16 December 2008

Life, Death and Health in West Virginia

Convenience to doctors and the pregnant women, particularly in rural areas, is apparently behind a steady rise in West Virginia babies "delivered prematurely by induced labor and Caesarean section," The Charleston Gazette reports.

"The rise in elective deliveries has prompted state regulators to urge hospitals to reduce such births, which cost significantly more than normal deliveries," the article said. "Numerous studies have shown babies born before the 39-week gestation period have more complications, such as respiratory distress syndrome and infections. They're also more likely to wind up in newborn intensive care units at hospitals."

West Virginia's troubling trend of overdose prescription drug deaths, meanwhile, has become the subject of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As The Associated Press reports, "overall, the study put West Virginia's unintentional prescription drug related fatal overdose rate at roughly 16 deaths per 100,000 residents, more than twice the national average."

But "among the 275 people whose death was linked to 'prescribed opioids,' 56 percent were never prescribed those medications," AP's Tom Breen reports. "The findings suggest that drug 'diversion' — acquiring the medication illegally, by lying to doctors, buying it from black market Internet pharmacies or outright theft — accounts for a significant majority of prescription drug misuse."

Breen has a separate story that finds that while "19 states have either made cuts to their Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program budgets or are considering reductions," West Virginia " still plans to move ahead with an expansion of its CHIP plan next month."

The state is "expanding coverage to children whose families earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $53,000 for a family of four," that article said. Three other states had planned expansions, but are putting those moves on hold "as officials calculate the effect of the economic downturn on their budgets."

The latter AP article was drawn partly from a new report from the group Families USA.

Health insurance for state children is also a topic of a lawsuit threatened by a public interest law firm against West Virginia's Medicaid program, The Gazette reports.

"Mountain State Justice says the state Medicaid office has repeatedly violated federal law and subjected families to a confusing benefits package that limits services to kids," the article said.

No comments: