Creative Commons

Multiracial people in Kentucky are 30 percent more likely to have asthma, according to a new report from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the University of Kentucky released on Tuesday.

And multiracial “and other” race Kentuckians were more likely to report poor mental health than white or black Kentuckians, according to the report.

Those and other findings show stark disparities across health outcomes for non-white Kentuckians. They come from 11,000 phone surveys with people of all races between 2011 and 2013. The “other” category includes American Indians, Hawaiians and those with unspecified races.

The findings are from before Kentucky expanded Medicaid to include childless adults and people making up to 138 percent of the poverty limit ($11,880).

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions is about to get a little cheaper.

Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, said Monday that it will launch a generic version of the device for half the price of the brand-name product.

The company says the generic will hit the market in a few weeks and cost $300 for a two-pack. That's less than half the price of a two-pack of brand-name EpiPens, which are available at Target pharmacies for about $630, according to GoodRX.

The move by Mylan comes in response to mounting pressure from consumers and Congress to lower the drug's price. In less than 10 years, the price for a two-pack of injectors has risen from about $100 to more than $600.

"This helps Mylan with its public relations battle against criticism for sharp price increases on the EpiPen," says Larry Levitt, a health policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "The introduction of a lower-priced generic version may keep competitors out of the market."

Creative Commons

For at least the next seven months, give or take, there’s no need to worry that the proposed changes to expanded Medicaid benefits will affect your coverage.

Seven months is the average time it takes for the federal government to negotiate with a state over changes to Medicaid. And even then, some of the changes likely won’t happen.

On Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin submitted those proposed changes via what’s called a “Medicaid demonstration waiver” to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Affordable Care Act was originally designed to extend Medicaid to residents in all 50 states who earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, or $16,394 in 2016. But the Supreme Court famously struck down that provision.

Most states expanded Medicaid as the ACA plan set out several years ago. But a handful of states, now including Kentucky, have applied for waivers to change what the federal government intended for expansion.

An abortion clinic in Lexington will remain closed after the Kentucky Supreme Court denied an appeal from the facility.

EMW Women’s Clinic closed in June following a legal challenge by Governor Matt Bevin.

Bevin said the clinic couldn’t provide abortions until it received a license from the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Lawyers for EMW have argued the facility is a women’s health clinic that doesn’t need a specific abortion license.

But the unanimous ruling by the state Supreme Court Thursday upholds a Court of Appeals’ ruling that sided with the Governor.

The Herald-Leader reports the decision doesn’t involve the legality of abortion, but instead says EMW exists solely to provide abortions and is subject to the state licensing rules.

The clinic is the only abortion provider east of Louisville.

Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health has named its next President and CEO.

Greg Strahan has been promoted after serving in the roles on an interim basis since mid-April. He previously helped oversee construction of the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital as the system’s chief operating officer.

Strahan says increasing primary care opportunities in the region is one of his biggest challenges.

“In Owensboro, we’re always looking for more primary care access points, because there’s a shortage of primary care in the general region. I wouldn’t say just in Owensboro, but in our region.”

Owensboro Health has 4,445 employees, and is the largest employer west of Louisville.  

He says Owensboro Health’s expanded footprint outside Daviess County has allowed for more healthcare access points in largely rural areas.

“Part of what we’ve done to eliminate some of their needs is that we’re putting these healthplexes in Henderson, Muhlenberg, and Madisonville. And we manage the hospital in Muhlenberg County.”

Strahan says another goal is to increase telemedicine opportunities at Owensboro Health’s hospitals and clinics across the region. Telemedicine allows physicians to diagnose and treat certain patients through the use of telecommunications technology.

Bevin Submits Medicaid Plan Restoring Allergy Testing

Aug 24, 2016
Creative Commons

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says he has changed his proposal to overhaul the state's Medicaid program and submitted it to the federal government for approval.

The new proposal will cover allergy testing and private duty nursing for about 400,000 Kentuckians who have health insurance through the state's expanded Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. People who are in hospice care, have HIV or AIDS and receive federal disability benefits will also not have to pay premiums or copays.

And the elimination of automatic dental and vision benefits will be delayed by three months. People can still get those benefits by earning credits in a "My Rewards Account" by doing things like earning a GED and having a health assessment.

Bevin said his administration received nearly 1,350 public comments on the proposal.

Bowling Green and Warren County are joining a growing list of communities establishing needle exchange programs. 

In 2015, the Kentucky General Assembly approved a measure allowing local governments to set up the exchanges in response to the state’s heroin epidemic.  The aim is to prevent the spread of disease such as HIV and Hepatitis. 

The Barren River District Health Department serves an eight-county region including Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Simpson, and Warren Counties.  From January 2014 to April of this year, the region saw more than 600 cases of Hepatitis-C. 

