Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 6:48 am
Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.
An important deadline is just days away for Kentuckians needing health insurance.
Although the second enrollment period on Kentucky’s health care exchange runs until February 15, residents must sign up for coverage by Monday in order to be covered when the new year begins.
"If you wait until February 15th the soonest your effective date can be is March 1st," explains Kynect Executive Director Carrie Banahan. "If you're wanting coverage by January 1st, you really need to enroll by Monday, December 15th."
More than 18,000 Kentuckians have been filed applications for private insurance or Medicaid since open enrollment began a month ago. The first month of last year’s enrollment period resulted in 32,000 applications.
"Keep in mind that last year we enrolled more than 400,000 people," adds Banahan. "There was a lot of pent up demand among people who didn't have insurance coverage, and now a lot of folks do."
Most of the uninsured have gained coverage through an expansion of Medicaid.
According to one poll, Kentucky's uninsured rate fell from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 in 2014.
Kentucky continues leading the nation in a dubious category: the percentage of children living in poverty. A new report finds that level has gone up 36 percent over the past two years.
Dr. Guy Shrake says the still-recovering economy may be partially to blame for the number of children living below the poverty line
“As a pediatrician myself, it is possible that there still is some residual from the impacts of the recession a number of years ago,” said Dr. Shrake.
But he also cites another factor.
“In a general sense, we do know that more children are in one-parent family than there have been in the past and that that is definitely a cross-connection for having more children in poverty,” said Dr. Shrake.
In 2012, only 23 percent of children in Kentucky were living in poverty. In the most-recent America’s Health Rankings report released today by UnitedHealth Foundation, it’s at nearly 32 percent.
A new report shows Kentucky continues to make strides in reducing the number of babies born premature.
Just over 12 percent of babies in the state last year were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, which was an improvement for the 7th year in a row. The commonwealth received a 'C' on the latest March of Dime Report Card.
"Not many years ago, we had an 'F,' so we have improved significantly, said Katrina Smith with the Kentucky March of Dimes Chapter.
Smith credits the improvement to better education by health departments, hospitals, and other health care providers. Still, reducing premature births is still a challenge in Kentucky. Smith told WKU Public Radio too many women smoke while pregnant.
"The CDC has identified smoking in pregnancy as one of the main things to avoid to prevent a preterm birth," explained Smith. "We do have significantly higher rates of pregnant women who smoke in Kentucky, and that's one of the things we're working on."
Babies who survive an early birth can face a lifetime of health challenges. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.
Smoking is already prohibited on most state-owned property in Kentucky, but starting this week, the policy becomes stricter. Under an executive order by Governor Steve Beshear, all types of tobacco products will be banned.
The Kentucky chapter of the American Lung Association believes the policy creates momentum for a comprehensive statewide smoking ban when lawmakers return to Frankfort in January.
"There's public support, a number of health care organizations and businesses support it, and we feel like there is the legislative votes to make it happen," said Director of Advocacy Heather Wehrheim.
Kentucky has one of the highest smoking rates in the country. Anti-smoking advocates have unsuccessfully pushed a statewide ban on smoking in public places for several years and are hopeful 2015 will be the year the legislation clears the General Assembly.
Tobacco restrictions on state property take effect November 20.
Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 8:21 am
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Jack Blankenship was pinned facedown in the dirt, his neck, shoulder and back throbbing with pain.
He was alone on an errand, in a dark tunnel a mile underground at the Aracoma Alma coal mine in Logan County, W.Va., when a 300-pound slab of rock peeled away from the roof and slammed him to the ground. As his legs grew numb, he managed to free an arm and reach his radio. For two hours, he pressed the panic button that was supposed to bring help quickly.
A first-of-its-kind collaboration in Kentucky is aimed at detecting lung cancer earlier and increasing survivorship rates.
The $7 million effort announced Wednesday in Frankfort is being funded through a grant made by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.
The effort is called the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative, and is a joint effort between the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky, and the Lung Cancer Alliance. Lung cancer takes an especially heavy toll in the commonwealth, as the state leads the nation in the number of lung cancer cases.
The collaboration will bring together health experts tasked with creating new ways to detect lung cancer at earlier stages in order to increase survivorship. Another goal is to improve the quality of life of lung cancer patients and their caregivers.
Kentuckians seeking health insurance only have a few more days before they can apply for coverage on the state's online health exchange.
The state launched its Kynect website last October, signing up more than 521,000 uninsured on private plans or Medicaid. The second open enrollment period begins this Saturday on the 15th.
Governor Steve Beshear told WKU Public Radio that while the rollout of Kentucky’s health exchange was a model for the rest of the nation, a few changes are being made to better serve the public.
"We're working on an app you can access on your cell phone and we're hopefully going to have more kynectors on the ground," said Beshear. "We're looking at various ways to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what this is and to get health care."
The state is also working with more insurance agents and increasing its call center staff to reduce wait times.
Open enrollment lasts until February 15, but sign-ups should be made by December 15 to ensure coverage by January 1.
Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 2:48 pm
Once again the Supreme Court will decide whether the Affordable Care Act lives or dies.
Defying expectations, the court announced Friday it has agreed to hear a case that challenges the heart of the law: subsidies that help people pay their insurance premiums. In about three dozen states, the federal government runs the online marketplaces (exchanges) where individuals can find health plans.