2 Ohio residents injured in New Hampshire crash
ASHLAND, N.H. (AP) -- Two Ohio residents were seriously injured in a one-car crash in Ashland, New Hampshire Saturday night.
Police say the car driven by 40-year-old Cynthia Martin of Dayton, Ohio drifted off Interstate-93 in Ashland and struck a guardrail just after 7 p.m. Saturday.
WMUR reports (http://bit.ly/1kP0SE7 ) Martin was taken to Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth for treatment.
Her passenger -- 41-year-old Richard Markland, also of Dayton -- was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for treatment of life-threatening injuries.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Police say they do not believe speed or alcohol were factors.
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New Hampshire businesses vexed by insurance delay
By HOLLY RAMER
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire businesses aren't happy with the latest delay in the small group health insurance market created by the Affordable Care Act, but some are more understanding than others.
Companies have been able to purchase coverage in the Small Business Health Options, or SHOP, marketplace from brokers and insurance companies since last fall, but the online enrollment portal isn't expected to launch until November. The state's insurance commissioner is seeking to delay a key feature that would allow employees to pick their coverage from a list of plans, saying he is concerned about maintaining a stable and competitive group market and wary of repeating the problems associated with the rocky rollout of the healthcare.gov portal for individual consumers.
That frustrates Sean Caron, owner of Sentinel Insurance Group in Exeter. Several of his clients decided against buying insurance through the new marketplace this year because the only company offering plans had a limited provider network. More companies will be available next year.
"By delaying the SHOP, you're really delaying what some of the key points of the Affordable Care Act are. I say, if it's not going to work and it's not ready, put it out there so the people see what's happening and can make educated decisions at election time come November," he said.
Nancy Clark, who owns an advertising agency in North Conway, strongly supports the federal overhaul law but is disappointed in the delays with the SHOP. She gave stipends to her employees to purchase insurance in the individual market this year but hopes to use the small-business market next year to help save money and offer her workers an extra benefit. She is skeptical, however, that it will be running by January, when she does her budgeting.
"The employee choice isn't critical for us to explore it as an option," she said. "We just need the best plans at the most affordable price."
Adrienne Rupp of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire said anecdotal evidence suggests few businesses have participated in the SHOP so far. Without the employee choice feature, the only real incentive is the tax credit available to some businesses, she said.
"It's very confusing and cumbersome to use right now," she said. "I think the general feeling among small-business owners is, 'This is great, if it ever gets here.'"
While businesses want the employee choice feature, they also are concerned about its potential impact on premiums, she said. The insurance commissioner raised concerns about rates increasing if one company ended up with sicker customers.
"The general feeling of businesses is that yes, the delay is frustrating, but we want to make sure it's done right and there's as minimal disruption to the market as possible," she said.
One company that has used the small-business marketplace is Parker Education, which includes a private school and tutoring business in Concord. Finance director Jennifer Kretovic said the company saved about 10 percent by purchasing insurance for its 28 full-time employees under a new plan, and it used those savings to offer new benefits, such as short-term disability.
"For us, it's been phenomenal," she said.
Kretovic sat down with the employees and had them compare what they could get on the individual market with the company's plan. Seeing how little they knew about the process makes her understand why the state is delaying the employee choice feature in the small-business marketplace.
"People like to have control over what their options are, but if they're not going to understand it and it's only going to be confusing, then wait the year," she said. "Because, honestly, the last thing we need right now is more people confused about what their different options are."
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Grants awarded for youth substance abuse screening
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Health care providers across New Hampshire will use a nearly $630,000 grant to implement a new program to screen youth and young adults for substance abuse.
The funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation will allow recipients to expand use of a proven screening program for patients between the ages of 12 to 22, with the goal of stopping substance misuse before it starts. Officials say there currently is no standard protocol for medical professionals in New Hampshire to screen teens or adults who may be at risk for substance abuse disorders, but the new program will incorporate specific questions into routine medical visits.
