Beshear to Hold News Briefing Tuesday on Health Reforms

Sep 10, 2013

Gov. Steve Beshear has scheduled a news briefing Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on efforts to implement federal health care reforms in Kentucky.

The event is set for 1 p.m. EDT at the Capitol.

Beshear has been an advocate for the reforms that he says will provide access to medical care to more than 600,000 uninsured Kentucky residents. Nearly half of those will be added to the state's Medicaid program. The remainder, he said, will be able to get insurance through an online health benefits exchange.

Joining Beshear for the briefing will be Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes, Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange Executive Director Carrie Banahan and Kentucky Department of Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark.

Newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau show nearly 17 percent of Kentuckians under the age of 65 lack health insurance. Those figures are similar to the health insurance outlook in Tennessee and Indiana, as well.

In Kentucky, Daviess County has a relatively low number of those without insurance, at 14.5 percent. Logan County, meanwhile,  has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the state, at 22.3 percent.

The Census Bureau numbers are from 2011, and take into account each state’s residents under the age of 65, looking at all races, genders, and income levels.

You can see the Census Bureau's data in a county-by-county breakdown of Kentucky here.

Tennessee's information is here, and Indiana's can be seen here.

The University of Louisville is giving Norton Healthcare 30 days to back out of an agreement with the University of Kentucky to jointly operate Kosair Children's Hospital.

Norton announced the partnership last week, saying it wanted to strengthen pediatric care in the commonwealth. This surprised U of L officials, who have also been trying to negotiate a similar contract with Norton. U of L says the lease agreement for Kosair says the property "shall be used for the benefit of the University of Louisville."

U of L Vice President of Health Affairs David Dunn says the school has already acted on the assumption it would further partner with Norton and Kosair. He says the school has spent millions of dollars expanding operations at the hospital, and he expected to be reimbursed under an eventual partnership.

“And they’ve [U of L] done it with the understanding that Norton at some point—we thought it was a long time ago—would make good on their promises, and these are verbal promises.”

With the opening of online health insurance marketplaces a little over a month away, I've been receiving lots of questions about how they'll work.

Here's one that deals with the issue of getting the subsidy payments out quickly for consumers.

An internationally-recognized cancer research team is leaving one Kentucky university for another.

A group of top researchers is leaving the University of Louisville for the University of Kentucky, one month after UK announced it was becoming home to the state’s first National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

The Courier-Journal reports the four researchers will establish the UK Center for Regulatory and Environmental Analytical Metabolomics, or UK-CREAM. The center is expected to bring to UK over $17-million in federal funding over five years.

Officials at UK say they didn’t actively recruit the U of L researchers, but were instead approached by them.

One of the researchers, Andrew Lane, said he and colleagues made the move because UK was in “an expansion phase, particularly in cancer, which is very attractive to us.”

What happens in our brains while we're asleep? That's one question neuroscientist Penelope Lewis is trying to answer. She directs the Sleep and Memory Lab at the University of Manchester in England. Her new book is The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest.

Lewis joins Fresh Air's Terry Gross to talk about how sleep affects memory, and how REM sleep can affect depression.

Interview Highlights

On how sleep makes memory stronger

Medical entrepreneurs are remaking the emergency room experience. They're pulling the emergency room out of the hospital and planting it in the strip mall.

It's called a "free-standing ER," and some 400 of them have opened across the country in the past four years.

The trend is hot around Houston, where there are already 41 free-standing ERs and 10 more in the works.

A non-profit, philanthropic group in Kentucky is partnering with seven communities in an effort to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky hopes the five-year, $3 million effort, known as the Kentucky's Future Initiative, will cut the chances that today's youth will suffer from obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The Clinton County School District and the Green River Area Development District's Partnership for a Healthy McLean County are two of the seven partners selected for the program.

"What we're trying to do, if you will, is to bend the curve and stop the progression we see starting with our children today," says Susan Zepeda, President and CEO of The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "We don't want them to develop the kinds of chronic diseases that their parents and grandparents have, that have been holding Kentucky back."

