Health | WYPR

Health

Eli Pousson for Baltimore Heritage.

Baltimore is at the center of the lead crisis in the U.S., and generations of Baltimoreans have been poisoned by the heavy metal. How did lead exposure become such a drastic problem here in Baltimore? And how can the city deal with lead poisoning in a lasting and comprehensive way?

COURTESY OF JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

If you are a person with a condition that requires millions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals, even having health insurance may not be enough.  Almost no individual can afford that kind of treatment, and increasingly, employer or union-based insurance plans can’t afford it either.  Is the high cost of some of these medications due solely to the greed of big Pharma?  In a word, no.  There are many reasons for why drugs cost so much. 

Tom is joined in studio by Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.  In addition to being a regular guest on this program, he is one of the co-editors of a new book: The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics, published just a couple of weeks ago by Oxford University Press.  

Rachel Baye

The General Assembly wrapped up its 439th session Monday night in Annapolis, and for the first time since 2003, Michael Busch wasn’t overseeing the House of Delegates as speaker. Busch died Sunday at the age of 72 after he was hospitalized with pneumonia.

The frenzied, celebratory atmosphere that’s typical on the last day of the General Assembly’s 90-day session was marred by Busch’s absence.

Rachel Baye

Anne Rowe was diagnosed in 2001 with Von Willebrand disease. It’s a genetic bleeding disorder, meaning her blood doesn’t clot well. The Prince George’s County resident told the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday afternoon that, fortunately, there is a treatment.

“For us to be treated prophylactically only, it could cost us $288,000 annually with no insurance or medications,” she said.

Creative Commons

Health insurance premiums on plans in Maryland’s individual insurance market decreased this year as a result of a reinsurance fund state lawmakers approved last year, but the fund only has enough money to last a few years.

To keep premiums down over the long term, state lawmakers who return to Annapolis next week are considering a new health insurance mandate and a fine for anyone who lacks insurance.

The proposal is similar to the federal Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” that Congress repealed late in 2017, but there’s a big difference:  Maryland taxpayers would be able to treat the fine as a down payment on a health insurance plan.

Rachel Baye

Female inmates at the state prison in Jessup, Maryland — the state’s only women’s prison — say getting feminine hygiene products, like pads and tampons, while they’re incarcerated can be challenging, sometimes even impossible.

University of Maryland Medical System

Asthma makes it difficult for thousands of Baltimoreans to breathe. Decrepit houses, trash and rodents can trigger asthma flare-ups. Would cleaning up poor housing cost less than frequent trips to the ER? A reporting partnership between Kaiser Health News and the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service looked deeply at where asthma flares up in Baltimore and what hospitals are doing about it.

We hear from Kaiser Health News’ senior correspondent Jay Hancock, and from one of the Capital News Service journalists who took part in that project--now a reporter for The Baltimore Sun--Talia Richardson.

Plus, the Breathmobile is run by the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. We speak to Dr. Mary Beth Bollinger, professor pediatrics, is the Breathmobile’s co-founder, and medical director.

More information at these links:

Kaiser Health News story - Hospitals Find Asthma Hot Spots More Profitable to Neglect Than Fix

Capital News Service package of asthma stories - Home Sick

A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project and the Abell Foundation documents stark difference in asthma hospitalization rates in rich versus poor neighborhoods in Baltimore, and reveals a dramatic drop in the far southern part of the city after a pair of nearby coal-fired power plants installed air pollution control devices in 2009. Asthma hospitalization rates in the zip codes for the Cherry Hill, Brooklyn, and Curtis Bay neighborhoods fell 57 percent between 2009 and 2013 – more than twice the drop citywide. 

Maryland Health Connection

If Congress repeals or stops enforcing the individual mandate and Maryland doesn’t change anything about the way its insurance market works, state residents will feel the effects quickly, health care experts warned a state commission Tuesday.

“If we don’t act next year, it’s very likely we won’t have an individual market in 2019 in Maryland,” said Deb Rivkin, Vice President of Government Affairs for Maryland at Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer.

Chris Connelly / WYPR

A new state law that took effect this week makes major changes to criminal justice policies. The law is intended to save the state money by reducing prison populations, then invest the savings in crime prevention efforts.

But one provision in the new law that is designed to send offenders to treatment for drug and alcohol addiction may not work as planned.

Rachel Baye

Two Maryland doctors have been charged with illegally selling prescriptions for opioid painkillers at so-called “pill mills.” State Attorney General Brian Frosh announced the indictments Thursday together with local and federal officials following an investigation spanning multiple agencies and jurisdictions.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Odell Jones describes himself as a “working addict.” For decades, he maintained a career in social work and politics, as well as a family — four children and a wife — while using and selling heroin.

”An individual would not know that I was a drug user, or a drug dealer, for that matter, unless I were to tell you,” he said.

TEDxBaltimore / Flickr / Creative Commons

Evergreen Health is no longer allowed to sell insurance on Maryland’s individual health insurance market as a result of the insurer’s "financially hazardous condition," state Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer said in an administrative order Thursday.

Rachel Baye

Sixty-four-year old Johnnie Davis has been treating his heroin addiction at the Bon Secours New Hope Treatment Center in West Baltimore for nearly 20 years.

“When I came here, I didn’t have no insurance,” he said. “And if I wasn’t here, I could imagine where my life would have turned because I was known for drugs — selling drugs.”

Rachel Baye

Several dozen people defended Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act Monday night at a town hall at the Greater Baltimore Urban League. Maryland congressmen Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes, both Democrats, listened as person after person shared personal health stories.

Rachel Baye

The state Senate passed paid sick leave legislation with a veto-proof majority Thursday, just one day after Gov. Larry Hogan promised to veto it.

Rachel Baye

As Congress debates cutting access to Planned Parenthood for Medicaid recipients, Maryland’s legislative leaders are pushing a plan to replace the lost funding, which they estimate would be about $2.7 million a year.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

The state agency that oversees services for people with disabilities has for years directed health care providers to overcharge patients, according to a state audit released Tuesday. Residents may have lost millions to the error, and they may not be able to get the money back. 

Stacey McHoul left jail last summer with a history of heroin use and depression and only a few days of medicine to treat them. When the pills ran out she started thinking about hurting herself.

"Once the meds start coming out of my system, in the past, it's always caused me to relapse," she said. "I start self-medicating and trying to stop the crazy thoughts in my head."

Daniele Zanni / Flickr / Creative Commons

Thousands have been signing up for health insurance in the last few days ahead of tomorrow's sign-up deadline. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who has been the O'Malley-Brown administration's point man on health-care reform, offered to speak with us about it. Sheilah Kast reached him on his cell phone this morning.

Baltimore Health Commissioner Leaving Post

Mar 19, 2014
Baltimore City website

Baltimore’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, came here from New York City four years ago. Last week, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that Barbot is leaving. She’ll be returning to New York in late April to take a job as First Deputy Commissioner of Health there. She joins Sheilah Kast in the studio to talk about her time here in Baltimore.