoga competitions have been held for centuries and were especially popular in India in the 1930’s.

  

Last week, Governor Mead appointed a new commissioner at the Department of Insurance. Paul Thomas Glause was previously the vice chairman of the Wyoming Board of Equalization. Tom Hersig recently left the position to become CEO of Cheyenne Frontier Days. Looking forward, Glause says the question is whether a new Republican lawsuit will succeed in dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act, leaving states to fulfill subsidies to help pay for health insurance.  

Serglo Alvarez / Flickr

In the first weeks of December, reported cases of the flu in Wyoming nearly tripled, signaling an early spike in infection rates. Natrona and Laramie counties have seen the highest numbers of reported cases.

Another reason for concern is that since the development of this season’s flu vaccine, the strain of flu virus most commonly contracted has changed slightly. That means the vaccine is less effective than usual in preventing cases of the flu.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is recruiting internal medicine doctors after the recent closure of a busy clinic left many patients without a doctor.  Internal medicine physicians practice the general health care of adults the way pediatricians do for children.

Hospital CEO Margo Karsten says the same thing that’s a challenge in attracting good doctors to Wyoming is also what can lure people to the area.  

CDC Global / Flickr

 

 

This year’s extensive coverage of the Ebola epidemic has raised questions about the U.S healthcare system’s abilities to handle such a disease. A new report by the Trust for America’s Health shows Wyoming’s healthcare system is unprepared for a serious outbreak of that kind.

 

The study graded states in 10 areas of preparedness. Wyoming received 3 out of a possible 10 points.

Early next year, a Denver-based health organization will launch the very first telephone quit line specifically for American Indians looking to stop smoking tobacco. The service will be available in Wyoming and several other states. 

National Jewish Health in Denver has been operating successful telephone quitlines for more than a decade. But with quit rates flat-lining, the group has decided to target a specific demographic with its American Indian Commercial Tobacco Program.

A proposed measure in Wyoming’s legislature would give terminally ill patients access to drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Patients would be able to access drugs and devices that have already successfully completed clinical trials and shown promise to be effective, but are not yet approved by the FDA. The drug’s manufacturer would then work with patients and doctors to provide the experimental drug.Republican State Senator Bruce Burns is sponsoring the bill. He says this bill could offer hope to patients who have run out of options.

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