Health & Environment

A new option to apply for expanded Medicaid

Dec 6, 2013

Low income North Dakotans have another option to apply for health care coverage through the expanded Medicaid program.

Until now, they could apply on-line or in-person. The new option: by phone.

"We actually have contracted with a vendor (Automated Health Systems), who will take applications over the phone, if they would prefer to make an application that way, rather than in person or on-line," said North Dakota Human Services Director Maggie Anderson. She says people have already been applying via computer or paper.

One of the North Dakota Legislature’s most vocal supporters of the federal Affordable Healthcare Act – dubbed “Obamacare” – says the legislative majority leadership set up the law for failure.

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) says all one needs to do is look at the signups in North Dakota – compared to the sign ups in Minnesota.

"In Minnesota, thousands of people are signing up," said Mathern. "In North Dakota, they aren't. Had we worked together in a partnership with the federal government, this would be a different situation."

Lawmakers looking at 'dental therapists'

Oct 31, 2013

A Legislative interim committee is looking at ways to make dental services more available to North Dakotans who need those services.

Studies show that people who live in rural areas, low-income adults, Medicaid-eligible children, the elderly and Native Americans do not have adequate access to dental care.

"Dental care is expensive," University of Minnesota Dental School dean Dr. Leon Assael told the Legislature's interim Health Services Committee. "It's got a great unmet need. Can we reduce the costs of dental care and meet that unmet need?"

Flu season upon us

Oct 3, 2013

The last flu season was an active one in North Dakota.

"We had 4,833 cases of influenza reported to us," said State Health Department influenza surveillance coordinator Jill Baber. "Tha average is about 2500."

Baber said while there were no reported pediatric flu deaths, 516 deaths were reported from pneumonia or influenza-like illness. She says there’s no way to know what this upcoming season will bring – and that’s why the Department is reminding people to get their flu shots.

AARP says Social Security and Medicare should NOT be on the table – when Congress tries to work out a solution to the current budget stalemate.

Rather, the group says they should be part of a separate discussion.

AARP’s Josh Askvik delivered petitions with more than five thousand signatures to the Bismarck offices of the state’s Congressional delegation – saying that the current dispute over the budget and the debt ceiling should not contain cuts to either program.

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm says now that the sign up has begun for the Affordable Care Act, he wants people to use common sense when they start exploring their options.

"Anytime you have something like that, it's obviously an opportunity for some folks to engage in fraudulent activity," Hamm said.

Hamm says he wants consumers to just make sure they’re doing things the right way. He says the Website “” is the only official site for the new insurance marketplace.

DHS prepping for Affordable Care Act

Sep 25, 2013

As a part of the Affordable Care Act, North Dakota’s Legislature approved an expansion of Medicaid to cover people who right now don’t have health insurance.

And the state Department of Human Services is preparing.

"We estimated the number of individuals qualifying for the Medicaid expansion to be 20,500," said Human Services Executive Director Maggie Anderson. "The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that number to 32,000."

Uptick in West Nile Virus

Sep 19, 2013

North Dakota has seen another sharp uptick in the number of West Nile Virus cases reported to the state Health Department.

The state reports 76 West Nile cases. That’s up 37 cases since September Third.

"We did have our first peak at the end of July and beginning of August," said State Health Department West Nile program director Michelle Feist. "Then cases started tapering off. So we're actually looking at two peaks of West Nile illness onset, which is unusual."

Feist says her department isn’t sure what the reason is for the second peak.

'Affordable Care Act' takes effect Oct. 1

Sep 19, 2013

On October first, enrollment begins for the new “Affordable Health Care Act.”

The act is designed to cover people without health insurance. The act set up insurance “exchanges” – where people can pick the coverage they want or need. But Michael Fierberg with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services says there’s some confusion on how the marketplace works.

North Dakota’s exchange is through the Department of Health and Human Services. Fierberg says a person can long on to “healthcare-dot-gov,” and start looking at the available options.

E-Cigarettes Raising Concerns in ND

Sep 11, 2013

Troubling… that’s how state Health Department officials describe recent reports of increased use of electronic cigarettes by teenagers. Prairie Public Reporter Todd McDonald has details…