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Daviess County doctors are treating as many as 500 patients who are suffering from a once-rare allergy.

Alpha-gal syndrome is spread through tick bites, and leads to allergic reactions after the eating of red meat.

Physicians at Owensboro’s Allergy and Asthma Specialists are seeing an explosion in the number of people diagnosed with the allergy.

Physician assistant Caitlyn Renaud says Alpha-gal is different from a regular allergy because of its delayed reaction time.

“People had dinner at, like, 7 o’clock at night and they ate a steak or cheeseburger. And they would wake up in the middle of the night with swelling, hives, and itching,” she said.  

Other symptoms of Alpha-gal syndrome include abdominal cramping and vomiting.

The allergy especially prevalent in the south-east because of the number of ticks found in the region.

Kentuckians in more than half of all counties who buy insurance through next year will have a much more limited choice of doctors and hospitals.

That’s because the only insurer left in Kentucky offering exchange plans in all 120 counties — Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield — will only offer an HMO plan in 74 of those counties starting Jan. 1.

Kentucky State Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency are partnering together in an effort to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.

Take Back locations will be set up at fifteen K-S-P posts this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Trooper Josh Brashears, a public affairs officer with the state police, says the Take Back initiative has led to the destruction of thousands of pounds of drugs across the state.

“We do it semi-annually. We did one in April of this year, and it netted about 1,010 pounds of prescription drugs,” Brashears said.

Nearly 10,000 pounds of medicine has been collected since the program began in 2010.

All solid dosage pharmaceutical products and liquids in containers will be accepted at the Take Back locations across the state.

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Whether or not your doctor stays in business over the next few years could hinge on their ability to adapt to a new regulation changing how Medicare pays doctors and clinicians.

The game-changing regulation aimed at paying medical providers for quality instead of quantity is known as MACRA. It’s based on legislation passed last year by Congress to overhaul how Medicare pays doctors.

There are two routes medical providers can take: Medical practices can earn higher reimbursements if they learn new ways of doing business. That includes being willing to accept financial risk and reward for performance, reporting quality measures to the government, and using electronic medical records. The majority of medical practices will go this route, according to the Kentucky Medical Association.

Or they can join a network of medical providers and hospitals that shares financial and medical responsibility for providing coordinated care to patients in hopes of limiting unnecessary spending.

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Ten months after completing a smoking cessation class, Terrence Silver started smoking cigarettes again. It was his first attempt at quitting after smoking for 40 years. His biggest motivation to quit: cost.

“That was the primary reason I was going to quit, the money,” Silver said. “It wasn’t health, wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It was the money.”

Silver lives across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where the tax on cigarettes is 99 cents per pack. So he comes to Kentucky to buy his cigarettes, where the tax is 60 cents.

Silver said when he took the smoking cessation class in April of 2015 — offered through the Metro Department of Public Health — he learned about his triggers: every time he gets in his car, he reaches for a cigarette.

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A new study shows fewer Kentucky adults are delaying or skipping medical care because of cost concerns.

The report from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says a little more than 20 percent of Kentuckians who are 18 and older put off treatment this year because they couldn’t afford it.

That’s a big improvement over the 32 percent who skipped or delayed medical care in 2009.

“It’s still too high a figure, and we’re still higher than the national average,” said Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler. “But it’s certainly better than what it was, and it’s a good sign and a step in the right direction.”

Chandler says the increasing number of Kentuckians who have health coverage under the Affordable Care Act has made a big difference. He points out income level is also a big predictor of whether Kentuckians had to put off getting medical care.

Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

The sound of sirens in Cabell County, West Virginia, has a good chance of indicating an overdose these days.

The county’s Emergency Medical Service had responded to 622 overdose calls this year as of September 24, according to ES Director Gordon Merry. Last year it was more than 900 overdoses, which surpassed the total of the previous three years combined.

The county received national attention in August after responding to 26 ODs in just four hours.

“That many overdoses in that short of time was a challenge,” Merry said. “It just took us off guard there.”

All 26 victims that night survived, thanks in part to the medication naloxone. Naloxone, also known by its brand name NARCAN, is becoming more a part of everyday life due to the epidemic that’s gripped the Ohio Valley. The life-saving drug is a welcome addition for emergency responders but they caution that it is no silver bullet for the addiction crisis.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians who’ve purchased health insurance via Kynect will have to re-enroll on the federal exchange starting Nov. 1.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday told Gov. Matt Bevin that all major milestones for the switch had been met. As of this year, 74,640 people were enrolled via the state health care exchange, Kynect.

This means if you currently have coverage that was acquired on the state exchange, you will have to re-enroll on the federal exchange at Officials said that’s due to consumer information not being transferred from Kynect. 

Adam Meier, Bevin’s chief of staff for policy, said people can be screened for Medicaid eligibility or a plan on the federal exchange via the Benefind website, which operates as the umbrella portal for Kentuckians to apply for nearly all entitlement services.

