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Gordon Allocating CARES Funds To Help With Wyoming Insurance Enrollment

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday that he is directing federal CARES funds to assist Wyoming residents in signing up for health insurance this fall.

Gordon is allocating $600,000 to be used for the Enroll Wyoming program, which will be used to hire trained enrollment counselors to provide outreach, education and assistance. This will also ensure Wyomingites are made aware of the upcoming open enrollment period for insurance coverage (Nov. 1 – Dec. 15).

“Wyoming is facing increased numbers of uninsured residents as a result of the pandemic,” Gordon said. “This assistance is an important resource for those seeking health insurance during these challenging times.”

The enrollment counselors will work with community partners, such as libraries, community colleges, workforce centers, public health nursing offices and more, to identify individuals who need assistance enrolling in the federal insurance marketplace.

The Enroll Wyoming program is a collaborative effort between Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s Institute for Population Health, the Wyoming Primary Care Association, which operates the statewide community health centers, and Wyoming 2-1-1.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, federal funding for the Enroll Wyoming program in Wyoming has been cut by 83%.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to help meet the increased need for health insurance during this pandemic by building on our efforts over the last seven years of providing enrollment services,” Amy Spieker, CRMC’s director of community health and analysis, said. “Enroll Wyoming is an excellent example of how Wyoming organizations come together to care for our neighbors during tough times.”

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New Surgical and Cardiovascular Center Opens in Lander

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The new Western Wyoming Medical Ambulatory Surgery Center will open Tuesday in Lander.  

The $10 million project brings state-of-the-art cardiovascular and surgical care to central Wyoming.  According to Alan Daugherty, manager of the facility, Doctor Claude Minor, Doctor Kevin Courville, Doctor Michael Crosby, and a staff of ten medical professionals will begin seeing patients immediately.

Dr Minor is a general surgeon who says his favorite thing in the world is saving limbs on his diabetic patients.  Dr Minor performed the first C02 angioplasty ever in Wyoming just a few months ago saving a patient’s leg.  The use of C02 instead of contrasting dye protects the patient’s kidneys from damage.

Dr Kevin Courville is an interventional cardiologist and will be specializing in cardiac rhythm management, coronary and peripheral interventions. Dr. Michael Crosby, an anesthesiologist, will provide anesthesia services.

Western Wyoming Medical has leading edge technology including the very latest heart catheterization unit in the United States.

Daugherty says he expects that patients from all over Wyoming and surrounding states will come to Lander for the specialized treatment at Western Wyoming Medical and that the patients traveling to the heart center will benefit local businesses while in town.

Paul and Carrie Guschewsky are the developers of the project. The couple has previously remodeled several commercial buildings in town and were instrumental in bringing Rocky Mountain Oncology to Lander. 

The facility will also be home to several expanding businesses in town.  Elevate Rehab is increasing its personnel and services.  Todd Wurth’s Farmers Insurance agency is looking forward to serving its growing clientele.  

Dr. Dunaway at Lander Women’s Care is pleased to expand his services in this new facility, as well.  Wind River Heart Clinic will also have its home in the new complex. 

The 23,000 sq ft facility is built for the future with complete fiber optic connectivity, high efficiency heating and cooling systems and LED lighting. 

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Wyoming “Off-Track” When It Comes To Road Safety, Mental Health

in Health care/News/Transportation
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is off-track when it comes to roadway safety and mental health services, a recent National Safety Council summary concluded.

In the NSC’s state of the response executive summary, the organization analyzed how well the 50 states protected their citizens during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The report assessed state efforts in five key areas: employer guidelines, testing, contact tracing, mental health and substance use and roadway safety.

Wyoming was considered one of the 10 off-track states, which also included Florida, South Dakota, Montana, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Mississippi and South Dakota received the lowest overall rating.

Wyoming also was singled out as being off-track when it came to roadway safety (alongside Montana, both of the Dakotas and Massachusetts) and for addressing mental health issues (alongside other states such as South Dakota, Alabama, South Carolina and Kansas).

Only 12 states received an “on-track” rating, which included California, Oregon, Washington and Illinois. The other 29 states were considered “lagging.”

