News From Around the Northwest

Legacy Health Systems is being fined $5 million — the largest civil fine ever imposed by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

But Legacy said it’s fighting the penalty.

The fine comes after employees complained about being forced to skip meals and break times at Legacy's Meridian Park, Mount Hood Medical Center and Good Samaritan hospitals.

The American Dental Association issued new guidelines for prescribing opioids Monday. Dentists in Oregon say they’ll be adopting them as soon as possible. 

Oregonians need better information about health care costs, according to a new report from the consumer watchdog group OSPIRG.

The report says opaque health care prices mean Oregonians are both paying more and have less ability to make informed decisions.

“Most of us wouldn’t even buy a toaster without knowing how much it costs," said OSPIRG policy director Jesse O’Brien. "But you might be in a position where you have to buy a new knee, or some other very expensive procedure, without any clue what your bill is going to be and we think that’s frankly unjust.”

The Oregon Health Authority is asking the public to say what it likes, dislikes and wants to change about the state’s 15 coordinated care organizations.

The CCOs were set up in 2012. But their contracts run out at the end of next year, and the state wants to know how they should change.

Should mental and physical health be better coordinated? Is there inequity in the system?

The survey is online until April 15.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Tuesday to rein in prescription drug prices.

Under Oregon’s new law, drug manufacturers who increase the price of a prescription drug by 10 percent or more must inform the state of its research and development costs, along with its marketing costs, profits and the cost of the drug overseas.

“Every Oregonian should be able to access the medications and treatments that allow them to live healthy, productive lives,” Brown said.

Senate Democrats are questioning the Trump Administration’s authority to allow states to run Medicaid programs that penalize users.

The Trump Administration released guidance last week, saying states could require Medicaid recipients to work. It said states could do other things like put lifetime caps on Medicaid benefits and impose mandatory drug testing.

Oregon State University is holding mass vaccination clinics at its Corvallis campus to deal with a Meningococcal disease outbreak.

The clinics are part of an attempt by the university to control the spread of the disease, which has so far infected six students since November.

"We believe our students’ public health is very, very essential," said Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing for OSU.

The disease is a serious, potentially fatal infection that can cause meningitis or a serious blood infection.

A backlog of outdated air pollution permits is endangering public health and frustrating business owners, according to a newly released audit by the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

About 40 percent of air quality permits for major industrial sources of pollution are overdue for renewal by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, according to the audit. Oregon is also behind on timely inspections for air quality permits, but it doesn’t know by how much: the agency has no system to track when facilities are due for inspection, according to the audit.

Eighty people who were homeless in Multnomah County died in 2016, according to a report released Thursday.

That's similar to the number of deaths of homeless people the county recorded in 2015: 88, the highest number since the record-keeping began.  

The report is titled “Domicile Unknown,” after the box the medical examiner marks on paperwork to indicate a person was homeless.

The report highlights the dramatically lower life expectancy of people who live on the street. 

The Oregon Health Authority is pushing back release of a public health assessment on airborne hazards in the vicinity of the southeast Portland production headquarters of Bullseye Glass.

The assessment, scheduled for release this month, was delayed as the company’s attorneys prepared to file a $30 million lawsuit against Oregon.

A Dec. 8 letter from the Oregon Health Authority to community partners notified them that the key health report, promised for early- to mid-December, would be pushed back for a “significant extension” until sometime in 2018.

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.”

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.

On Wednesday, as smoke blotted out the sun across the city of Portland, about a dozen people were hiding out from the smoky heat in the air conditioned Hollywood Senior Center – one of the county's designated cooling centers for those needing relief on the hottest days of the year.

Wearing an electronic air filter around her neck, Jennifer Young, who works at the center, flipped on the larger, high-efficiency particulate  filter she brought from home to purify her work-space air.

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.

 

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.”

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.

The state’s health authority has delivered on a request from Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes. Many tribal members say they need help finding health care.

Under federal law, many American Indians and Alaska Natives receive Medicaid without having to choose a network provider.

In practical terms says Erin Fair-Taylor with CareOregon, it means Oregon has about 17,000 people who sometimes have difficulty finding health services.

Fair-Taylor says CareOregon will help better connect them with their tribes' clinics and other health systems.

Counties with the highest opioid prescription levels in the U.S. tend to have small cities and a higher percentage of white residents. They also have a high unemployment rate, more doctors and more people living with arthritis and disabilities.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in Oregon, that translated to eastern counties like Union and Wallowa, and southwestern counties like Lane, Douglas and Jackson.

Head of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, said many doctors still prescribe too many pills, for too long at a high dosage.

Oregon Democratic lawmakers are rushing to set up a potential special election in January that could decide the fate of a $550 million tax on the health care industry. They say this middle-of-winter election might be necessary to ensure that thousands of low-income Oregonians don’t lose their medical coverage.

But Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and some GOP legislators say that the Democrats are trying to tilt this potential vote in their favor. 

A pair of bills aimed at helping people struggling with mental health have passed out of the Oregon Senate.

House Bill 3090 would make hospital emergency room employees draw up discharge plans for mental health patients, even if they haven’t been admitted. And House Bill 3091 would force health insurance companies to cover behavioral health checks.

Kevin Fitts, an advocate who’s suffered dozens of mental health crises said it’s not unusual to spend hours being assessed in the ER, only to be released without treatment or follow up.

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