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If you go to the hospital this year, there will likely be a small decrease in your bill from previous years.

That’s because hospitals in Kentucky saw the lowest rates of charity care in 2015 since before Medicaid expansion went into effect four years ago.

But it might not last.

Charity care refers to the services hospitals provide patients who can’t pay because they don’t have insurance. Hospitals get paid back for this partially by the state and federal government, but they pass the remaining cost on to insured people.

In 2015, Kentucky hospitals had $552 million in charity care costs, compared with $2.4 billion four years ago.

The findings on uncompensated care come from a new report from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky report out last week.

A big reason for the dip is likely from the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Baptist Health Plan To Stop Selling Insurance In Kentucky

Oct 3, 2016

Baptist Health Plan says it will not sell policies in Kentucky next year, meaning about 7,000 people will have to find a new insurance provider.

Kentucky’s fourth-largest insurer notified state officials in a letter. In a news release, state officials say company President James S. Fritz said Baptist Health Plan had enrolled more people than it planned and said federal risk assessments imposed by the federal Affordable Care Act are “unsustainable.”

The company’s insurance plans sold on the state’s health exchange will be good through Dec. 31. Plans sold off the exchange will expire March 31, 2017.

The news means next year people in 59 counties will have one insurance provider selling plans on the state health exchange. Off the exchange, most counties will have two options, state officials said.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration says will be up and running in Kentucky in time for Kynect customers to reapply for their health insurance later this year.

But roughly one month from the beginning of open enrollment on Nov. 1, some of those who work on the ground to help Kentuckians sign up for coverage are concerned about whether exchange customers will know when, where and how to re-enroll. That’s in part because education and outreach efforts have thus far been minimal.

Kentucky is moving from its state-based marketplace to the federal this year, after Bevin decided to dismantle Kynect and roll back Medicaid expansion in the state. Consumers must reapply this year for 2017 coverage even if they were auto-enrolled last year because eligibility information from Kynect won’t be transferred to the federal system.

The window for open enrollment is Nov. 1 until Dec. 15. Amanda Stamper, press secretary for Bevin administration, said they’ve hit milestones to make the switch in time.

State health officials are pointing to more progress in efforts to reduce Kentucky's youth smoking rate.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services says the latest smoking rate among Kentucky high school students is 16.9 percent, down from 26.2 percent a decade ago. That's according to the 2015 Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Youth smoking rates in Kentucky remain higher than the national average. Officials say the nationwide rate was 10.8 percent in 2015.

Officials from the Kentucky Department for Public Health attribute the state's decade-long decline, in part, to tobacco-free school policies, which encourage districts to create environments where tobacco and alternative nicotine products are prohibited.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has joined a multistate antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat heroin and other opioid addiction by blocking cravings for the substances.

The suit alleges that Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals — now Indivior — switched Suboxone from a tablet to a mouth-dissolving film so that the Food and Drug Administration would grant the drug maker more years of exclusivity before generic alternatives could hit the market.

“Substance abuse is the single greatest threat to our Commonwealth,” Beshear said in a news release. “For these companies to allegedly try and monopolize the market on a treatment drug is beyond belief and borderlines on inhuman.”

Beshear said in order to win the battle over heroin in addiction in Kentucky, the state needs “every resource available and affordable.”

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Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at attacking the city’s heroin and prescription opioid problem.

The program, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is called the “360 Strategy.” It takes a multi-faceted approach to the problem and will involve law enforcement, medical and public health organizations and service groups.

It will include the formation of a Heroin Investigation Team, made up of Louisville Metro Police detectives and DEA agents.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said the team will investigate overdoses as crime scenes. Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will be prosecuted in federal court and could go to prison for 20 years to life without parole, he said.

“Today, we have a message for heroin dealers,” Kuhn said. “You are killing people in this city, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

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A new report says some Kentuckians could be drinking a cancer-causing chemical called chromium-6.

The Environmental Working Group, a public health advocacy group, analyzed data collected from samples of drinking water from all 50 states by the Environmental Protection Agency. Of the 85 Kentucky counties tested, the highest levels of chromium-6 were found in the samples from Daviess County.

The average level of chromium-6 found in Daviess County was 1.12 parts per billion, which according to Bill Walker, EWG managing editor, equates to a drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The EPA has imposed a limit for chromium of 100 parts per billion. But that includes both chromium-6 and chromium-3. The latter is an essential element for human function. However, too much can cause skin rashes.

Walker said the EPA bases its limit on the toxicity of chromium-3, not the more dangerous chromium-6.

“It’s two things mixed together and dumped into drinking water, and EPA says we have a standard to cover the combination of these things,” Walker said. “But don’t have a standard for the individual one, which happens to be more dangerous.