Zepeda says the Foundation is currently in the planning stage with each of the seven grant recipients about how to best utilize the funding to attack chronic diseases.

Kentucky is one of six states along with Puerto Rico that will participate in a program to help drive down medical costs by targeting frequent healthcare system users.

Staff from the National Governors Association and other experts will help train officials from participating states to develop a plan for super-utilizers. These are patients who may benefit from less costly, more appropriate treatment elsewhere.

Dr. Stephanie Mayfield is commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Public Health. She says the commonwealth will focus on frequent emergency room users. Last year, thousands of Medicaid patients used the ER 10 times or more.

“What we’re hoping the plan will be is that emergency rooms are there strictly to be used as emergency rooms and that we develop a plan so that they’re not de facto primary care centers any longer," says Mayfield.

The training academy will help participating states develop plans around healthcare policy. The program will run for a year and begins in August.


Kentucky has gained new clout in its fight against cancer, resulting from the rising status of the cancer center at its flagship university.

The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center in Lexington on Friday earned the designation as a National Cancer Institute facility. It becomes the 68th medical center in the country to receive the prestigious title and the only one in Kentucky.

The designation has the potential to bring millions of dollars of additional research funding to the Markey Center.

It also means patients will have access to new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI centers.

UK President Eli Capilouto says it signals that Kentucky will "no longer indulge the scourge of cancer."

Kentucky is at or near the top nationally in several cancer rates.

A recent report on the welfare of children in Tennessee highlights the importance of public programs.

State health and child welfare experts have released the latest Kids Count report, which this year examined challenges to raising children in Tennessee, and whether state programs are doing enough to help them.

Among the report's findings was that nearly half of the state's pregnant women don't receive adequate prenatal care, and less than a third of teens from poor families are finding work.

Linda O'Neal is executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and was among those discussing the report.

According to The Tennessean, O'Neal said the poor economy has hurt the welfare of children in Tennessee, which "highlights the importance of public programs" like the one that provides in-home visits for families with newborns.

T.J. Samson

A lawsuit filed against TJ Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow seeks to seat a new board of trustees at the hospital.

The Bowling Green Daily-News reports the suit was filed Thursday in Barren Circuit Court by Warren County attorney Alan Simpson. The suit claims that the original agreement incorporating the hospital in 1926 called for a board of trustees to be elected by those who had contributed more than $25 to the establishment of the hospital.

Those suing say a change to the articles of incorporation in 1968 disenfranchised those original shareholders.

An attorney for TJ Samson says the lawsuit is baseless and without merit, adding that the way the governing board is selected has never before been challenged.

A group of Barren County citizens has mobilized to challenge recent changes at the hospital, including a 2011 decision that only one corporate member, TJ Regional Health, would act and vote through its board of directors. The lawsuit says the for-profit TJ Health Partners was later formed and is thought to be a subsidiary of TJ Regional Health.

Many local doctors’ practices have recently been purchased by the Health Partners, a growing trend nationally as the health care environment undergoes fast changes.

Kentucky's new exchange for people on the market for healthcare now has a name and  a website.

It'll be called Kynect—pronounced "connect." People can access it at A phone line will be running in August.

Kynect will be fully operational in time for October open health insurance enrollment.

Once running, Kynect will help Kentucky residents or employers find and compare prices for health insurance coverage. It's part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Carrie Banahan, the health exchange's executive director,  says the online portal will work much like online shopping.

Representatives of the state's health department and various hospital executives say almost two years later they are still having payment issues with Medicaid managed care organizations.

Speaking before a House budget subcommittee on health issues, the two groups described situations in which payment for care they administrated months ago were still outstanding claims.

Scott Lockard works in the Clark County Health Department and told lawmakers the state public health department was still owed more than $18 million in late payments. More than $14 million of that is with Kentucky Spirit, which is trying to break its contract and leave the system.

But he added that conversations about those payments are ongoing.