Lisa Autry

Reporter/Producer

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

Pages

Politics
1:56 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

The Money War Begins in Kentucky's U.S. Senate Contest

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes are each declaring the upper hand after releasing their latest fundraising totals. 

In her first quarter as a U.S. Senate candidate, the Grimes campaign is claiming she broke a Kentucky fundraising record, banking $2.5 million between July and September.  In a news release, Team Alison touts that donations came from every Kentucky county and all 50 states, and the median contribution was $25.

“The record-breaking showing speaks to the overwhelming grassroots momentum behind Alison’s campaign and the fact that people across the political spectrum are tired of Mitch McConnell’s out-of-touch, failed leadership.  Simply put, McConnell is not receiving a passing grade from Kentucky or this nation,” Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst said. 

Read more
Regional
5:00 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Shutdown Threatens Pay for Federal Court Workers

The budget stalemate that’s kept the government idle for two weeks is close to having a direct impact on federal courts in Kentucky and elsewhere. 

Since the partial government shutdown began on October 1, the judiciary has been able to fund itself, but that money is expected to run out by this Friday.  After that, all employees will have to report for duty to keep the courts running as normal. 

There will be no furloughs because every employee is considered essential, according to Vanessa Armstrong, who is clerk of the federal court in the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville.  She says current staffing levels are the same as they were in the 1990s. 

Federal workers will get back pay once the government is fully funded again. 

Health
5:00 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Official: Kentucky is not Enrolling Dead People in Insurance Under Obamacare

A state official is condemning some national media reports that say Kentucky's health exchange is enrolling dead people. 

An instruction on the Kynect website says "If you are filling out this application on behalf of a person who has recently passed away, enter the deceased person's date of death."  This part of the application is actually for those who would have been eligible for Medicaid before death.  Medicaid will pay three months of medical expenses prior to someone's death.  Gwenda Bond in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says this is not some provision of Obamacare.

"This is something that Medicaid has always allowed, it's part of the federal Medicaid program," explains Bond.  "Every state, as far as I know, that participates in the Medicaid program follows this exact same guideline.  The requirement itself is the same everywhere."

Bond says it also allows the state to prevent fraud.  If a person came in at a later time and tried to get benefits with someone else's identity, the system would immediately catch it by having a date of death.

Health
4:00 pm
Sun October 6, 2013

Kentucky Launches New Model for Health Insurance

The Kentucky Health Cooperative touts itself as a new kind of health insurance from a new kind of insurance company. 

It's a non-profit based in Louisville and the board of directors is comprised mostly of customers.  Communications Director Susan Dunlap says the co-op is responsible only to members.

"Any surplus revenues that are earned would not go back to shareholders, as would be the case for a publicly traded company," explains Dunlap.  "In that case, surplus funds would go back to improving member health benefits, it might be used to reduce premium levels, or be invested in programs intended to improve health care quality that the members would benefit from."

Dunlap says the co-op offers coverage in all 120 counties of the state and has a national network of providers through First Health, as well as contract with UK Healthcare. 

Kentucky is one of 24 states that created co-ops under the Affordable Care Act and received millions of dollars in federal loans for start-up and operational costs. 

Dunlap says she isn't sure how many Kentuckians have signed up for the co-op since enrollment began last week.   The Kentucky Health Cooperative can be accessed on the state's health exchange website Kynect.

Education
3:00 pm
Sat October 5, 2013

WKU Sees Changing Student Demographic

Credit Kevin Willis

Final numbers are expected to show a slight decrease in enrollment this semester at WKU.  Provost Gordon Emslie attributes the decrease to a drop in part-time students and fewer students enrolling in associate-degree programs.

"I think more students are choosing to enter baccalaureate degree fields or possibly they're going to KCTCS to start their college education there," says Emslie.  "We have eight joint-admissions agreements with community colleges in Kentucky and Tennessee, and we hope to welcome those students back as juniors in a couple of years."

Dr. Emslie says the freshmen class has the highest number ever of full-time students seeking four-year degrees.

"Because a larger fraction of the class are called cohort students, those students tend to be retained at a much higher level, so we're very confident that even with a slight reduction in number, the rate of graduation will be higher than it has been in the past," explains Emslie.

The school is seeing some other firsts. The fall class has the highest average ACT score, up a half-point from 2012.  More than 15% of WKU's total enrollment is made up of minority students, a new high for the university.  International enrollment is up 43% and will top 1,000 students for the first time.

Health
3:25 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Restaurant Linked to Western Kentucky Salmonella Cases

Health officials have confirmed the source of a deadly salmonella outbreak in Hopkins County. 

