health

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.

UK

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 kynect.ky.gov. 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.

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