The program will start at five hospitals, primary care clinics and community health centers, with five to seven additional sites expected to join later.
The program eventually will allow for the screening of up to 10,000 youth across the state, said Tym Rourke, director of substance abuse grant making at the Charitable Foundation.
"These five early adopters will help set the stage for the future of this critical service in health care settings throughout New Hampshire," he said.
Expanding the use of the screening program is part of a larger Charitable Foundation 10-year, $12 million initiative to reduce substance abuse rates among New Hampshire's youth. The foundation says it has seen promising signs with recent prevention investments, but the state still ranks highest among states for its rate of underage drinking.
The initial grants went to Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth, Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, Mid-State Health Center in Plymouth, Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover.
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Governor to sign buffer zone bill Tuesday
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Gov. Maggie Hassan plans to sign a hotly debated bill Tuesday that will allow New Hampshire's reproductive health facilities where abortions are offered to set buffer zones of up to 25 feet around their entrances.
The bill was filed in response to protests and picket activity at Planned Parenthood's health center in Manchester. Bill supporters said more than 60 patient complaints have been logged since the beginning of 2013.
Supporters argue the buffer zone will ensure the privacy and dignity of people using the clinics, but opponents say the bill infringes on the free speech rights of abortion opponents.
"Governor Hassan believes that women should be able to access critical health services without fearing for their safety, and this commonsense, bipartisan measure will help ensure the privacy and safety of both patients and the public," said Hassan spokesman William Hinkle.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on the constitutionality of a 35-foot protest free zone outside Massachusetts abortion clinics.
Nationwide, clinics have dealt with threats and violence, including the 1994 shooting deaths of two employees in Boston-area clinics. Opponents of New Hampshire's proposed law said the problems experienced elsewhere have not occurred in New Hampshire.
No one has been prosecuted under the 2007 Massachusetts law, which state officials and clinic employees have said has resulted in less congestion outside the clinics. The Supreme Court bars protests on the plaza outside its own building, but allows them on public sidewalks. It last considered abortion clinic protest zones in 2000, when it upheld a Colorado law.
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Officials suspect arson in vacant center fire
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire officials believe arson is the cause of a fire that destroyed an abandoned youth center building in Manchester.
The fire at the former Youth Development Center on River Road was reported at about 2 a.m. Sunday.
WMUR reports (http://bit.ly/1kWzmyI ) that police and firefighters who responded to the blaze found evidence of a break-in at the long-vacant building.
It took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. No injuries were reported.
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Woman with leg injury helped off mountain
BEANS GRANT, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire Fish and Game officers say a Massachusetts woman is safe after falling and injuring her leg while hiking near Mount Eisenhower.
Officers say 43-year-old Monette Verrier, of Reading, Massachusetts, was hiking with friends Friday afternoon on the Edmands Path when she slipped on wet, exposed roots.
Verrier's companions called for help.
Conservation officers and rescue workers met Verrier on the trail at about 4:45 p.m. when Verrier and her friends were about 1.2 miles in from the trailhead.
The group reached the trailhead in Crawfords Purchase at about 6 p.m.
Verrier was taken to the hospital by a member of her hiking party.
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Medicaid, hospital tax are top legislative wins
By NORMA LOVE
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Legislation expanding Medicaid to an estimated 50,000 poor adults and settling lawsuits by hospitals worth hundreds of millions of dollars were the 2014 Legislature's most significant accomplishments.
Lawmakers also raised the gas tax 4 cents for highway improvements, especially finishing the expansion of Interstate 93 from Salem to Manchester. They passed legislation that prohibits fuel dealers from marketing pre-buy contracts before May 1 in response to complaints about deliveries last winter and voted to ban hand-held cellphone use.
But the Senate refused to go along with the House and repeal the death penalty in a major defeat for opponents of capital punishment. And the House rejected casino gambling twice.
Here's a rundown of the Legislature's actions this session:
Expanded the program to about 50,000 poor adults starting this summer. The federal government still must approve using federal Medicaid funds to buy private health coverage starting in 2016 for adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit. Under the plan, the expansion would end if federal funding drops below 100 percent and would end regardless at the end of 2016 if the Legislature doesn't reauthorize it.
