Health

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South-central Kentucky lawmakers are again pushing the state to provide matching funds for a veterans nursing home in Warren County.

A bi-partisan group of legislators from southern Kentucky tried and failed to get $10.5 million in state support during this year’s General Assembly. The federal government has pledged to kick in between $20 million and $30 million if Kentucky lawmakers provide money for the effort.

Warren County Republican Rep. Jim DeCesare is co-sponsoring a bill for next year’s legislature. He says a lot of pieces are already in place to make the veterans nursing home a reality.

"The property has been donated, the veterans groups have met with the folks in Washington D.C., they've met with the folks in Frankfort. So they've got broad support from not only the state entities, but also the federal entities."

Ryland Barton

A public hearing on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to change the state’s Medicaid system drew mostly backlash from a packed crowd in Frankfort on Wednesday.

Bevin wants to require most Medicaid recipients to pay monthly premiums, eliminate vision and dental coverage from the program and create an incentive system that would allow people to volunteer or get job training in exchange for more benefits.

Harriette Seiler, a Louisville resident, said Bevin’s plan for Kentuckians to put “skin in the game” will “scrape a pound of flesh” from the most vulnerable people.

“The sick and the poor and the unemployed are not naughty children who need to be incentivized or scolded or humiliated by constantly having to prove how poor they are in order to sign up for care,” Seiler said.

Rhonda J. Miller

About 125 people attended a public hearing in Bowling Green on June 28 to get an overview and offer comments on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program.

Vickie Yates Glisson is secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. At the public hearing, she said one of the major proposed changes is that instead of copays for medical services, those on Medicaid will pay a small monthly premium. Glisson said the proposal also seeks to include services that address Kentucky’s most critical health issues. 

Cardiovascular health, we have the fourth highest in the nation in heart disease. We have the highest rate of cancers, so we’re addressing lung cancer, smoking cessation, slash lung cancer. We have an out of control drug abuse problem.”

Some at the hearing expressed concern that even a small monthly premium would be barrier to health care for low-income residents. 

Another area of concern that some expressed is that dental and vision care are not included in the basic health care plan.

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If Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to change the state’s Medicaid system is approved, about 86,000 fewer people will be enrolled in the program by July 2021, according to his administration. That will save the state money, as he’s said, but it’s also raising concerns about lost coverage.

The plan would require most beneficiaries to pay premiums ranging between $1 and $15 per month and lock out those who don’t pay. Recipients would be able to get benefits again once they take a health literacy class and pay back the amount they owe.

During an interview on WLSK in Lebanon Tuesday morning, Bevin said the proposed program would give recipients “dignity.”

“There’s no dignity involved in being a ward of the state, in being completely dependent on the government and on your fellow neighbors, and have no expectation of you or any opportunity to give back,” Bevin said. “I think this is a win-win.”

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A Bowling Green-based health group is expanding the number of naloxone training programs in southern Kentucky.

Naloxone is a medication that helps prevent overdose deaths from opioids such as heroin.

The Barren River District Health Department is planning trainings with Simpson County law enforcement and nurses who work in several local school districts, including Bowling Green Independent, and Barren, Butler, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, and Simpson counties.

Chip Krause, a disease intervention specialist with the Barren River District Health Department, is leading the tsessions.

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A public hearing on Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program will be held Tuesday, June 28 in Bowling Green.

The leader of an Owensboro-based community development group sees positives and negatives in  Bevin’s proposal. 

Jiten Shah is executive director of Green River Area Development District and is on the board of Kentucky Voices for Health.

He’s concerned about Bevin’s plan to have Medicaid recipients pay a monthly premium.

“I do have some concerns, you know especially, the recipients would have to have a monthly premium. Since the Medicaid expansion is serving the low income population for the insurance, and many of them may not be able to afford monthly payments of $1 all the way up to $15 a month.”

Shah said even relatively small payments could be difficult for many low-income people already struggling to make ends meet.

The proposed changes would add the premium, but do away with the co-pay that Medicaid recipients are charged when they go for a medical appointment. 

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It's almost impossible not to play with a kitten, but a scratch from one could lead to trouble.

According to Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Iass El Lakkis of The Medical Center in Bowling Green, Cat Scratch Fever is usually mild but, in rare cases, can lead to hospitalization for eye problems, disorientation or liver infection. "Mostly patients will have skin swelling, small bumps or redness, usually three to ten days after they're exposed," he said.

More often than not, though, Cat Scratch Fever is treated with simple antibiotics and lingers for about three to four weeks.

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Poverty grips more than a quarter of Kentucky’s kids.

