health care

The State Senate easily defeated a proposed budget amendment that would expand Medicaid Services in the state by a vote of 21 to 9.  Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss says it’s a chance to bring health care to over 17 thousand people in the state.  Senate Health and Labor Chairman Charles Scott continued his opposition to Medicaid expansion by saying that it will encourage people to over utilize health care.  Rothfuss says his proposal actually would address that.

Wyoming Democratic Party leaders have criticized Governor Matt Mead for opposing a full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. There are over 17,000 low-income adults in the state and State Democratic Party Chairman Pete Gosar says it's not right to oppose the expansion, since Mead isn’t proposing another option.

At a press conference last week, Mead said that on that count, Gosar is right.

No action taken on Medicaid proposals

Nov 6, 2013

The Legislature’s Joint Health and Labor Committee took no action on three bills that would address expanding Medicaid Services in the state. 

The committee will vote on the legislation in January, although a pilot project that would provide Medicaid expansion on the Wind River Reservation was assigned to another committee that deals with Native American issues.  

Despite the supposedly high-tech new health insurance marketplaces, it turns out the best way to sign up is in person.

Enroll Wyoming is trying to help people do that. Dialing 2-1-1 will get you to a referral line with information about where to enroll. 

But if you’re calling to try and get help navigating the federal website, you’re out of luck, according to Sara Loken, who works for 2-1-1.

Oklahoma Policy Institute

Starting October first, Wyomingites will be able to go online and shop for medical insurance coverage from the participating providers in the state’s insurance marketplace.

Under the healthcare marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act, Wyomingites will be able to choose from about 16 plans, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The average premium for the cheapest, medium-coverage plan will be $489 per month. That’s the most expensive in the country.

Study looks at obesity in pregnant women

Sep 18, 2013

A University of Wyoming researcher has received one-point-five million dollars from the National Institutes of Health to study obesity in pregnant women. 

The N-I-H says 30 percent of women are overweight or obese when they conceive and remain so throughout pregnancy.  The belief is this impacts their children and grandchildren.  U-W Researcher Steven Ford runs the U-W Center for the Study of Fetal Programming.  He says this could have long term health ramifications.          

okpolicy.org

To comply with the Affordable Care Act, Wyoming lawmakers still have to determine whether they want to provide more health insurance to people who cannot afford it, and what such a plan would look like. 
 

The legislature soundly defeated a proposal to expand the current Medicaid program, so the Wyoming Department of Health has pitched a new proposal where people could purchase a scaled-down version of Medicaid Insurance. 
 

Department Director Tom Forslund said that users would have to participate like consumers who have private insurance.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Housing Authority has received a $1.1 million Indian Community Development Block Grant. The competitive grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Grant administrator for the Northern Arapaho tribe, Patrick Goggles, says the money will be used for upgrades to the Fort Washakie Health Center on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“It’ll expand the number of patient rooms and it’ll expand the amount of healthcare that it dispenses to the clientele on the reservation,” says Goggles.

The Wyoming Department of Health has come up with a plan meant to increase the number of people who can receive services because of developmental disabilities.


The department’s Chris Newman says they currently provide extensive services, including around-the-clock care, for many individuals. But the waiting list to get those services is long. Now, they want to start providing a more limited array of services to people with less acute cases.

Transparency is key for hospitals, doctor says

Jul 2, 2013

A doctor who will be speaking at the Renaissance Weekend in Jackson this week says transparency at hospitals can lead to better healthcare for patients. Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and author of Unaccountable, a book about hospital transparency, says the lack of transparency at many hospitals stems from both data and historical attitudes. 

St. John's Medical Center

More than 90 people gathered this week at the Teton County Library in Jackson to hear St. John's Medical Center CEO Dr. Lou Hochheiser explain health care reform.

Hochheiser told the crowd that as part of health care reform the federal government would be cutting what it pays hospitals to treat Medicaid and Medicare patients by five-to-25 percent. He said the goal is to use some of those savings to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage... essentially, paying less per patient in order to cover more people.

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

The University of Wyoming’s Fay Whitney School of Nursing has been chosen to participate in a $3 million initiative aimed at transforming nursing education.  The initiative is called the Future of Nursing State Implementation Program.  UW School of Nursing Dean Mary Burman says the effort is intended to address issues that include health care access, quality and cost.  Burman says in Wyoming, they will look at three key issues.

