Oregon Public Broadcasting

Trauma Among Foster Kids Leads To Health Issues In Later Life

People who experience trauma and end up in foster care are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions later in life, according to a new study.

Researcher Keri Vartanian, with the Providence Center for Outcomes Research and Education, said the fact that foster kids experience trauma isn’t surprising.

“What we found surprising was the extreme prevalence of trauma in this population," she said. "Every single measure of adversity that we looked at in childhood was significantly more prevalent in the foster care population.”

Vartanian's study found half of the kids who were in foster care at some point reported physical, verbal or sexual abuse. They also reported being far from prepared to live on their own afterwards.

The study also found they were more likely to experience poor physical health, mental illness, food insecurity and housing problems.

A spokeswoman with Oregon's Child Welfare office said the report does not include date from children currently in foster care, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment.

The Portland area coordinated care organization Health Share commissioned the report, saying it’s trying to improve care for people who’ve been through the foster care system.

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Referendum Could Put Healthcare Of 350K Oregonians In Jeopardy, Group Says

Opponents of a recent Oregon bill to fund healthcare through a new tax submitted signatures Thursday to get a referendum against the tax on the ballot.

The group of Republican lawmakers opposing the tax submitted many more than the need 58,789 signatures to put Referendum 301 on the ballot.

It’ll be a while before the state has verified the signatures, but even supporters of the tax believe the referendum will make it to the ballot.

“We’re expecting that signatures will be filed [Thursday],” said Meg Niemi, president of SEIU Local 49, which wants to see the funding continue. “We would see it as a victory if they weren’t. But we are expecting that signatures will be filed to qualify Referendum 301.”

A referendum would give Oregon voters the chance to vote on the healthcare funding bill passed by lawmakers early this year. House Bill 2391 was designed to maintain insurance for more than 350,000 low-income people.

The bill generates the money to pay for expanded Medicaid coverage in Oregon by imposing a $670 million tax on health insurers and providers, many of whom supported the idea in the Legislature.

The tax would also fill a large portion of the state’s 2017-19 budget hole. Opponents of the bill say it will increase health care costs in the state.

Karen Escobar is a Medicaid recipient from The Dalles. She has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. At a rally in Portland Thursday, she said without medication she’s suicidal and can’t even boil water, because she forgets what she's doing.

“The doctors prescribe medication, Medicaid pays for it. And I’m able to live on my own," she said. "Without that, I don’t know where I’d be."

Escobar is hopeful that people will vote in favor of keeping the funding package.

West Linn Republican Rep. Julie Parrish launched the statewide effort to derail the tax soon after H.B. 2391 passed.

She said voters deserve the right to decide whether to shift costs for “a failing program.” Parrish also said she doesn’t like the idea of hard-wiring health care taxes into the law.

At this point the referendum wouldn’t mean all the taxes raised by H.B. 2391 would end, but about $330 million is on the line. If the referendum does get to voters, it’s not easy to understand. For example here’s the title as it stands:

“Provides funds currently budgeted to pay for healthcare for low income individuals and families and for stabilizing health insurance premiums, using temporary assessments on insurance companies, some hospitals and other providers of health insurance or health care coverage.”

A "yes" vote would approve the tax. A "no" vote would save money, but put the health insurance of 350,000 Oregonians in jeopardy, according to the tax supporters.

“They absolutely could be kicked off completely,” said Patty Wentz with the health care coalition.

“We’ve done it in the past. There’s no reason to think we wouldn’t do it again. Oregon used to have a health care lottery where we would draw names to determine who would have health care," Wentz said. "There’s no reason to think we wouldn’t go back to that if we didn’t have the funding.”

If Parrish’s signature gathering is successful, H.B. 2391 would automatically go on hold until a vote in January 2018.

The Legislature pulled the vote to January, instead of November 2018, because the earlier ballot gives lawmakers a chance to react in the February session if necessary.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the number of valid signatures needed to qualify Referendum 301 for the ballot.

