New laws, new changes, new year. North Carolina strengthens stand against opioid abuse. This and other news in our Health News Roundup.
New North Carolina Law Tracks Opioid Addiction
Among the 20 new laws that went into effect in North Carolina for 2018, a law targeting opioid abuse and addiction is making headlines.
The Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention Act — or the STOP Act — now requires physicians and pharmacies to take additional steps when prescribing a targeted controlled substance. Since North Carolina ranks high in opioid abuse, the law was passed in hopes of curbing problems and protecting NC citizens. The Hickory Record reports that the STOP Act requires physicians, pharmacies and health departments to use a new reporting system to track who is being prescribed controlled substances, how often and how much. Prescribers may not prescribe more than a five-day supply of any targeted controlled substance unless the substance is needed to treat postoperative acute pain, in addition to limits on amounts prescribed, pharmacies are no longer allowed to fill written or electronic prescriptions that are more than six months old.
Read more on this story at The Hickory Record.
Flu Outbreak Responsible for Death of NC Child
Health officials report that a North Carolina child died from influenza-related complications last week, the first flu-related pediatric death in the state this flu season. Flu-associated complications are also responsible for 11 adult deaths in NC, six of whom were people 65 and older. Twelve children have died nationwide from the flu this season.
North Carolina Health News shares condolences from health officials:
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the child’s family,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore in a press release, which did not provide details about the child’s gender or age.
“If anything positive comes from this tragic loss, we hope it will be that people understand that flu is a serious illness,” he said. “Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu, and it’s still not too late to get a flu shot.”
Moore is not releasing any information about the child to protect the family’s privacy, he said.
State health officials recommend contacting a doctor if you think you have influenza and find out if they can get a prescription for an antiviral drug, such as Tamiflu. Treatment can help prevent the virus from becoming more severe.
Read more at North Carolina Health News.
Senate Could Get Even Less Bipartisan on Healthcare
The Washington Post reports that Utah Republican Orrin Hatch has announced his intention to retire at the end of this year. With Hatch’s exit, the Senate will lose one of its few remaining negotiators, one of the bipartisan-minded types who “have become scarce in the halls of Congress.”
The senator has a reputation for negotiation and reaching across the aisle to work on legislation favorable to both parties and their constituents.
“In the 1990s he worked with his dear friend, Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.) to create what will be perhaps his best-remembered accomplishment: The Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has been very successful in covering many low-income children and pregnant women in the United States. Although support for the program remains bipartisan, it’s at a crucial moment as states start running out of funding and the parties remain gridlocked over how to fund the program for the long term.”
Sen. Hatch also had a hand in current bills:
“Of course, in recent years, Hatch has also lobbed his fair share of criticisms at the Affordable Care Act alongside his fellow Republicans. In February 2015, he introduced a bill with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to replace the ACA with a system that included revamped insurance subsidies and structural changes to Medicaid.
As the first senator to introduce legislation repealing the health-care law’s individual mandate to buy coverage and the employer mandate to offer it, Hatch appeared extremely gratified when the individual mandate was repealed in the GOP’s recent tax overhaul.”
Hatch shares his thoughts in a Deseret News op-ed, stating:
“During my time in the Senate, I’ve authored more bills that have become law than any other member of Congress.”
Read more on this story at The Washington Post.
10 Ways Healthcare in America Changed in 2017
The Commonwealth Fund takes a look at the 10 ways healthcare changed in America during the past year.
- Increased healthcare enrollment: Nearly 9 million people signed up for 2018 health coverage on HealthCare.gov during this year’s shortened 45-day open enrollment period.
- Home care for seniors: The Senate unanimously passed legislation last fall to improve health outcomes for patients on Medicare with chronic conditions. The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act expands telehealth services and a program for seniors to receive specialized care at home.
On the downside:
- Drug overdoses drove a decline in U.S. life expectancy for the second year in a row: Americans are living shorter lives. New research reported in 2017 showed that life expectancy fell by 0.1 years, to 78.6, in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The opioid epidemic is one of the primary drivers of this alarming trend.
- Natural disasters put the health care of millions at risk: Natural disasters cost the U.S. almost $400 billion in damages in 2017, as hurricanes, heat waves, and wildfires took more than a thousand lives.
For the full list, visit CommonwealthFund.org.