February 5, 2016

Missouri House passes bill to battle medical students’ suicide, depression

A bill that seeks to promote awareness and research on mental illness among medical students has cleared the state House.

Representative Genise Montecillo (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Genise Montecillo  has spoken publicly about her own experience in promoting efforts to improve mental health (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill would create a panel that would review medical education in Missouri and have the authority to launch a study on depressoin and suicide among medical students.

Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) spoke about her own suicide attempt last year and urged support for the bill.

“All of you told me by your cards and your phone calls … that it was okay and that you accepted me,” Montecillo told her fellow lawmakers, “so we all need to go forward. We need to embrace this legislation.”

House sponsor Keith Frederick (R-Rolla) said medical students fear seeking help for depression and suicidal thoughts because they think it could hurt their careers. He said there are more than 400 documented suicides among doctors per year.

“When you’re in this kind of a state, you’re not thinking clearly, and you really need help. Physicians are uniquely unable, really, to ask for help because it is a red flag of their further progress of their careers,” said Frederick.

Frederick said medical students are prone to depression often due to debt, lack of sleep, and pushing themselves to meet and exceed expectations.

The bill has been sent to the Senate.

U.S. Senate hearing on prescription drug tracking to be held in Jefferson City

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) will hold a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday in Jefferson City on the fact that Missouri is the only state in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program.

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill

Such programs create a database of prescriptions dispensed in an attempt to catch “doctor shopping,” and prevent the abuse of prescription drugs.

McCaskill says nearly two-thirds of the more than 40,000 drug overdose deaths among Americans last year were related to opioids other than heroin. She is calling Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, “Fighting Against a Growing Epidemic: Reducing the Misuse and Abuse of Opioids in America.”

Speakers will include state representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), who for the past few years has sponsored legislation to create a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri. That legislation has been opposed in the Senate, primarily by Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph), who cites privacy concerns at the idea of a database of Missourian’s prescriptions.

Tuesday’s hearing will be in the Governor’s Office Building, near the Capitol.

Politico: Missouri drops in rank among states

Reported, compiled by Jared Rogers-Martin

The online magazine Politico released its annual “state of the union” rankings of each state based on data from national organizations like the FBI, U.S. Census and the Center of Disease Control. According to their report Missouri has slid in the rankings on a national scale for the third straight year.  When Politico complied the report for the first time in 2014, they ranked Missouri as the 31st best state. This year Missouri graded out as the 35th best state in the union down from 33rd the year before.

Missouri Obesity RateHealth inequalities tend to be the proverbial Achilles heel for Missouri. The report highlights information from the CDC acknowledging that obesity levels in the Missouri jumped to 30.9% of the population up from 27.2 % in 2014. The average life expectancy at birth in the state is 77.5 years but that number is in the bottom third of the national levels for the same rankings.

There are high points to the Politico report in Missouri. The average Annual Per Capita income has risen for the third straight year to $26,006 and the unemployment percentage has dropped for the third consecutive year to only 4.7 percent of the population.

Missouri Crime RateOf all the categories Missouri ranked highest in its home ownership rate. 66.9 percent of Missourians own their own home, which is the 18th best rate in the nation.

Missouri amnesty program will bring in $35-million in back taxes

Missouri is projected to take in less than hoped in back taxes from the amnesty period that ended November 30.

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

The state gave those who owed back taxes three months to pay them back. About $60-million was owed – about $35-million is now expected. Budget drafters planned on $40-million to expand dental care and increase how much Medicaid pays health care providers.

Governor Nixon says lots of Missourians will still be helped.

“We were able to expand access to dental care to an estimated 282-thousand low-income Missourians this year,” said Nixon. “These funds will also allow for a one-percent increase in funding for Medicaid providers, including those who care for Missourians with developmental disabilities.”

Nixon urged lawmakers to find a way to fund those needs in future budgets.

“These kinds of services are simply too critical to be put at risk by funding them with one-time sources of revenue,” said Nixon.

He’ll propose his to the legislature January 20.

Missouri Senator Blunt blames Affordable Care Act for projected Medicare premium increases

Medicare Part B premiums are expected to increase by more than 50% next year, unless Congress figures out a solution. Part B is a Medicare option that covers doctors’ charges and outpatient care bills.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) hasn’t offered a solution, but said the rise is due to the Affordable Care Act.

“Anybody that’s surprised by these costs and didn’t think they were going to happen when the federal government decided to so dramatically change all of healthcare without knowing what the impact would be has some second thinking to do and some explaining to do to the people we all work for,” said Blunt. “This is not the only part of healthcare that’s going up a lot. It’s going up generally a lot because of the President’s healthcare plan.”

Some Senate Democrats are exploring options to prevent the increase. If an agreement is not found soon, Democratic staffers said a freeze or other fix might be part of a year-end budget deal in Congress.

About 30% of the roughly 52 million people enrolled in Medicare could be affected by the increase. 2016’s open enrollment for Medicare is underway.