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Dr. Bret Frey is an emergency room physician in Reno, Nevada, and he likens working in health care right now to fighting in a war. 

"I always thought that there was a good chance that World War III would happen in some form in my lifetime, I just didn't appreciate it was going to come in the form of a virus," Frey says.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the nation to figure out something it's tried to do for years: increase access to telehealth.

That’s true across the nation and in rural Western states like Idaho. 


Photo of rows of cots in a large warehouse.
Courtesy Utah Department of Public Safety

Utah spent nearly $1.5 million on a quarantine center and a hospital overflow site, but did not use either. Those contracts will expire at the end of May and June respectively.

The United States is seeing its highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression. And nurses, doctors and other health care workers are not immune to pay cuts and furloughs.

Photo of empty chairs in a hospital corridor
Михаил Руденко via iStock

Utah’s hospitals have seen a sharp reduction in patient admissions over the last two months. Across the Intermountain Healthcare system, for example — the largest in Utah — 50% fewer patients are going to the emergency room, according to Dr. Adam Balls, emergency department chair at Intermountain Medical Center.

Photo of the Utah state capitol building.
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Friday granting immunity from lawsuits to health care providers that give their patients experimental drugs to treat diseases causing a public health emergency. The immunity also covers any medication used for a different purpose than the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for. 

Photo of the outside of the University of Utah Hospital building
Wikimedia Commons

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continues to increase, Utah’s hospitals and doctors are preparing for a surge that many predict is inevitable. 

Photo of two women looking at presctriptions.
Jon Reed / KUER

When Stephanie Arceneaux and Raune Palmer met for the first time, it was to trade prescription drugs. 

Photo of two golf carts
Courtesy of Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker via <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/29613480388">Flickr</a> / View <a href="https://foto.wuestenigel.com/park-golf-carts/?utm_source=29613480388&utm_campaign=FlickrDescription&utm_medium=link">original photo</a> and <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons license</a>.

We’re more than halfway through the Utah legislative session, and lots of bills have been making big headlines in the state. But with just 45 days, there are probably more than a few that you may have missed. KUER’s Caroline Ballard went to the state Capitol pressroom to catch up with political reporter Sonja Hutson.

A new study casts doubt on the safety of state abortion laws in the Mountain West.

Stock photo of medical equipment on a table.
iStock

The federal government has given Utah’s “Fallback Plan” on Medicaid Expansion the go ahead, bringing a long and drawn-out process closer — though not all the way — to its end. 

Photo illustration showing a calculator and stethoscope on top of documents.
BrianAJackson via iStock

A federal court struck down a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Wednesday, signalling more uncertainty for a law that has been in and out of the courts since it first passed in 2010.

Photo of insulin bottle.
Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. health care system is letting people down when it comes to prescription drugs. That’s according to a recent study from researchers at the University of Utah and University of Colorado, which looked at how and why patients with diabetes are going outside the system for the medical supplies they need. 

Photo of jeep offroading in Utah.
Bureau of Land Management Utah / flickr

Tuesday evening, December 10, 2019

A one-story, ranch style building sits in front of a backdrop of red cliffs at dusk.
Courtesy of Creek Valley Health Clinic

When the Creek Valley Health Clinic celebrates its grand opening on Dec. 18, it will have been over a year in the making.

clinic opening

Dec 10, 2019

Mountain road covered in snow.
Chelsea Naughton / KUER

Monday morning, November 25, 2019

A report out this week found that people seeking mental health treatment go out-of-network more than they do for primary care. Essentially, that means that for consumers, it’s often more expensive to treat mind than body, and the disparity seems to have gotten worse in recent years. 

Researchers writing in the journal Science found that when kids get measles, it can cause “amnesia” in the immune system. 

In much of the Mountain West, measles vaccination rates are below the recommended 95% level.

A growing number of pharmacists across the country are now offering birth control directly to patients -- no doctor’s visit required. That includes pharmacists at grocery stores in the Kroger chain -- like Fred Meyers, King Soopers, City Market and Smith’s -- in addition to Albertson’s and Safeway stores.

Photo of vape pens.
iStock.com / HighGradeRoots

Nationwide, more than 1,000 people have been diagnosed with lung injuries related to vaping, and the number of cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control continues to grow each week. Not much is known about the injury, though the FDA and Utah health officials have pointed to unregulated Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cartridges as a possible cause. But doctors are starting to identify some patterns. 

Photo of medicaid form.
Renee Bright / KUER

The Utah Department of Health is holding public hearings this week on the latest installment of the state’s Medicaid expansion program. The move comes after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out an informal rejection in July to several states considering plans like Utah’s, forcing state lawmakers to regroup. 

Photo of rural utah street.
iStock.com / DeltaOFF

Utah lawmakers took the first step Wednesday towards reauthorizing a pprogram to encourage students finishing medical school to train in rural and underserved parts of the state. If not reauthorized, the Rural Residency Training Program that started over a decade ago will sunset in July, 2020.

Photo of medicaid form.
Renee Bright / KUER

Utah’s Medicaid expansion plan had a final public hearing Monday night in Salt Lake City. After the window closes for online comments at the end of the month, officials with the health department will then submit the proposed changes to the federal government for approval as a waiver.

Renee Bright / KUER

It’s 3 a.m. and Corey Ellis can’t sleep. He’s supposed to be on the road in a few hours, but the chronic pain in his hands and feet are bothering him. On this night, there’s another thing keeping him awake: anxiety.

Photo of nurse practitioner.
Erik Neumann / KUER

About 12,000 employees and their families who work in the Granite School District have a new way to get health care starting on Tuesday: a clinic just for them.

Photo of staff.
Erik Neumann / KUER

Medical staff buzzed around the inside of a new 36-foot-long RV in the parking lot of Utah Partners for Health in Salt Lake City’s Glendale neighborhood on Thursday. Inside, two exam rooms will soon provide a workplace for medical assistants and a registered nurse to treat some of Utah’s most needy.

Shortly after Emily Goodwin relocated her family across the country, they got some big news.   

“We found out we were pregnant less than a month after we moved here and that was a huge surprise,” says Goodwin, who has a homestead in Melba, Idaho.

 


Erik Neumann / KUER

There’s general consensus between policy makers, elected officials and health care advocates that Medicaid has a big price tag. But what are the actual costs? Bryce Ward aimed to find out. He’s an economist in Missoula, Montana who published a study of the first two years of Medicaid expansion in that state. KUER’s Erik Neumann spoke with Ward about what lessons might be used in Utah.

Photo of Mike Lyons.
Erik Neumann / KUER

For climbers like Salt Lake resident Mike Lyons, the act of tying a safety knot in a climbing rope is a ritual. Ensuring a correctly tied knot is a connection between climbing partners, a way to focus and, most importantly, to avoid injury in case of a fall. It comes down to routine.

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