Casa Mexicana, a Madisonville restaurant, is believed to be responsible for the illness that's affected 12 people.  Five were hospitalized and one person died. 

Hopkins County Health Department Director Denise Beach says the restaurant is no longer a health risk.

"We went in and inspected, found some food health violations, and we shut them down," explains Beach.  "They did correct those and we did re-training, and opened them back up."

Beach says the restaurant is on an increased inspection schedule.  Salmonella is a foodborne illness that typically results in diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Regional
2:09 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Kentucky Sheriff's Deputy Accused of Dealing in Illegal Steroids

A Taylor County Sheriff’s Deputy was arrested this week on federal drug charges.  FBI Special Agent Virginia MacHenry writes in a criminal complaint that William Allen Rice sold steroids to an undercover informant on three occasions between May and August of this year. 

In one instance, Rice allegedly meets up with the undercover agent while in uniform and driving his Taylor County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.  In another transaction, Rice told the informant he would leave a bottle of steroids for him on the seat of his cruiser parked at his home in Campbellsville.

Rice was arrested Tuesday and released on his own recognizance.  He is due in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green next week for a preliminary hearing.  Court records did not list an attorney for the former deputy.

Taylor County Sheriff Allen Newton says Rice has been fired.

Politics
1:23 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Some Kentucky Members of Congress Won't Accept Pay During Shutdown

Many federal employees will go without a paycheck during the government’s partial shutdown, but the 533 members of Congress will continue to be paid.  Congressional pay is protected by the U.S. Constitution, but some lawmakers don’t think it’s fair. 

Kentucky’s Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie, a Republican from Bowling Green, is asking that his pay be withheld, and if the stalemate isn’t resolved by the end of the month, he will decide what to do with the money.

“As thousands of federal employees in Kentucky are not being paid during the shutdown, I have submitted paperwork to the House asking that my pay be suspended during this time,” replied Guthrie.  “Some of my colleagues have instead chosen to donate their salaries to charity. My family has a strong commitment to charitable giving and I prefer to keep these donations private and not linked to politics.”

For Third District Congressman John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, pay isn’t an issue.

“He has donated every cent of his Congressional salary to Louisville charities every year he's been in Congress,” spokesman Stephen George said in an email. 

WKU Public Radio contacted the offices of the rest of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation, but were not able to reach their spokespeople.  Emails were not returned, and recorded phone messages and website statements there would be delays in any correspondence until the government resumes normal operations.

Health
4:17 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Beshear Presses Insurance Enrollment at Regional Health Department

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Haynes visited the Barren River District Health Department to show off a new kiosk where the uninsured can sign up for heath coverage.
Credit Lisa Autry

The Barren River District Health Department will soon be one of the places where the uninsured can sign up for health coverage. 

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear was at the health department Wednesday, unveiling a new kiosk where the uninsured can log on to the kynect website, which went live on Tuesday.  The site allows people to browse private insurance plans and see whether they qualify for Medicaid or federal subsidies.  Beshear called Tuesday “the first day of the rest of our lives when it comes to health care.”

"If there is one message that I can give to every Kentuckian it's 'check this out,' Beshear advised.  "It doesn't matter if you like the President or not, it doesn't matter whether you like me or not.  It's about you, it's about your families."

Governor Beshear used the Bowling Green stop to tout several aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for preventive care and pre-existing conditions. 

The Barren River District Health Department is one of 150 locations statewide that will eventually have a kiosk.  Director Dennis Chaney anticipates the kiosk will be used a lot.

“Particularly in our eight-county service area, we have over 21,000 folks that have been identified as being eligible under the Medicaid expansion and almost another 21,000 of our residents will be eligible for Kynect, and so our work is cut out for us," explained Chaney.

Health Department staff will undergo training and become state certified before helping people enroll on Kentucky’s health exchange.

Health
4:10 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Some Glitches Reported on Day One of Kentucky's Health Exchange

Tuesday was the inaugural day for Kentucky's Health Benefits Exchange. 

The Kynect website went live at 12 a.m. Tuesday, and according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 24,000 people browsed to see what they might be eligible for and over 1,000 applications were processed by 9:30 a.m. 

As expected, there have been a some hiccups along the way.

"The high volume of traffic is causing a few technical glitches, but we have an IT command center fully staffed who are working diligently to iron out any issues.  People can continue to browse the site, but we encourage any visitors who experience problems to check back later to begin their application process," said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. 

"There will be a message on the site to provide an update as we work to ensure everything is running smoothly. This surge of early applications demonstrates the pent up demand for quality health coverage for many Kentuckians, who will be able to have that coverage beginning January 1, 2014, because of the ACA."

Kentucky's Health Benefits Exchange can be accessed at kynect.ky.gov.

Pages