Health

Having failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Congress is now working on a tax overhaul. But it turns out the tax bills in the House and Senate also aim to reshape health care.

Here are five ways the tax legislation could change health policy:

1. Repeal the requirement for most people to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty

DEA Beefs Up Ohio Valley Opioid Enforcement

Nov 29, 2017
CSpan

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday enhanced federal enforcement targeting opioids in the Ohio Valley region, including a new Drug Enforcement Administration field division in Louisville.  

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Sessions said the Louisville field division will be the first new DEA division established in 20 years. He said it will have about 90 special agents and 130 task force officers focusing on drug trafficking in the Appalachian region

Community Action of Southern Kentucky

The countdown is on as Americans approach the Dec. 15 deadline to enroll in a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Even with all the political debate over health care, enrollments appear to be going smoothly so far in south central Kentucky.

There is some good news about health care enrollments in the 10 counties served by Community Action of Southern Kentucky. Melissa Grimes is the organization’s manager for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. She said many people who were worried about the cost of health insurance are breathing a sigh of relief. 

Medical professionals say there’s a lot of confusion across America about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  Kentucky health care leaders are contacting residents individually and at public events to give them information and encourage them to enroll by the Dec. 15 deadline.         

Residents of the Bluegrass State can go online to the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange to find someone in their area to help with the application and enrollment for health insurance plans. Each county has "assisters" who can provide information and help with enrollment. These "assisters" were previously called "kynectors," when the state's kynect health care marketplace was in operation, or "navigators."

Americans have until Dec. 15 to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and residents in Kentucky’s Green River area are coming out to enroll  in high numbers. One local expert says uncertainty over the future of health care is a big reason why.

Many Americans, and many Kentucky residents, are unsure of what their options are for health insurance because of the national controversy over Obamacare, and some incorrect reports that it has collapsed.

The insurance program that provides health insurance to almost a third of Kentuckians — Medicaid — will soon change. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is awaiting approval from the federal government on his proposed reforms. But even if Bevin gets everything he asked for, Medicaid providers and advocates say there are still a lot of unknowns to how Kentucky will manage the program.

In Kentucky, Medicaid used to just cover pregnant women, children or people who were disabled or living in poverty. Under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, former Governor Steve Beshear expanded the insurance program to include people living outside of poverty – up to about $33,000 a year for a family of four. The program now covers about a third of Kentuckians, many of whom got on Medicaid through the expansion.

Creative Commons

Despite numerous failed legislative attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration is rolling out regulatory changes that are likely to clear the way for Kentucky’s plan to remake its Medicaid system.

At a National Association of Medicaid Directors conference in Arlington, Virginia on Tuesday, Trump administration official Seema Verma said the government will give states more freedom over their Medicaid programs, including allowing states to require Medicaid enrollees to work or volunteer to keep their coverage.

WalletHub

A new study shows Kentucky is the sixth fattest state in the nation. The study by WalletHub examines three areas--the number of obese and overweight people in each state; health consequences; and food and fitness. Kentucky ranked fifth for the highest percentage of adults with type two diabetes. The Commonwealth also ranked in the top five with the highest percentage of physically inactive adults.

Tennessee is the third fattest state in the nation and Indiana ranked tenth. WalletHub used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Carl Brashear Foundation

The new Radcliff Veterans Center will be named for a U.S. Navy deep sea diver who overcame social and physical challenges during his 30-year military career.

A dedication ceremony will be held Thursday to name the facility the ‘Carl M. Brashear Radcliff Veterans Center.’

Brashear was the son of sharecroppers and grew up on a farm in Sonora in Hardin County. He joined the Navy 1948 and became the first African-American master deep sea diver.

Brashear overcame racial discrimination and the physical challenge of losing half of his left leg in a shipboard accident. He became the Navy’s first amputee diver.

Brashear retired in 1979 with the top enlisted rank of master chief petty officer. He died in 2006 at the age of 75.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed a lawsuit against opioid maker Endo Pharmaceuticals for pushing a highly addictive drug on doctors in Kentucky and contributing to the opioid crisis. In 2016, more than 190 Kentuckians overdosed on Opana ER — the extended release version of the pain medication manufactured by Endo.

“Endo put its own profits ahead of public health and patient safety,” Beshear said in a press conference on Monday. “And rather than help limit the opioid epidemic by reporting potential diversion through illicit prescribing, as it is obligated to do on under federal and state law, Endo looked the other way.”

Mary Meehan

Hundreds of kids scurrying to buses are oblivious to a sign above them declaring Bourbon County High School “100 percent Tobacco Free.” But upstairs in the library, sophomore and anti-smoking advocate Jacob Steward unfurls a six-foot scroll with earth-toned papers trapped between clear sheets of laminate. He begins reading the anti-smoking slogans he’ll post around the school.

“E-cigs pose threat to health and turn kids into addicts and gives big tobacco your money,” he said. “E-cigs, neither water, vapor or harmless.”


Mary Meehan

Roxanne Schwartz, of Lebanon, New Jersey, told a story to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis Wednesday that could easily resonate with parents in the Ohio Valley.

Her two sons were denied by insurance companies when seeking treatment for conditions related to opioid use disorder.

“We have spent over $300,000 in the last seven years,” she said. “We borrowed against our home, cashed out our college savings accounts and withdrew money from our retirement fund.”

White House video

As bad as the opioid epidemic is across the nation, it is even worse here in the Ohio Valley.

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia collectively have a rate of opioid-related deaths that is more than twice the national average.

Last year 5,306 people died from opioid overdoses in the three states -- 15 deaths a day. That means that 13 percent of all opioid deaths in the nation occurred in a region with just over 5 percent of the country’s population.


Courtesy White House, Office of the First Lady

President Donald Trump outlined on Thursday his long-awaited plan to address the opioid crisis as a national public health emergency. Part of that plan was based on experiences in the Ohio Valley region.

In an address at the White House Thursday both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump mentioned efforts in the Ohio Valley region to help infants affected by the crisis.

Trump said that a hospital nursery in West Virginia treats one in every five babies for symptoms of addiction.

Courtesy White House, Office of the First Lady

Many lawmakers from the Ohio Valley region are expected at the White House Thursday as President Donald Trump delivers an address on the opioid crisis.

It is still not clear when the president will unveil a long-awaited emergency declaration on the epidemic. The president called opioid addiction “an emergency” in early August, and a White House spokesperson indicated at the time that "expedited legal review" of an emergency declaration was underway. However, two months have passed without action on the matter.

In an interview Wednesday evening Trump indicated the emergency declaration will come "next week." The president is scheduled to speak on the opioid crisis Thursday afternoon at the White House.


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