October 25, 2014

Push on to get more former foster kids signed up for Medicaid

Akeeme Halliburton speaks at a Capitol news conference

Akeeme Halliburton speaks at a Capitol news conference

A report indicates few of Nebraska’s former foster children have taken advantage of a provision in the federal health care law that makes them eligible for Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act offers Medicaid to any foster child who ages out of the system at 18 or 19, regardless of the former foster child’s income, up to age 26.

The report states that of the approximately 3,000 who would be eligible in Nebraska, only 3% have enrolled in Medicaid.

State Sen. Sue Crawford says they need the coverage.

“Insurance coverage for this population is very important for a number of reasons, not least of which is that former foster youth are more likely than their peers to suffer from chronic physical or mental health conditions,” Crawford tells reporters during a news conference at the Capitol.

Crawford says former foster children need health insurance coverage.

“According to a 2012 report by the Congressional research office, 35-60% of foster children enter the child welfare system with at least one chronic physical condition, while anywhere from 50-75% of these youths are in need of mental health treatment,” according to Crawford.

Akeeme Halliburton of Omaha aged out of the system at age 19. Now 21, Halliburton is covered by Medicaid and says others in his situation need health insurance coverage as well.

“Some young people aren’t able to get medication they need, because they don’t have the insurance,” Halliburton says. “Some people get hurt and just don’t go to the doctor, because, let’s be honest, they’re not cheap.”

State legislators and officials say greater effort will be made to sign up former foster children on Medicaid.

Douglas County Emergency taking precaution against Ebola

In an effort to protect the public from the possibility of Ebola, Douglas County 911 is making changes to their ambulance transport policy. Douglas County Health Department Director Dr. Adi Pour says those with flu-like symptoms calling for an ambulance will be asked a few more questions.

Dr. Pour says 911 operators will ask if the patient has traveled in the last 21 days. If the person had been in West Africa within that time frame an ambulance specially designed to care for Ebola patients will be sent to make the transport.

Dr. Pour says, “That is a precaution in the unlikely event that a person infected with Ebola will come into the community. This community has had experience with known Ebola patients and has handled and treated those individuals very well. However, as a community, we need to be prepared to handle a suspect case like Mr. Duncan in Dallas.”

Dr. Pour says those needing an ambulance for an injury, medical condition or other illness will not be asked those questions by the 911 operator and the change will not impact those services.

Congressman Fortenberry calls for Ebola travel restrictions (AUDIO)

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Another member of the Nebraska Congressional delegation calls for travel restrictions in the fight against Ebola.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry calls for a ban on all unnecessary commercial flights to countries fighting the Ebola outbreak.

“This is a very serious disease. This should be fundamentally about protecting public safety,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Fortenberry acknowledges there needs to be a balance. He says medical personnel need to be able to travel to the countries affected. Transportation for humanitarian aid also needs to be made available, according to Fortenberry.

“But the job of the government, the highest level, the highest purpose of government is to protect you,” Fortenberry says. “And if we’re about trying to nuance and manage this from a public relations perspective or worse, a political perspective, then you’re not getting at heart of the matter of public safety.”

Fortenberry adds America has been carrying an unfair share of the burden in fighting Ebola.

“This has to be the world’s problem,” Fortenberry says. “Not any more speeches; direct action with resources for people who are suffering.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Biocontainment unit makes changes to treat Ebola patients

Nebraska Medicine – Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha is becoming a world leader in treatment of Ebola. Staff successfully treated two patients with the second released on Wednesday. Dr. Phil Smith is the director of their biocontainment unit and says they are sharing their knowledge with other facilities.

Dr. Smith says, “We are looking at a number of options ranging to developing video tapes, developing curricula, having courses on-site where teams of people can come in and tour our unit and see how we do things. We have all had hundreds of requests and hundreds of phone calls on specific questions on advice isolation and medical care and so forth.”

There are four biocontainment units in the country and Nebraska Medicine – Nebraska Medical Center is the largest. It originally had ten beds but they made modifications to treat Ebola patients. 

Dr. Smith says, “Ebola patients are very sick. There are a lot of body secretions that are highly infectious and there needs to be a lot of equipment in the room so there really is only one patient that can be comfortably taken care of in a room with Ebola. With some other diseases it may be different.” He says, “We have made improvements in the last ten years and one of them was turning a room into a laboratory. We turned another room into a dirty utility room and another into a clean utility room.” 

 Dr. Smith says because of the extensive care Ebola patients require they can treat a maximum of two patints.

Ebola patient released from Omaha hospital

Nebraska Medicine – Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha has successfully treated their second Ebola patient. Ashoka Mukpo was released this morning from the hospital’s biocontainment unit and is on his way home to Providence, Rhode Island. Mukpo did not attend a morning news conference in Omaha but Dr. Jeff Gold, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center read Mukpo’s statement thanking the staff for their care.

“Today is a joyful day for my family and I. After enduring weeks where it was unclear whether I would survive, I’m walking out of the hospital on my own power, free from Ebola. This blessing is in no small measure a result of the world class care I received at the Nebraska Medical Center. When Dr. Smith and his team first received me I was in a difficult situation and quite sick. The professionalism and confidence of the team instantly reassure me that I was in good hands.”

The biocontainment unit team was able to spend time with Mukpo when he was released Wednesday morning and he personally expressed his thanks.