Although the pandemic has claimed more lives than accidental drug overdoses, motor vehicle collisions and falls combined, the state of response report uncovered “an inconsistent approach that has jeopardized safety due to the pandemic’s impact on issues such as addiction, traffic and workplace safety.

The NSC provided recommendations for states to improve their scores, such as ensuring access to medically-necessary treatments, including the availability of behavioral health services and substance use disorder treatment through telehealth and continuing focus on improving the safety of roads.

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Study: Wyoming Has 47th Lowest Vaccination Rate In Country

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, according to a recent study.

Personal finance website WalletHub recently ranked all of the states and the District of Columbia for their vaccination rates. The data ranged from the share of vaccinated children and the share of people without health insurance to the presence of reported measles outbreaks.

Wyoming was ranked 47th in the entire country for its overall vaccination rates, due to its low rates among both children and adults. Wyoming had the lowest flu vaccination rates among children under 17 in the entire nation.

The state also had one of the lowest shares of teenagers with an up-to-date HPV vaccination, coming in 49th of 51 states. It ranked the same when it came to teens getting the meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

Wyoming also had the 48th lowest flu vaccination coverage rate among adults.

Mississippi came in at 51st on the ranking. Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire took the top three spots.

WalletHub did the study in light of more information being released regarding a possible coronavirus vaccine. According to a Gallup poll, 35% of Americans would not get a coronavirus vaccine, even if it were free.

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Budget Cuts Could Reduce Medicaid Providers, Wyoming Health Department Says

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Reductions in the amount of state money paid health care providers through Medicaid made as a way to tackle the state’s budget shortfall could result in providers leaving the program, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The department, in a report outlining the impacts of its $28 million reduction in benefits it pays for health care for some Wyoming residents, said the reductions will lead to limits on services in some cases.

“In some cases, some Medicaid providers may choose to leave the program entirely, which may create access issues in some more rural or frontier areas of the state,” the department said in a report on its recent budget cuts.

The Health Department was the hardest hit by budget cuts outlined by Gov. Mark Gordon recently to offset a $1.5 billion shortfall in revenues predicted to occur during the current two-year budget period.

Of almost $254.5 million in cuts in spending from the state’s “general fund,” its main bank account, the Department of Health saw the largest reduction, almost $89.1 million.

More than a quarter of that amount, almost $28.2 million, will come from cuts in reimbursements to health care providers from the state.

The cuts would be matched with a $28.2 million reduction in federal funds.

The Department of Health, in its report on the reduction, said the spending cuts would come from a 2.5% decrease in reimbursement rates for health care providers and through service reductions.

The cuts are likely to cause a decline in Medicaid involvement by health care providers, the department said.

“Various second-order effects are likely as well, including Wyoming Medicaid providers limiting services to Medicaid members or in some cases no longer accepting new Medicaid clients,” the report said.

Another spending reduction of almost $3.7 million will be seen in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program or “CHIP,” a program that provides low-cost health care for eligible children.

The program had been managed by a private company, but the state received no bids to continue the program during the most recent renewal period.

As a result, the program will now be run through the state, with claims processed through the Medicaid Management Information System, the Health Department said, with lower Medicaid reimbursement rates for health care providers.

The change will save the state $3.7 million without reducing benefits to covered individuals, the department said, although some patients may have to find new health care providers.

“A small number of clients may need to change providers if (the Health Department) cannot convince the providers to enroll due to lower rates,” the report said.

Federal funds to the state to help pay for the program will also be reduced by about $6.8 million, the report said.

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Wyoming Law Enforcement Receive 1,500 Defibrillators Thanks To Grant

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming law enforcement and first responders will receive 1,500 automatic external defibrillators, thanks to a $4 million grant.

The Wyoming Department of Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services announced the distribution on Thursday morning. The grant is from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The grant includes funding to help build community CPR and telephone CPR programs in strategic areas, which is part of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s ongoing commitment to improve Wyoming’s cardiac system of care, with the goal of increasing survival rates.

