News From Around the Northwest

Oregon has adopted new federal standards for the prescribing of opioids.

More people die from drug overdoses every year in Oregon than in car crashes.  And 43 percent of those overdose deaths are associated with opioids prescribed by a doctor.

State epidemiologist Dr. Katrina Hedberg said doctors and the public need to be educated on using fewer opioids, for shorter periods of time.

“It is not that we want people to be in pain. It is that we have one tool and there need to be a variety of tools that are used to address chronic pain."

If voters approve in November, a 3% city tax would apply to recreational pot sales

Beaverton’s marijuana smokers may soon have to pony up a little more green for their green.

FIRST IN A SERIES

SALEM — Businesses, special interest groups and governments have increasingly invested in lobbying Oregon lawmakers and other state officials over the last nine years. And based on spending data from the state, those groups appear to have concluded lobbying is a good investment: reported annual spending on lobbying increased 15 percent from 2007 to 2015, when adjusted for inflation.

Union-backed group passes 88,184 needed to qualify for vote

SALEM-The union-backed Our Oregon has surpassed the threshold for signatures required to place a corporate sales tax measure on November’s ballot.

The campaign has collected 130,000 signatures and plans to submit the last batch to the Oregon secretary of state’s office Friday, May 20, for verification, said Our Oregon spokeswoman Katherine Driessen.

Only 88,184 signatures are required to place the measure on the ballot.

Oregon hospitals have joined together to say they’ll provide patients with an estimate for services within three business days.

Getting a hospital estimate may not seem like a big deal. But hospital prices are notoriously hard to pin down, and they vary widely.

For example, a recent study on hip replacements in Oregon found prices 20 times higher in one hospital than another.

Health insurance premiums in Oregon are lower than the national average, according to new numbers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — but that may not last.

Some Oregonians were shocked last week when health insurance companies like Moda and Providence asked for rate increases of about 30 percent for next year for the individual marketplace.

But Kathy Hempstead with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the companies are just catching-up with national pricing.

New premium requests from insurers spell trouble for Oregonians

Oregonians who buy their own health insurance face a second straight year of hefty premium hikes that could boost coverage costs by nearly a third.

Insurers want to boost premiums by 15 percent to 32 percent next year, according to a summary of rate requests submitted recently to the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Scientists at the Knight Cancer Institute are looking for 10,000-15,000 older women from Oregon and Southwest Washington for a study on heart disease and blood cancer.

Over the last few years, it’s become clear that as people age, they accumulate mutations in their blood. It’s not surprising perhaps that those mutations can cause blood cancers. But what scientists are surprised by, is that those mutations look like they can also cause heart disease.

The decisions surrounding pregnancy and birth are some of the most important decisions women make in their lifetime, and can set a precedent for the health and well-being of themselves and their families. Women often attempt to balance their own personal beliefs and values with pressure from doctors and family members who may have more experience or education. This attempt at balance can easily turn into compromise. Compromising one’s own needs can lead to an uncomfortable or unsatisfying birth experience, which is difficult to recover from both physically and mentally.

A new study led by Portland State University finds that oysters in Coos and Netarts bays contain a cocktail of potentially harmful chemicals. But the state says it’s seen much of the data before and a health advisory is unnecessary. 

The Oregon Health Authority says the state knew about PCBs, mercury and pesticides in seafood. But what is new are all the pharmaceuticals, like pain relievers, antibiotics and antihistamines.

The new findings caused the state to issue an advisory saying how many oysters you’d have to eat to get one dose of each pharmaceutical.

In the small universe that is health insurance, 2017 may turn out to be pretty nice for the men and women who predict how much insurers have to pay out in claims.

“Actuaries across the country will be able to sleep better at night for 2017,” John Bertko, chief actuary for Covered California, said.

The revenue department collects $6.84 million in January, February

Oregon’s Department of Revenue unwittingly marked unofficial “Weed Day” April 20 by announcing another better-than-predicted return in recreational marijuana revenue.

The state collected $6.84 million in taxes from sales of recreational pot in January and February — the first two months since a 25 percent tax on the product took effect. Tax collections exceeded state economists’ projection of $2 million to $3 million for the first year of taxation on the product.

More than 120 people who care for Alzheimer’s patients held a conference in Wilsonville Wednesday. They learned the first thing families should do when a loved one gets dementia.

Lawyers and caregivers alike said putting someone’s financial details in order is paramount — even before finding a care facility or deciding which family member will look after someone.

Susie Sample said her mother moved in with a stranger before the family fully understood how vulnerable she was to financial exploitation.

“It totally took away a huge part of her planning," Sample said.

The two-dose kits, if available on the scene, can save lives

To help curb opioid overdoses, Lifeline Connections is starting to distribute the antidote naloxone to clients of its sobering center.

The drug rehabilitation and mental health provider carries the injectable form of the drug, which is sold under the brand name Narcan; a kit includes two syringes, two doses of naloxone, a mouth protector, a pair of plastic gloves, an alcohol swab and instructions.

Congressional efforts to block research on the genes of human embryos continue, and researchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University are finding it particularly frustrating.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee has included language in the Food & Drug Administration's budget for next year that effectively bans federal research on genetic editing in humans.

Philip Yeske, the science officer at the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, said the restriction is toughest on families with genetic disorders.

“Oh," he said, "we’re very disappointed.”

Getting health insurance if you work for a nonprofit can be tough. To save money, employees often end up buying high-deductible plans, sometimes spending thousands of dollars in co-pays and fees.

But the Nonprofit Association of Oregon is teaming up with health broker Nonstop to allow small to midsize nonprofits to partially self-insure.

Jody Schreffler of Nonstop, said it works by keeping employees in plans, even if they have a high-deductible, while also having them pay into a reserve account. That money is then used to pay co-pays and fees.

Health officials announced Friday that they have discovered a small but "statistically significant" increase in the number of bladder cancers in North Portland between 1999 and 2003.

The Oregon Health Authority has been looking at cancer rates in neighborhoods around two glass manufacturers in Portland after a notable increase in air pollution was detected earlier this year.

The manufacturers had been using heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic to color glass, and elevated levels were found nearby.

In-store advertising seduces would-be smokers, hopeful quitters

Tobacco companies can no longer advertise through billboards, radio or television, but they can still pour millions of dollars into “power walls.”

The walls are hard to miss, located behind the cashier at many convenience stores — an expanse of hundreds of tobacco products, logos and colorful posters. The vibrant barrage of tobacco advertising worries many who work to keep kids from smoking.

Oregon regulators said Thursday air and soil samples continue to show low health risks for Portland residents. But the level of arsenic in some areas is elevated.

A new test for arsenic around Uroboros Glass in North Portland showed levels several times higher than the state guideline.

But David Farrer with the Oregon Health Authority said people needn’t be concerned.

As an adolescent, visiting my primary care doctor was always a pleasure. Each time he’d walk through the door, exclaiming in a thick Brazilian accent, “My favorite patient!” During one visit, I admitted to having high anxiety, to the point where my sweat glands were working overtime in all social situations, where my stomach filled the silences in any classroom with obnoxious gurgling, and my voice took on a crying acoustic when called on to speak.

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