health

Mary Meehan

Dressed in crisp blue scrubs, Certified Nurse Midwife JoAnne Burris walks briskly, the click of her sensible clogs a counterpoint to smooth jazz in the hall.

The University of Kentucky Midwife Clinic, with its large, color prints of newborns on earth-tone walls, still has that new furniture smell. But word-of-mouth already has the waiting room full.

Inside Exam Room 3 Emily and Johnathan Robertson wait to hear their baby’s heartbeat. And there it is, the echoing sound of a strong fetal heart: Whoosh, ump, whoosh, ump, whoosh ump.

“Best part of the appointment,” Burris said, “every time.”

flickr creative commons Chris Potter

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday that he is working with attorneys general from across the country to investigate whether drug manufacturers contributed to the opioid epidemic “by illegally marketing and selling opioids,” according to his office.

The action follows a suit filed in May by Ohio’s attorney general.

In Kentucky, there were more than 1,248 overdose deaths in the first half of 2016, a 25 percent increase from 2014.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is slamming efforts led by Senate Majority Leader and fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

Paul said he won’t know how he will vote until the bill is released to legislators on Thursday, but he anticipates that McConnell won’t have the votes and will have to renegotiate the legislation with members of his own party.

GOP's Health Care Rollback Collides with the Opioid Epidemic

Jun 20, 2017
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The Republican campaign to roll back former President Barack Obama's health care law is colliding with the opioid epidemic. Medicaid cutbacks would hit hard in states deeply affected by the addiction crisis and struggling to turn the corner, according to state data and concerned lawmakers in both parties.

The central issue is that the House health care bill would phase out expanded Medicaid, which allows states to provide federally backed insurance to low-income adults previously not eligible. Many people in that demographic are in their 20s and 30s and dealing with opioid addiction. Dollars from Washington have allowed states to boost their response to the crisis, paying for medication, counseling, therapy and other services.

Mary Meehan

The coordinator of a needle exchange program in Bowling Green is hoping other southern Kentucky counties will start similar efforts.

The Barren River District Health Department started the anonymous needle exchange program nine months ago in hopes of combating the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis-C.

From January 2014 to April 2016, the region saw more than 600 cases of Hepatitis-C. The health department’s Public Health Services Coordinator, Chip Krause, says it’s too early to know if the district has seen a decrease in the spread of disease, but he says those who use the needle exchange program are five times more likely to enter a treatment program.

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Kentucky and other Medicaid expansion states are seeing an increase in overall emergency room visits.

Still, fewer uninsured people are going to the ER under the Affordable Care Act.

In 2014, states with expanded Medicaid access saw an 8.8 percent increase in the share of ER visits covered by Medicaid, according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The share of visits by those without insurance decreased by 5.3 percent. Those with private insurance remained the same in expansion states.

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Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth is asking the federal Department of Health and Human Services for an update on Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s Medicaid expansion changes.

Yarmuth wrote the letter Thursday.

Last August, Bevin proposed several changes for Kentuckians on Medicaid — both those that got their insurance through the Medicaid expansion and make up to 138 percent of the poverty level, and traditional Medicaid enrollees, which includes people living in poverty.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Gov. Matt Bevin can’t repeal a 1 percent tax he said was one reason to dismantle the state health insurance exchange before he was elected in 2015. So he’s planning to work with the legislature next session to remove the tax, which funded the now-defunct Kynect.

The tax was created to initially fund Kentucky’s high risk insurance pool back in 2000. When former governor Steve Beshear decided to go on its own to create Kynect under the Affordable Care Act, the tax then went to pay for its creation and maintenance.

Kentucky Supplier Recalls More than 22,000 Pounds of Beef

Jun 6, 2017
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a Kentucky-based food distributor has issued a recall on more than 22,000 pounds of ground beef and other beef products due to possible E. coli bacteria contamination.

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service says the Creation Gardens Inc. products subject to the recall were shipped to food service locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

The department says the problem was discovered Monday when plant management at the Louisville-based company notified Food Safety and Inspection Service officials of positive test results for E.coli.

Republicans are running way behind schedule.

In the dream scenario outlined by party leaders back in January, President Trump would have signed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, months ago. By early June, Republicans were supposed to be in the thick of overhauling the tax code.

Max Pixel

More than 67,000 seniors in Kentucky are receiving letters this month advertising prescription drug and medical care savings programs from the Social Security Administration. And while financial fraud targeting older Americans is growing – it costs around $2.9 billion a year – these letters are the real deal.

The Social Security Administration letter explains a prescription drug and medical care savings program. But it leads with an exclamation that, frankly, can seem a little scammy: “You May Be Able To Save $1,608 Or More In Medicare Costs!”

Enough seniors thought it was a scam that earlier this week, the National Council on Aging put out a notice that this letter is, in fact, real. The Medicare Savings Program helps seniors pay for hospital and doctor’s office costs. Then there’s another program that helps pay for prescription drugs.

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There’s been a big demand for primary care doctors in the past 10 years, and that need will only grow over the next decade. That’s according to new findings from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The report, out last week, cites a rapidly aging population and an increase in the number of people who have health insurance as reasons for the growing demand. Lyndon Pryor, with the Louisville Urban League, says the impact of that demand is already being felt.

It’s common, Pryor says, for Louisville residents to visit the Urban League’s community health program with the complaint of not being able to see a doctor. He says they also hear complaints from people about long wait times for appointments and providers that can’t help with chronic conditions.


Jeanna Glisson

Jeanna Glisson has two lives: her life before August 20th, 2007, and her life after. That day is so vivid, Glisson can still hear the sounds of her son’s feet coming down the stairs.

“I remember Derek when he got up that morning, he was on the phone talking to my dad. He was excited,” Glisson said.

It was the first day of harvest at Swift Farms in Murray, Kentucky, and Derek couldn’t wait to get to the corn fields. Glisson remembers it feeling like the hottest day of the year. It was a Monday, she said.

“He looked forward to it. I remember him getting in the shower. And then after that...” Her voice trails off. She remembers that the phone rang. It was her brother. Derek had been hurt. Before Glisson or any of the emergency responders could get to the farm, it was too late.

Mary Meehan

Eight protesters along a major thoroughfare in Lexington hoisted signs shaped like tombstones with sayings such as “RIP Trumpcare.” They were hoping Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Andy Barr would catch a glimpse of the demonstration on their way to a press event at Valvoline headquarters down the road. Against the steady hum of streaming cars came a few honks. A middle-aged guy on a Harley gunned his bike through the intersection while laying on the horn.

“I don’t know if they are honking for us or if someone actually got in their way,” said Peter Wedlund, who is wearing a black Grim Reaper cloak.

Even in the very red Ohio Valley region a growing number of people are protesting the American Health Care Act, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Back in January, Republicans boasted they would deliver a "repeal and replace" bill for the Affordable Care Act to President Donald Trump's desk by the end of the month.

In the interim, that bravado has faded as their efforts stalled and they found out how complicated undoing a major law can be. With summer just around the corner, and most of official Washington swept up in scandals surrounding Trump, the health overhaul delays are starting to back up the rest of the 2018 agenda.

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