Eight states lost population between 2015 and 2016, and 12 others recorded their lowest population increase of the decade, as economic woes and lower birth rates hit some states harder than others. Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming lost population. The last time so many states registered a drop in population was from 1986 to 1987, when oil prices collapsed. Twelve Western and Southern states, along with the District of Columbia, lost population then. Meanwhile, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Virginia saw anemic growth of between 0.02 and 0.66 percent in the number of people living inside their borders. That’s less than the nation’s increase in population of 0.7 percent and the lowest growth those states had experienced since 2010.
In the three years since the Affordable Care Act took effect, its federally funded expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults has become the states’ most powerful weapon in the battle against the nation’s worsening opioid epidemic. Now, as Congress and President Donald Trump debate potential replacements for the law, governors, health care professionals and advocates for the poor are cautioning that any cut in federal funding for addiction treatment could reverse much of the progress states have made. “The current plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would cut health care for our most vulnerable residents, including children, seniors and individuals suffering from opioid and heroin addiction,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania said last month. “This will have a devastating impact for many Pennsylvanians.” The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offered states the ability for the first time to provide Medicaid coverage to adults without children, with the federal government paying most of the bill. That change, and the law’s mandate that all insurers cover addiction treatment at the same level as medical and surgical procedures, has allowed states to ensure that low-income people can get the care they need, said Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents nonprofit addiction treatment organizations.
Antiparasitic medicine for endangered Key deer and an abundance of sterile New World screwworm flies continue to help fight the screwworm situation in South Florida. More than 101 million sterile screwworm flies have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Marathon and the Lower Keys since October. In Homestead, where a stray dog was found with a screwworm infestation in December, nearly 2 million have been released. They help to drive down the number of fertile flies by mating with wild flies to produce eggs that never hatch. Screwworms feed inside the open wounds of any warm-blooded living animal, which has resulted in the deaths of 135 endanger Key deer found only in Monroe County. Some have had to be euthanized and others have died from their screwworm-inflicted conditions.
In an effort to prevent opioid overdose deaths, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) plans to distribute more than 8,000 naloxone rescue kits. The state-level naloxone distribution project is a partnership of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF) and Bureau for Public Health (BPH). The project is being funded primarily through a $1.07 million federal block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment. The grant is being managed by the BBHHF, and is being administered by the BPH as part of its statewide harm reduction efforts. West Virginia ranks No. 1 in the nation for drug overdose deaths.
Amid the uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, states still have to manage their insurance markets. Most states have muddled through the 2017 enrollment season without making changes. Minnesota, for its part, took three unusual actions that are worth a closer look. In January, Minnesota:passed a one-time bailout for some consumers in the individual insurance market dealing with skyrocketing premiums;rejected an attempt to let insurers offer cheaper, bare-bones coverage;laid the groundwork for a sort of homegrown "public option" insurance plan.
The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia has voted overwhelmingly to ban cosmetic tail docking of dogs, horses and cattle. The Vancouver-based licensing body declared cosmetic ear cropping of dogs to be unethical about a year ago. Cosmetic tail docking and cosmetic tail alterations, such as nicking and blocking horses, came up during an update of the Canadian group’s bylaws in November, said President Brendan Matthews, DVM. More than 91 percent of voting members opted to make both practices unethical.
Lawmakers are considering legislation to double the maximum payout for crops lost to deer and elk and also compensate farmers for damage by the ungulates to fences and irrigation systems. Instead of $10,000, a Washington farmer could receive up to $20,000 a year under a program administered by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. House Bill 1399 also would raise the damage threshold for filing a claim to $1,500 from $1,000. Farmers who have worked with WDFW to prevent damage by deer and elk are eligible to file claims. The compensation program also covers commercial crops, pastures and Christmas trees, but it does not pay for damages to other property.
The global spread of bird flu and the number of viral strains currently circulating and causing infections have reached unprecedented levels, raising the risk of a potential human outbreak, according to disease experts. Multiple outbreaks have been reported in poultry farms and wild flocks across Europe, Africa and Asia in the past three months. While most involve strains that are currently low risk for human health, the sheer number of different types, and their presence in so many parts of the world at the same time, increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating - and possibly jumping to people. "This is a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses," Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at University of Minnesota, said of the proliferation of bird flu in terms of geography and strains - a situation he described as "unprecedented".
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that since 2010, more than 102 million drought-stressed and beetle-ravaged trees have died across 7.7 million acres of California forest. More than half of those died last year alone. Exacerbated by anti-wildfire policies that produced a crowded forest more vulnerable to drought, the massive dieback is unprecedented in the recorded history of the Sierra. The beetle epidemic is transforming the 4,500-foot to 6,000-foot elevation band of the central and southern range for decades to come, if not permanently. The sheer scale of mortality means that outside of developed areas, it’s likely that most of the tree corpses will be left to topple over. It will takes centuries to replace the legions of majestic old pines that have succumbed — if that is even possible in a warmer future that promises to alter the forest in ways ecologists can only guess.
During year-end meetings with farm clients, Minneapolis-based consultant Rod Mauszycki, heard farmers pose a question the veteran tax adviser had never heard before, "What's the penalty for not carrying health insurance next year?" "Many farm families are getting charged $20,000, $30,000, or even close to $40,000 in premiums and out-of-pocket costs before their insurance kicks in," said Mauszycki, a principal with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP's agribusiness and cooperative group. "The federal penalty of $1,000 to $2,000 is relatively minor. If they don't get sick, they just saved $20,000 to $40,000." "Now is a difficult financial time for U.S. agriculture when farmers are breaking even at best," he added. "Banks are pressuring them to cut expenses or pay down debt, so some farmers are deciding to put their business needs before their personal needs."