health

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New students will soon be starting college, and at some Kentucky colleges, that means getting vaccinated. The Kentucky Immunization Coalition — a public private partnership — launched a campaign Monday to convince students and parents that not doing so puts the entire student population at risk for an outbreak.

Three universities in the state require immunizations: The University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University and the University of Louisville. Tracy Kielman, director of the Kentucky Immunization Coalition, says although elementary through high school students in Kentucky are required to be vaccinated, that does not extend to college.

“Hopefully this will push them to do it on their own,” Kielman says.

Rebecca Schimmel

Miners in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia who helped keep the country’s lights on are worried that their retirement benefits could go dark as a result of a wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry. They hope Congress will approve a bill called the Miner’s Protection Act to shore up the pensions and health benefits promised to union miners.

The bill has been bottled up in the Senate’s Finance Committee but Hill sources say Senate leaders have promised a committee vote before Congress breaks for the summer on July 15.

Joe Holland has been with the United Mine Workers of America for four decades. He worked 10 years as an underground miner for Peabody Energy in Muhlenberg County, in western Kentucky. Born in a company-owned house, Holland is a fourth generation coal miner. His grandmother kept two pictures on the mantle; Jesus and the UMWA’s legendary leader John L. Lewis.“Without Christ y’know they thought they was going to hell, and without John L. Lewis they was going to starve to death,” Holland said.

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The House on Friday passed sweeping legislation — endorsed by Democrats and Republicans — that would flood states with money for opioid and heroin addiction treatment programs.

The White House earlier this week called for $1.2 billion to fund a bill that would include programs to train police officers to administer a drug overdose antidote, expand childcare for mothers in residential treatment, and allow physicians to prescribe more people a drug that treats addiction. The House version of the measure only included $131 million.

But Al Guida, a mental health and substance abuse lobbyist in Washington, said that number is still the biggest chunk of funding for substance abuse treatment in decades.

“That’s probably the largest single commitment to expanding addiction treatment in a generation,” he said.

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Kentucky lawmakers on Friday will hear the “pros and cons” of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

It’s the first hearing in which representatives from both sides of the issue will present their arguments to the interim Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.

State legislators have long been hesitant about throwing support behind the issue despite an apparent increase in popular support.

Jaime Montalvo, founder of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana, says “behind closed doors” many lawmakers support the issue, but don’t want to openly champion the cause.

“They do not want to be the one that pushes for it,” Montalvo says. “They don’t want to support it publicly, they would rather it pass without them having to do anything about it.”

Rob Canning

The federal government has given its most forceful statement yet in response to Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to apply for a waiver to change Kentucky’s Medicaid system.

Bevin’s plan, which requires federal approval, would make most Medicaid recipients pay monthly premiums, eliminate vision and dental coverage and institute a credit program whereby individuals could get better coverage by volunteering or applying for a job.

At a forum hosted by the Health Enterprises Network on Thursday, Bevin’s deputy chief of staff Adam Meier said that the administration had little doubt the federal government would accept the plan.

“We’re pretty confident they’ll approve our waiver or something pretty close to it,” Meier said, according to the Courier-Journal.

In response, Ben Wakana, press secretary for the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, said in an email that during talks with Bevin’s administration, the department has “repeatedly been clear” about “principles of access to coverage and affordability of care.”

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.

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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.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

At a news conference Wednesday morning in Frankfort, Gov. Matt Bevin announced his much-anticipated plan to remake the state’s expanded Medicaid system.

Under the plan, which would require federal approval, Kentuckians who earn between 34 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line would be required to pay fixed premiums for the insurance. The premiums will range from $1 to $15 for “able-bodied adults,” according to Mark Birdwhistell, University of Kentucky HealthCare’s vice president for administration and external affairs who is heading up the state’s waiver process

Bevin said requiring users to pay premiums would give them “dignity and respect.”

Bevin also said the changes would save the state $2.2 billion.

The program will be called Kentucky H.E.A.L.T.H., which stands for “Helping to Engage and Achieve Long-Term Health.”

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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.

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