About 260,000 children in Kentucky live in poverty, and more are living in pockets of poverty across the state than in years prior, according to the 2016 Kids Count report.

The report is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and co-released with Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, called this year’s findings bad news for Kentucky’s kids and families. The state ranks 35th in the overall economic well-being of children, per the report. That’s a slightly worse ranking than in 2015, Brooks said.

“Are we, as a commonwealth, content with being in the bottom third of states when it comes to child well-being,” he said.

Health experts in western Kentucky are considering a needle exchange program to curb the spread of H-I-V and Hepatitis C. 

Kentucky lawmakers voted in 2015 to give health departments the authority to set up the exchanges amid the state's heroin epidemic.

The exchanges would let any IV drug users anonymously swap out dirty needles for clean ones. 

"Kentucky is the number one state in the nation with high Hepatitis C rates and we want to protect our citizens from the spread of these diseases," remarks Public Health Director Deborah Fillman at the Green River District Health Department.  "It's not enabling a drug user.  It's about getting resources for these folks such as available treatment options."

Fillman has been taking some cues from Louisville, the first city in the state to implement a needle exchange program, but she says the exchanges would be tailored to best meet the needs of western Kentucky. 

The Green River District Health Department serves Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union, and Webster counties.  Upon approval from the district’s board of health, it would be up to local cities and counties to decide whether to create needle exchanges.

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The number of overdose deaths in Kentucky continues to rise and a new report shows it’s largely due to a powerful opioid drug that dealers are secretly mixing with heroin.

Over the past year, more drug dealers have been lacing heroin with fentanyl, an opioid that the Drug Enforcement Administration says is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin alone.

The results of this are evident in the state Office of Drug Control Policy’s latest report, which found that there were nearly 300 more fentanyl-related overdoses last year than in 2014.

Director Van Ingram said many overdoses happen because users don’t realize they aren’t taking pure heroin.

“Often people are buying what they think is heroin, which is heroin mixed with fentanyl or just fentanyl itself in a powdered form,” said Ingram.

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A Western Kentucky University researcher says hospitals now have more incentive than ever before to achieve patient satisfaction.

Neale Chumbler, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at WKU, says a federal survey of hospital patients is creating a comparison of care providers across the country.

The survey’s official name is Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Its goal is to measure patients’ perspectives on the care they’ve received.

Chumbler says the results are also being scrutinized by insurance companies.

“As a hospital CEO, whether you get more or less reimbursements through insurance, these types of results will bear a lot of important findings.”

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new, wide-ranging health poll shows that opinion remains split on the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, with most unfavorable opinions coming from northern and western parts of the state. Those areas also happen to have the highest rates of uninsured in the state.

Susan Zepeda is president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which conducts the annual poll along with Cincinnati-based Interact for Health.

“Overall, what we’re finding with these reports is that an increasing number of Kentuckians have health insurance, but many are still delaying or simply can’t afford necessary health care,” Zepeda said.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll showed that just 41 percent of Kentuckians have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

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The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is expecting a busier-than-usual mosquito spraying season.

While state officials have reported only a handful of infections, fears of the Zika virus have the department ramping up operations.

Keith Rogers, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, says the department has enough pesticides to last through the summer.

“We feel like we’ve purchased enough product, and have the resources, to certainly get us through late summer. If we do see an increase need in spring, or an increase in mosquito population, we will have the resources to purchase additional products.”

Rogers says despite budget cuts, the agriculture department will have enough funding for mosquito pesticides even if it has to make reductions in other areas.

The typical spraying season is June through August.

While Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is privately working on a plan to change Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid system, a coalition of advocacy group has created its own recommendations.

Bevin has said his administration would apply for a federal 1115 waiver — a course of action that allows states to test out new ways to operate Medicaid.

Although there hasn’t been any public input on the waiver process, a coalition called Kentucky Voices for Health has crafted its own suggestions designed to improve health and manage costs of the system.

Rich Seckel, executive director of Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said the group’s report could help improve the Medicaid system.

“What I found exciting about these recommendations was not the sort of predictable concern about cost barriers but the opportunity to do some innovation,” Seckel said.

A new jobs-training program is aimed at helping young Kentucky adults with the transition out of foster care.

Governor Matt Bevin unveiled the Fostering Success program this week.

It will put 18-23 year olds who have left foster care into a 10-week office job at a local branch of the state Department for Community Based Service.

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks says the program will introduce participants to a range of options they might not have otherwise known about.

“There are going to be routes clearly laid out to take them to community colleges, to four year colleges, and also to trade and technical and career apprenticeships.”

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