Warren County's needle exchange, which begins Thursday, will allow any drug user to come to the health department and anonymously swap dirty needles for clean ones. 

In this interview, Lisa Autry spoke with Dennis Chaney, director of the Barren River District Health Department.

TS Photography/Getty Images

Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

Now scientists are trying to create opioid painkillers that give relief from pain without triggering the euphoria, dependence and life-threatening respiratory suppression that causes deadly overdoses.

J. Tyler Franklin

The secretary of Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services says officials will be making some changes to Gov. Matt Bevin's Medicaid proposal.

Vickie Yates Brown Glisson told the state Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee on Wednesday that officials are still reviewing the public comments submitted on the proposal. She said the comments were "thoughtful and very helpful." She did not detail what the changes might be.

Kentucky was one of 32 states that expanded its Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. More than 400,000 were covered under the expanded program, which Bevin says is too large for the state to afford.

Bevin's proposal would charge small premiums to able-bodied adults, and it would require them to have a job or volunteer for a charity in order to keep their benefits.

Aetna will pull out of the ten counties in Kentucky where it offers exchange coverage, starting in 2017.

The company said Monday that it lost $430 million since January 2014, when Kentucky and many other states started offering plans on their state exchanges.

The departure leaves Boone, Campbell, Owen and Kenton counties with only two exchange plans. The other affected counties are Fayette, Jefferson, Madison, Henry, Oldham and Trimble. Aetna will continue to offer small group and an off-exchange individual coverage for 2017.

Aetna spokesman Rohan Hutchings says the company will notify customers before open enrollment in November about their options. But they’re likely to lose some current benefits.

The departure means consumers will have fewer insurance choices. They may already face dramatically increased premiums.

Fuse/Getty Images

The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle.

That's because, increasingly, prescription insurers are threatening to kick drugs off their lists of approved medications if the manufacturers won't give them big discounts.

CVS Caremark and Express Scripts, the biggest prescription insurers, released their 2017 lists of approved drugs this month, and each also has long lists of excluded medications. Some of the drugs newly excluded are prescribed to treat diabetes and hepatitis. The CVS list also excludes some cancer drugs, along with Proventil and Ventolin, commonly prescribed brands of asthma inhalers, while Express Scripts has dropped Orencia, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis.

St. Joseph London Hospital

A jury has determined that a hospital in London, Kentucky , and its parent company should pay $21.2 million to a Corbin man who received unnecessary heart procedures.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the jury ruled this week that St. Joseph Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives were negligent, violated consumer-protection rules and took part in a conspiracy after performing heart procedures on Kevin Wells.

Wells alleged that the hospital performed the procedures to boost payments from health programs and insurance companies.

Wells' attorney, Hans Poppe, says a doctor at the hospital recommended Wells get a peacemaker, although other doctors would later say he didn't need one.

The hospital argued that the treatment Wells received was necessary.

Poppe says the defendants are likely to appeal.

Kentucky Reopens Medicaid Waiver Comment Period

Aug 9, 2016
LRC Public Information

Kentuckians who missed the chance to give input on proposed changes to state-run Medicaid now have until the end of the day on August 14 to comment.

Officials with the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services say the comment period was reopened because of the high volume of remarks received after the original July 22 deadline.

“We got 30 percent of comments on the last day and even some after the deadline,” said Jean West, Cabinet for Health and Family Services communications director. “So we decided to extend it to accept the comments that came right after the deadline and allow any others.”

She said the state has not determined a date for submission of the revised waiver to the federal government. That will allow officials time to go through comments, she said.

Creative Commons

After the state expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, low-income Kentuckians made fewer trips to the emergency room, had less trouble paying medical bills, received a checkup and sought help for chronic conditions. That’s according to a new study released Monday from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed almost 3,000 low-income Kentuckians in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Participants were asked about their coverage and about their health habits, including if they skipped doses of medication, had a personal doctor or had any emergency room visits in the past year.

In 2013, prior to the Medicaid expansion, 46.3 percent of Kentuckians surveyed said they had a checkup in the past year. Of those surveyed in 2015, after the expansion, that number increased to almost 59.8 percent. There was also a big jump in the number of people who said they had a primary physician after the expansion – from 56.6 percent to 71.7 percent.

51fifty at the English language Wikipedia

For those working daily to treat addiction tied to the opioid epidemic in the Ohio Valley, resources have been limited. Beginning this week doctors will have a little more to work with.

The federal government will allow doctors to treat more patients with buprenorphine, a medication that can help ease people away from addiction.

While the science supports this treatment, some remain skeptical. Visits to three treatment centers in the region show the different approaches people in the recovery community are taking. In the fight against the addiction crisis, it appears there is no single silver bullet.

“Hi, James”

In a Louisville halfway house for inmates and parolees, a group of men gathered to offer support to one another as they work through addiction in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.