Flu season is starting earlier than usual in Wyoming. Department of Health Spokeswoman Kim Deti says February and March are usually the peak times for the illness, and it’s not clear why the season is starting early.

Deti says everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot. She says the vaccines are not guaranteed to prevent getting the flu, but they’re the best protection available.

The Wyoming Department of Health is looking for medical professionals to volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps.

The Health Department’s Angelyn Mayes says Medical Reserve Corps volunteers do a variety of things to help local emergency responders: “A lot of them are used for fire rehab for the firefighters. We have some that assist with mental health for emergencies, when there are a lot of people that have some mental health issues from trauma or different things like that.”

A federal health official has high hopes that a health insurance exchange will help people get affordable health care insurance, even in Wyoming.  An exchange is an on-line marketplace where people can compare policies and costs. 

Mike Fierberg with the U-S Department of Health’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services notes that many worried that a similar effort, known as the Medicare Part D prescription drug program would suffer from a lack of competition.  He says that certainly has not been the case.

Host Intro: Healthcare experts gathered in Jackson this week to spell out what the Supreme Court ruling about the Affordable Care Act could mean for patients in Wyoming. Rebecca Huntington has more...

REBECCA HUNTINGTON: About a hundred people attended the talk, which was held in a classroom at St. John's Medical Center.

Earlier this year the Wyoming legislature told the State Department of Health to study the rising costs of Medicaid and determine if the program can be changed.  

This week the Department will begin a series of meetings to see if members of the public have ideas on how the program can be both more efficient and improved.  Medicaid pays for the health care of low income people and those with disabilities.  Health Department Spokeswoman Kim Deti  says this is not just about trimming the budget.         

      Wyoming U-S Senator John Barrasso continues to hope that the U-S Supreme Court will toss out the entire Affordable Care Act and force Congress to develop a new health care overhaul.  

If that happened, some popular programs– including the ability for children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26 – would go away.  During an appearance on FOX News, Barrasso said that would be part of any new legislation.

Earlier this month the state legislature ended funding for an experimental program called Healthy Frontiers, it was Wyoming’s latest effort to save the state health care money.  The idea was also supposed to reduce costs to Wyoming’s Medicaid program and reduce the numbers of those who drive up costs by depending on the more expensive emergency room to cover their health care needs.  Some say Wyoming’s problems will be solved by the federal health reform plan known as the Affordable Care Act, but the future of that plan is unknown.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports.

Wyoming lawmakers are sitting on pins and needles as the Supreme Court takes up the health care law this week. Democrats passed the law, and Republicans despise it and are resting their political fortunes on overturning it.

Health Insurance exchange to be discussed

Mar 20, 2012

    A Wyoming Business Organization is hosting a forum next week about a state Health Insurance Exchange.  A health insurance exchange is an on-line marketplace where people can more easily purchase and compare health insurance coverage.  Anne  Ladd of the Wyoming Business Coalition on Health says her organization favors a health insurance exchange because it addresses rising costs for employers.  Ladd says the concept allows budgeting.

A state run health care pilot project continues to struggle to get participants, and Governor Matt Mead recently wonders about its future. 

The Healthy Frontiers project helps low income people who don’t qualify for government assistance programs to get health careand gets people access to a doctor which is paid for by a health care savings account.  Governor Mead says a number of people have signed up for the program, only to drop out.

Officials at Sheridan Memorial Hospital have been notified that the hospital could be downgraded from a tier one hospital to tier two by the Wyoming School Board Association Insurance Trust otherwise known as WSBAIT. The rating does not reflect the level of service provided by Sheridan Memorial, but rather reflects that educators covered by WSBAIT will now have to pay more out of pocket for services at the hospital than to hospitals rated tier one by the trust.

A jury in Cheyenne handed down the largest medical malpractice verdict in Wyoming history.  The case centered on Louis Prager, who was rushed to the emergency room after an auto accident in 2008.  The doctor, Brian Cullison, failed to diagnose his broken neck.  As a result,  Prager’s left shoulder remains paralyzed;  he’s unable to work;  and he’s in constant pain.

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