“Two things we know conclusively that save lives outside of the hospital are early defibrillation and early, high-quality CPR,” said Andy Gienapp, OEMS manager, in the news release. “Anything we as a state can do to make those two simple and effective treatments more available to the people of Wyoming is a win.”

About 356,000 Americans suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest annually, with an overall survival rate of 10%.

Gienapp said a preliminary review of OEMS data showed EMS responded to 3,540 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Wyoming with an AED used in only 14% of those episodes over a three-year period.

“It may not be possible to get an AED to everyone in Wyoming,” said Gienapp, “but we can sure do better than 14%, and that means we can save lives.”

Studies conducted by the American Heart Association demonstrate a dramatically higher survival rate for cardiac arrest patients when law enforcement has equipment available and is trained to deploy it.

Studies have shown when the heart is first shocked by law enforcement the chances of survival are nearly 40%, compared to 28.6% survival for those who are first shocked by EMS.

“Seconds count during a cardiac arrest,” Walter Panzirer, a Helmsley Trustee, said in the release. “We know in Wyoming first responders often have great distances to cover. This funding will help ensure law enforcement officers who often get to a scene before EMS have the necessary equipment to give cardiac arrest victims a fighting chance for survival.”

Gienapp noted recognizing a cardiac event, calling 911, having dispatch-assisted CPR (as a minimum), having quick access to an AED and training the community in hands-only CPR greatly improve the survival rate of those suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest.

OEMS will oversee the project in Wyoming. The AEDs will be provided to more than 90 separate organizations over the next several months, including highway patrol, campus police, tribal law enforcement, county sheriff offices, local city police agencies, game wardens and state park officers.

They will also be provided to several national, state and county park visitor centers.

All those who receive an AED will receive both initial and ongoing training.

Wyoming is the third state to receive comprehensive funding to place AEDs among law enforcement agencies and other first responders.

The AEDs will ensure rescuers provide the fastest first shock when defibrillation is needed. The equipment features industry-leading analysis technology that reduces pauses during CPR, allowing for improved blood circulation and better odds of survival.

Using Wi-Fi connectivity, these self-monitoring devices can send near real-time event data, including a patient’s heart rhythm and shocks delivered, to incoming emergency services or receiving hospitals.

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Wyoming Lands In Middle Of Ranking For Best, Worst States For Health Care

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Doctor Shortage in Wyoming; “Almost Impossible to Recruit”
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming landed right around the midpoint in a recent ranking of the best and worst states for health care in the nation by personal finance site WalletHub.

Wyoming was ranked 31st in the list, just between Indiana (30) and Oregon (32). It ranked lower due to a near last-place ranking for its number of doctors per capita (coming in at number 50, just above Idaho), and having some of the highest average monthly insurance premiums, tying at number 48 with Vermont, Iowa and West Virginia.

However, Wyoming did rank third when it came to having the most dentists per capita, just behind the District of Columbia and Vermont, respectively.

Massachusetts was considered the best state for health care, while Georgia was considered the worst.

To determine where Americans receive the best and worst health care, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 44 measures of cost, accessibility and outcome. According to the website, the average American spends more than $11,000 per year on personal health care.

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. lags behind several other wealthy nations on several measures, such as health coverage, life expectancy and disease burden, which measures longevity and quality of life. However, the U.S. has improved in providing healthcare access for people in poor health and healthcare cost growth has slowed somewhat.

“Most buyers of health insurance tend to focus on identifying health plans with the lowest price; and typically, are not concerned with the level of coverage,” Virginia Commonwealth University professor R. Timothy Stack told WalletHub. “My recommendation is to pay the extra premium for a health plan that offers a broad network coverage of providers. Consumers, especially younger ones, believe they would not experience a life-threatening medical condition during their life whereby accessing a medical expert is critical. This type of coverage could benefit them medically as well as financially. “

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One Unexpected (And Stupid) Result From the Coronavirus: More Smoking

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Perhaps the stupidest development to result from the coronavirus a smoking resurgence in the country.

Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reports that although the national smoking rate hasn’t increased, the decrease in cigarette sales have slowed from a projected decline of 4% to 6% to a decline estimated at 2% to 3.5%.

The reason, according to the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is a combination of fewer opportunities for people to congregate outside the home and the arrival of government stimulus checks.

“Fewer social engagements allow for more tobacco-use occasions,” said Altria Chief Executive Billy Gifford on an earnings call Tuesday.

More tobacco-use occasions cost money.  In Wyoming, smoking-caused health care costs $258 million per year and smoking-caused losses in productivity cost $202.4 million per year.

The news that some recipients of government stimulus checks are spending the money on cigarettes could be depressing for many reasons.

One, people would use stimulus checks for cigarettes. Two, smoking is bad for your health. Three, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness.

The University of Maryland Medical System reports that smoking not only increases your risk for complications if you get the virus, it can also make you more likely to contract the disease in the first place.

“The Centers for Disease Control categorizes smokers as “immunocompromised,” which means having a weakened immune system,” they write. 

“This puts smokers in the same group as those receiving cancer treatments or who have HIV. The CDC cautions that people who are immunocompromised are at risk to get more severe COVID-19 symptoms,” they said.

In 2017, 18.7% of adults in Wyoming smoked. Nationally, the rate was 17.1%.

In 2017, 5.7% of adults in Wyoming used e-cigarettes and 9.1% used smokeless tobacco.

In 2015 (the latest data available), 29.6% of high school students in Wyoming used electronic vapor products on at least one day in the past 30 days. Nationally, the rate was 24.1%.

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Wyoming Hospitals Offer Quicker Coronavirus Testing

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Since the coronavirus emerged as a real threat to Wyoming residents in March, the only testing option for many counties was a process that involved sending swabs to the state health office.

But last week, it became possible for both Cody and Powell hospitals to run tests in their labs and produce results within a day, according to Doug McMillan, CEO of Cody Regional Health.

“At the state, the turnaround time is, I think, three to five days,” he said, “and the average can take longer. We’re working with Abbott, the company vendor that we work with, and they provided software to update four or five of our existing machines, and the state did provide us with one additional machine.”

Jeanine Brus, director of the lab at Cody Regional Health, said the accuracy of Park County tests have been corroborated at the state level.“We sent at least a hundred tests in tandem to the State,” she said, “and we got the exact same result that the State did.”

Brus said Cody Regional Health can can conduct up to 50 tests per day. The hospital is also conducting drive-through testing in its parking lot.

“It’s now open from 8 (a.m.) to 11 (a.m.) every day, and we’re testing asymptomatic patients (individuals who do not have symptoms),” he said. “Patients are getting calls that day, or no later than the next day, so we’re really excited about that.”

And McMillan said the same-day testing option is drawing people from beyond the Big Horn Basin.

“A family member was driving from Bozeman to come to Cody to get their test, because they’d been told it’s going to take 10 to 14 days to get the results back in Bozeman, Montana,” he said.

McMillan added that with the increase in tourism – and in the number of cases – as the summer goes on, this type of service is invaluable to locals and to visitors alike. 

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Wyoming Department Of Health Not Implementing Meningitis Vaccine Requirement (Yet)

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Doctor Shortage in Wyoming; “Almost Impossible to Recruit”
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Wyoming Department of Health is withdrawing a proposed addition to the state’s list of required vaccinations.

In 2019, the department proposed changes to require the meningococcal vaccination for students to enroll in school as one of several recommended updates to the state’s vaccination policies. Other changes included clarifying other school vaccination requirements and clarifying provider agreement requirements for the immunization information system.

The department determined a portion of the rule changes could have presented a challenge to its school partners at this time. However, in a news release, the department said it expects to implement the new rules at some time in the future.

Two vaccines are recommended to prevent the meningococcal disease, any type of illness caused by the neisseria meningitidis bactera.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. While a bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling, injuries, cancer, certain drugs and other types of infection also can cause meningitis.

Meningococcal disease can include meningitis and bloodstream infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all 11 to 12-year-olds get the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, with a booster dose at 16. Teens and young adults (people 16 to 23) may get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.

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