News From Around the Northwest

Health insurance companies haven’t justified their proposed increases for next year, according to an analysis by Oregon Public Interest Research Group.

The insurance company with the largest enrollment, Moda, is asking for a 25 percent increase next year. LifeWise wants 37 percent and PacificSource is after 42 percent.

The companies say those numbers are justified. They point to all the previously uninsured people who signed up for insurance last year and used a lot of services.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has asked the US International Trade Commission to start tracking imports of electronic cigarettes.

Wyden says we know little about how many e-cigarettes are coming into the country, who is manufacturing them, or the ultimate public health implications.

He says it’s time to collect information and impose new regulations.

Stefen Stockwell of Rosecity Vapsters in Portland says he’s not against new regulations, especially for imported products, “The juice is of way poor quality," he said.

Over strenuous Republican objections, the Legislature’s joint budgetary committee this morning approved a statewide paid sick leave policy.

The bill now heads to the full Senate and House floors, where it is expected to be approved, potentially as early as next week.

A top priority for majority Democrats, the paid sick leave policy have been debated for months, with many of its details up in the air until recently.

Last week, The Barometer described OSU as a campus littered with thousands of cigarette butts and hundreds of students who refused to heed school rules. According to Arturo Segesman, the inconvenience of OSU’s smoking ban was met only with frustration, overwhelming any favorable improvements it caused in students’ lives.

HB 2879 would allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives

The Oregon House today voted 50-10 to approve House Bill 2879, which will allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptives and birth control pills, greatly increasing access.

New rules that would regulate e-cigarettes like tobacco cigarettes go into effect Monday in Clark County, Washington.

The new ordinance prohibits smoking e-cigarettes in public places. One exception to the law is that e-cigs can be smoked in dedicated vaping shops.

Theresa Cross, health educator, with the Clark County Public Health Department, said one hope is to curb the rising use of e-cigs among young people.

A seventh person has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease linked to the University of Oregon outbreak, Oregon Public Health officials confirmed today.

The 52-year-old father of a student visited the campus between May 2 and 3, and has since been diagnosed.

Officials said that was proof the illness lingers on campus and students should immediately get vaccinated.

In 2012, a panel of psychiatrists working on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders voted to remove the “bereavement exclusion” from major depression diagnoses.    

The DSM guides psychiatrists, family care physicians and other prescribers of medicine in treating mental health conditions.

House Bill 3149 Will Make It Easier For Oregon Students To Receive Daily Treatment For Medical Conditions

Eugene may launch an outdoor smoking ban in a small part of the downtown in about three months.

The Eugene City Council on Wednesday wasn’t ready to pursue a smoking ban on city-center sidewalks and other outdoor public spaces. However, councilors learned that the city could outlaw smoking in the downtown Park Blocks, perhaps as early as September.

The Park Blocks are a magnet for groups of people who congregate, and, often, smoke.

Woodburn police arrested the president and chief executive officer of Silverton Health Thursday for allegedly masturbating inside his car in the parking lot of the Woodburn Bi-Mart.

Rick Cagen, 64, was charged with one count of public indecency, a class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,250 fine.

He was taken into custody and transported to the Marion County Correctional Facility in Salem.

A couple of hundred health experts gathered at the Nutrition of Girls and Women conference in Portland on Thursday to discuss the generational effects of poor nutrition on women of child-bearing age.

Most of us understand we inherit our genes from our parents. But what scientists now know is that those genes can be turned on and off by environmental factors, such as stress and what a person eats.

One of Oregon's coordinated care organizations, FamilyCare, has notified the state it intends to sue over the way health insurance rates are set.

Under Oregon's health care experiment, the federal government has given the state flexibility to sets rates.

For example, last year Portland-based FamilyCare had its rates reduced by about 9 percent. The head of the CCO, Jeff Heatherington, says that translated to a loss of more than $4 million a month - and the state won't tell him why it reduced the rates.

In the late 1990s you could have taken what hospitals charged to administer inpatient chemotherapy and bought a Ford Escort econobox. Today average chemo charges (not even counting the price of the anti-cancer drugs) are enough to pay for a Lexus GX sport-utility vehicle, government data show.

The Oregon Senate approved legislation Thursday banning "conversion therapy" for minors.

The controversial practice, also known as "reparative therapy," aims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity and is based on the view that homosexuality is a mental disorder.

"Conversion therapy at its core, I believe, is an act of violence on a young person's self," Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, said. "Every leading mental health professional organization opposes conversion therapy."

A report by Disability Rights Oregon has found that prisoners in the Behavioral Health Unit at the State Penitentiary are routinely tasered, pepper-sprayed, isolated, and denied access to adequate mental health care.

Disability Rights Oregon is authorized by the federal government to protect the legal rights of people with disabilities here.

For it's report, it toured the Behavioral Health Unit, reviewed hours of video and interviewed 19 prisoners.

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown testified in late April in support of legislation to cap campaign contributions, which she pushed for when she was secretary of state.

Advocates for campaign finance reform hope that with Brown’s support, they can curb campaign cash in the state, which has repeatedly tried and failed to adopt contribution limits that stick.

Although voters and the Legislature have adopted limits, those were struck down in court.

Oregon's hospitals, nursing facilities, pharmacies and surgery centers reported 624 medical mistakes last year. But it's hard to know whether that's better or worse than previous years.

Oregon's eight-year old Patient Safety Reporting Program is voluntary. Medical facilities don't have to let the program know about surgical mistakes, falls or delayed care.

Usually, the more competitive a market, the lower the price. But that hasn’t happened over the last couple of decades for multiple sclerosis drugs.

Back in the 1990s, when the first drugs to slow multiple sclerosis came to market, they cost about $10,000 a year. Doctor Dennis Bourdette, the chair of neurology at Oregon Health & Science University, says he expected that price to drop over time, but now it’s about $60,000 a year.

With 72 percent of nurses filing cards in support, a union effort is moving forward at Providence's only non-union hospital in the state

For years, nurses at Providence Newberg Medical Center saw it as a point of pride that they were not part of a union.

“We felt we had this great relationship with the administration, we worked together really well,” said Valerie Whitmore, a nurse at Providence for 12 years both at the medical group and at various clinics. “There was that community focus, it just wasn’t something we felt we needed.”