News From Around the Northwest

SALEM — Companies that would be exempt from a proposed corporate gross receipts tax say the exemption could undermine the reputation of a movement to encourage environmentally and socially responsible businesses.

The union-backed tax measure planned for the 2016 ballot would require certain corporations to pay a 2.5 percent tax on sales in Oregon greater than $25 million. The measure exempts companies registered with the state as “benefit companies.”

A majority of American voters support mandatory labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients, a new national poll commissioned by labeling supporters shows.

Eighty-nine percent of the 800 voters surveyed last month said they support mandatory labeling. Six percent said they oppose such a requirement, while the remainder said they do not have an opinion.

The poll comes as some Congressional lawmakers are pushing to add a provision to the omnibus spending bill that would block states from implementing their own GMO labeling requirements.

The State of Oregon's revenue is growing, according to the most recent forecast, but the future is still uncertain.

Gov. Kate Brown called the forecast "more than a number," but rather a measure of Oregon's ability to support essential services and businesses.

"While the forecast is stable through this biennium," she said, "I am watching carefully to make sure we are able to respond nimbly and appropriately should the landscape change."

General Fund revenue is forecast to be $31 million larger this biennium, according to the Office of Economic Analysis.

Lots of human tissue is frozen, from blood to embryos.

But the size and complexity is constrained by ice crystals that form when frozen. Crystals can damage and even destroy a cell.

Researchers use what’s called a cryoprotectant, like the stuff you put in a car to stop the radiator water from freezing to reduce that damage. But cryoprotectants are toxic.

Now, Adam Higgins with Oregon State University says they’ve developed a new way of using cryoprotectants, “The way to reduce toxicity is to intentionally cause the cells to swell, but not swell too much," he said.

The National Remedy Review Board is meeting in Portland this week to consider the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) current strategy to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

The 11-mile stretch of the Willamette River was designated a Superfund site in 2000, and the EPA is charged with coming up with a strategy for cleaning it up.  Other nonprofits, community groups, tribes, municipalities and industry groups have already submitted their comments to the review board.

Umatilla County experiences gonorrhea epidemic

On a graph, the spike in Oregon syphilis cases looks like a piece of steep roller coaster track climbing into the sky.

Oregon health officials say that the number of cases increased by 1,500 percent since 2007 — from 30 to 450 so far in 2015.

Syphilis is a bacterial disease spread mostly by sexual activity. Men make up 90 percent of the cases. Gay and bisexual men are the biggest demographic.

LONG BEACH, Wash. — A growing number of terminally ill residents have chosen to die on their own terms since the Death with Dignity Act went into effect in 2009. However, a recent report suggests that few minority, lower-income and rural Washington residents have taken advantage of the law. It may be more difficult for residents in rural parts of the state, including Pacific County, to participate because they don’t have easy access to participating doctors and pharmacists.

Another end-of-life option

Health depends on a lot more than just the local health care system.

The economic stability of families; their education levels; physical fitness; even their eating habits play an important role.

To improve all those issues at once, the 'Oregon Healthiest State' was started last year.

It aims to get all kinds of organizations to work together, from businesses to government agencies and charities.

Open Enrollment can be 'terrifying,' but grants, subsidies allow for free advice

With all of the health insurance options available to consumers during the current Open Enrollment period, it’s understandable that folks might appreciate some guidance in finding the plan that’s right for them.

That’s where experts like Victoria Bramley and Greg Osborne come in.

Michael Clapp/OPB

A study looking at mental health care among states has ranked Oregon dead last.

The president of Mental Health America, Paul Gionfriddo, said researchers considered 13 elements for the ranking: from the number of residents with mental illness to access to care.

“Oregon does generally poorly on the prevalence of mental illness ranking," he said. "In other words, there are more children and adults with mental illnesses; with dependence on alcohol or drugs; with serious thoughts of suicide.”

Several members of the PeaceHealth communications team in the Eugene-Springfield area have left PeaceHealth, with one indicating on social media that his job was eliminated as a result of restructuring at the nonprofit health system.

Jenny Ulum, who over the years has held communications and government relations leadership positions for PeaceHealth, joined King Estate Winery as managing director of strategic communications in late October.

Coverage gains propelled by young adults, Hispanics and families with low incomes

Portland has the lowest rate of preterm births of any city in the nation — according to a new study by The March of Dimes.

After decades of increases, the rate of premature birth in the U.S. is now declining. But not fast enough, according to the charity March of Dimes.  So it graded 100 cities on their rates.

At 7.2 percent, Portland's rate was much lower than anywhere else. Nationally, about 9.6 percent of births are preterm.

Dr. Peter Rasmussen, a national advocate for legalizing physician aid-in-dying, died Tuesday morning with the help of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, his family said.

Rasmussen, 70, was an oncologist who was passionate about caring for terminal patients and ensuring they could make own their medical choices in the face of death.

Read the full article here. 

A couple of days after two of Oregon’s largest health care organizations announced a merger, two competitors say they’re also going to collaborate.

PeaceHealth and Providence have signed a letter of intent to develop a new health and wellness center in Vancouver, Washington.

They companies said it’s the first of multiple initiatives.

Dave Underriner, CEO of Providence in Oregon, said his organization and health care services around the nation are reacting to the Affordable Care Act.

While hosting public hearings on the prospect of initiating a license structure for tobacco retailers, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners also discussed increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.

The board first discussed the concept of retail licensing in late September, with reducing cigarette sales to minors the dominant concern. In Multnomah County, the rate of sale to minors is nearly 32 percent.

Board members had hoped the Oregon Legislature would address the issue.

Reporter has studied issue since her husband’s suicide

The Columbia River Gorge, one of the most beautiful places in the world, draws crowds of people who want to hike and bike and kayak.

But some people go there to disappear, Sheila Hamilton said.

The state has voted to restructure health care premiums for its employees, to avoid paying the federal government’s new "Cadillac Tax."

The Cadillac Tax goes into effect in a few years. It will take money from people who have high-end health insurance plans to help pay for all the additional people who now have insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The state’s existing individual employees plans would trigger the tax, costing the state more than $300 million.

A Lane County jury has returned a $12.2 million verdict against PeaceHealth and doctors responsible for causing brain damage to a Springfield man who was administered 18 times the prescribed dose of a medication after his heartbeat became unstable following surgery in March 2011.

Lee Lyman, 56, was the victim of a drug medication error “of a magnitude never seen before” involving amiodarone, said Portland attorney Sam Freidenberg, Lyman’s court-appointed conservator.

Amiodarone is a drug used to restore normal heart rhythm.

Mardi Palan is a 30-year-old hair dresser from Portland. She has a partner and a one-year-old son. She hopes to carry twins for a gay couple from Israel.

If successful, she’ll get about $30,000 — money she hopes to use to buy a home.

In August, she had two embryos transferred and just found out via a blood test, that she’s pregnant. Does she feel different?

“Not really. I mean, like there were a couple of songs on the radio that I started crying to and that’s like how I knew," said Palan. "I was like, 'Oh yeah. Something's up.'"