MEDICAID ENHANCEMENT TAX
Passed legislation needed to begin settling lawsuits with 25 hospitals over Medicaid rates and a tax on hospital revenue deemed unconstitutional by two lower court judges. The settlement preserves tax revenues counted on for the current two-year budget -- avoiding the need to make deep cuts. Tax money would be spent on health care after the current budget. The tax rate drops slightly. The hospitals would get more state aid starting in 2015.
Rejected casino gambling twice, with the House tossing out its own bill and one passed by the Senate.
Rejected repealing the death penalty twice with the Senate deadlocked. Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would sign the repeal bill as long as it didn't affect the death sentence of Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing a Manchester police officer.
Require courts to terminate the parental rights of rapists when petitions are filed by women who give birth after being sexually assaulted.
Approved a 4-cent increase on the gas and diesel tax starting July 1 and borrowing money to finish expanding I-93 from the Massachusetts border to Manchester. Some money also will be available for road repairs.
Banned hand-held cellphone use starting in mid-2015. If signed, adults could talk on cellphones while driving if they use hands-free phones, devices built into the vehicle and two-way radios. It bans all cellphone use by minors behind the wheel.
Authorized a limited driver's license for first-time drunken drivers to go to work, medical treatment, school or other locations approved by a judge. The license must be suspended for 45 days before applying for limited driving privileges. If signed, it will take effect in 2016.
Created a separate statute for domestic violence offenses and passed legislation that includes household pets in orders protecting victims of domestic violence.
HOME HEATING CONTRACTS
Prohibits dealers from advertising or soliciting earlier than May 1 to sell pre-buy contracts. The bill sent to the governor is in response to disruptions in home heating oil deliveries this winter by one of New Hampshire's largest fuel companies.
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Summer reading program celebrates science
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- This summer, New Hampshire libraries are encouraging readers to participate in science-related activities.
Libraries are building on a national science campaign called "Fizz, Boom, Read!"
Some libraries are offering a summer reading program for teens called "Spark a Reaction." This year's theme for adult readers is "Literary Elements."
For more information, visit www.nh.gov/nhsl.
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State, feds team up with Dartmouth on water survey
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The state wants to know how many people in New Hampshire test and treat their wells and see if there are obstacles to testing that can be overcome.
The departments of Environmental Services and Health and Human Services, using part of a $200,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hired a team from Dartmouth College to survey well owners. The contract with Dartmouth is worth $93,000.
More than 40 percent of the state's 1.3 million people use private wells and about 20 percent of those contain unsafe levels of arsenic, according to the state. That naturally-occurring element has been linked to skin, bladder and lung cancers.
Well water can also contain high levels of radon, which is blamed for about 100 deaths every year in the state.
The aim of the survey is to help design cost-effective, targeted ways to help well-users monitor and protect their drinking water.
"We want to learn how to empower well-water users with the tools and information they need to keep their drinking water safe for themselves and their families," says project leader and Dartmouth engineering professor Mark Borsuk.
Borsuk said researchers are hoping to get responses from three groups: All well users, people who've had a well dug within roughly the past decade and those who have gotten or are getting wells tested this summer.
"We're trying to understand what we could do to motivate them to get the tests," he said.
Borsuk said wells should be tested every three to five years. If unsafe levels of arsenic or radon are detected, there are several treatment options including filters and other ways to absorb the elements.
The online survey is open to all New Hampshire well-water users, although several thousand residents have already received postcards specifically inviting them to participate.
"Arsenic in private wells is a significant public health issue in New Hampshire," said DES Commissioner Thomas Burack.
New Hampshire residents can take the survey at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/nhwellsurvey.
The survey will close on June 30. Preliminary results are expected in mid-July with a final report due at the end of August.
Dartmouth's Superfund Research Program has been examining the health effects of arsenic for the past 17 years.