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Oregon's Transgender Population Reacts To Trump's Military Ban

Oregon’s transgender population is reacting Wednesday to news that President Donald Trump will ban them from serving in the U.S. military.

Basic Rights Oregon calls the move disgraceful. 

"Thousands of patriotic transgender Americans already serve in our military and are putting their lives on the line to keep us safe and defend our American values,” Executive Director Nancy Haque said.

“There is no place for discrimination in our military," she said.  "Discharging talented service members simply because of their gender identity is wrong.”

There are an estimated 15,500 transgender people actively serving in the military, according to the Williams Institute.

 

But like any group, there’s more than one point of view.

Jamie Shupe is non-binary — that is neither male nor female.

Shupe served as a U.S. Army tank mechanic for 18 years, in locations all over the world including Kuwait, Bosnia and Germany. 

Shupe says including transgender people in the military was doomed to fail because it’s unfair — for example, if a male Navy Seal transitions to female, they would become the first female Navy Seal in history.

Shupe says it also puts the military on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in transition costs per person and would take a lot of time out of deployments.

“They’re never going to respect somebody who’s off getting a genital surgery while they’re sitting in a bunker in Afghanistan. It breaks down cohesion, it’s not fair,” Shupe said.

Trump wrote on Twitter that the military must be focused on overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with disruptions. “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs issued a statement saying it honors the contributions of all those who have served and continue to serve in the military, regardless of gender identity.

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Report: OHSU Scientist 1st In US To Modify Human Genes With CRISPR

A researcher at Oregon Health and Science University has reportedly become the first in the United States to genetically modify a human embryo, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review. 

The report, published Wedesday, says OHSU researcher Shoukhrat Mitalipov successfully used the gene editing technology CRISPR to alter human DNA in single-cell embryos.

OPB was not immediately able to independently confirm the breakthrough. But Mitalipov's research, if it passes peer review, would be a significant step for American scientists.

 

"To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China," freelance journalist Steve Connor wrote, outlining the stakes of the research. "Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases."

Successfully altering genes in embryos could theoretically allow scientists to cures diseases, including cancer.

But critics of the CRISPR technology say it could open the door to the world of designer babies — where parents can select for specific traits in their child.

According to the Technology Review, past efforts by U.S. scientists to use CRISPR have been inconsistent and resulted in "editing errors" that gave weight to arguments the technique "would be an unsafe way to create a person."

For now, federal regulations have banned allowing a genetically-modified human embryo to develop into a baby.

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How Much Do Health Procedures Cost In Oregon? Depends Where You Live

The Oregon Health Authority just released its second review of hospital pricing and there are some big differences.

During 2015, the cost of a typical child delivery at St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City was $4,000. But that same delivery at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend was more than $11,000.

So in theory, a patient could have had their baby in Baker City and then driven home in a new $7,000 car.

Stephen Ranzoni with the Oregon Health Authority doesn’t think the study gives consumers more bargaining power. But, he said, it provides useful information.

 

“So that everyone across the board, hospitals, policy makers, insurance companies, can have tangible objective data … to talk about this type of thing," Ranzoni said, "about prices and reimbursement and what is right and what is fair.”

For common outpatient procedures, heart electrophysiology studies had the highest average cost: $37,000. For inpatient procedures, the highest average cost was for a heart valve replacement surgery: $85,000.

The procedure that saw the highest price increase in 2015 was a coronary bypass surgery. It rose by $8,700. Inpatient care accounts for as much as 30 percent of health care spending in Oregon, according to the latest figures.

Hospitals negotiate their prices with insurance providers, but prices can also depend on a number of factors like location.

Hospitals located where there’s a higher cost of living tend to pay higher salaries, leases and utility costs.

But that doesn't mean hospitals in larger cities always charge more, according to the report. Sometimes they can charge less for a procedure because they can make up the cost difference in volume.

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