health

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The federal government has approved most of Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed changes to the state’s Medicaid program.

Bevin’s proposal includes requiring many of the state’s Medicaid enrollees to perform some kind of “community engagement” — work, volunteer service, job training or education. The federal government paved the way for the approval on Thursday, when it announced it would allow work requirements as a condition for Medicaid coverage.

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Kentuckians with certain medical conditions would be able to get a prescription for cannabis under a bill filed by two Democratic lawmakers and promoted by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The 65-page bill would make it legal to smoke, ingest or grow cannabis — the scientific name for marijuana — with a prescription and would be regulated by the state agency that deals with alcohol production and sales.

Mary Meehan

A small gaggle of reporters points their microphones at reproductive rights activist Marcie Crim as she bluntly decries  the shrinking access to abortion in the region. Crim stands just a few feet from the open door of the office of Governor Matt Bevin near the Capitol rotunda.

Crim and Bevin may be physically close in this situation, but they could not be further apart on the issue. They personify the opposing poles of the decades-old debate surrounding abortion.

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The Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget has announced a review of an Obama-era rule that protects coal miners from exposure to the dust that causes black lung disease.

That has some health and safety advocates concerned. The review comes amid a tide of regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration and at a time that black lung disease is on the rise in Appalachian coal country.


Survey Finds Teen Use Of Opioids Declining

Dec 17, 2017
Mary Meehan

A survey produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found a rare bit of good news about the opioid crisis: fewer teenagers reported using opioids outside of medical purposes.

The Monitoring the Future Survey 2017 results show a continued trend in decreased misuse of opioids by teens that dates to the early 2000s.

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Law professor Philip Alston is a United Nations expert on extreme poverty. In his position as a U.N. Special Rapporteur  he reports on places where pervasive poverty and human rights issues intersect, places such as Haiti, south Asia and central Africa. His latest work, however, is taking him to parts of the U.S., including the Ohio Valley.

“The United States has been very keen for me and others to investigate human rights issues in other countries, which I have done,” Alston said. “Now, it's the turn to look at what's going on in the U.S. There are pretty extreme levels of poverty in the United States given the wealth of the country. And that does have significant human rights implications.”

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

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.

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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.

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.”


Reports of child abuse and neglect in Kentucky have increased by about 55 percent in the past four years. A child is at higher risk for developing a substance abuse problem is they’ve suffered from an adverse childhood experience. That can be the death or incarceration of a parent, witnessing or being a victim of violence, or living with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem.

 

Pam Darnall is CEO of Family and Children’s Place. She said some organizations that support children and families are struggling just to stay in business.

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Kentucky’s children have experienced--on average-- more Adverse Childhood Experiences than children nationwide.

An Adverse Childhood Experience, or ACE, can be the death or incarceration of a parent, witnessing or being a victim of violence, or living with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem.

 

According to a recent report from The National Survey of Children’s Health, about 53 percent of children in Kentucky have had at least one ACE. That’s significantly higher than the national rate of about 46 percent. The report adds those experiences can increase the risk of smoking, alcoholism, depression and other illnesses or unhealthy behaviors.

Tightening the screws on pricey imaging exams, health insurer Anthem will no longer allow many patients to get MRI or CT scans at hospital-owned outpatient facilities, requiring them to use independent imaging centers instead. The insurer began phasing in these changes in July and expects to finish by March.

Anthem says the change is aimed at providing high-quality, safe care while reducing medical costs.

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