health

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A new study says the number of low-income Kentuckians without health insurance declined by 68 percent in the first year of the state’s Medicaid expansion.

The research was conducted by the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences Department of Health Management and Systems Sciences by faculty members Joseph Benitez, Liza Creel and J’Aime Jennings.

It was published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

The study said 35 percent of low-income Kentuckians were uninsured at the end of 2013, and 11 percent were uninsured in late 2014. The research aligns with past studies that show sharp drops in the rate of uninsured in Kentucky since the Affordable Care Act was implemented.

Benitez and his colleagues also found declines in the number of people lacking a regular source of health care and those with unmet medical needs.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Kentucky Medicaid beneficiaries and other welfare recipients will apply for services using a new website called Benefind starting Feb. 29.

Medicaid recipients previously applied for benefits using Kynect, the state health exchange that Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to dismantle by the end of the year.

Health and Human Services Cabinet Vickie Yates Glisson said the plan does away with the paper-version of the application — the program will be entirely online.

“Whether you live in any of our 120 counties, there should be access to a computer system that you will be able to come in and access these programs,” Glisson said.

The new program will also serve as an application hub for other state health, food and cash assistance programs, replacing the Kentucky Automated Management Eligibility System.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

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Kentucky Baptists who have experience in providing clean drinking water in under-developed countries are headed to Michigan. 

Five teams will leave Monday for Flint to install water purification systems for families dealing with lead contamination. 

Coy Webb, head of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, said the teams want the residents of Flint to know people are paying attention to what happened there.

"I think anytime there's long-term problems they just feel like people aren't taking notice of their needs, which many times is not true, but they still feel that way," Webb told WKU Public Radio.  "We hope our teams going door to door can not only give them safe drinking water, but also let them know there are people who care about them."

Flint Residents' Broken Faith: 'The People We Trusted Failed Us'

Teams will be leaving from several Kentucky cities, including Beaver Dam.  In the past year, the Baptists have been deployed to Zambia and Mozambique to provide safe drinking water, but Webb said this will be the first time to his knowledge, that relief teams have been dispatched in the U.S. on a water purification mission.

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Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, and scale back its Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce “Save Kentucky Healthcare” during events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin’s plans to roll back what he called Kentucky’s nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

Beshear left office in December. During his eight years in office, he expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program and created a state-operated health insurance exchange where eligible Kentuckians could purchase discounted private health insurance plans. He did so under the Affordable Care Act.

Bevin criticized both programs as too expensive. He says he will dismantle Kynect by the end of the year and is trying to replace the Medicaid expansion with a different program.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

The majority of Kentucky adults favor raising the legal age to buy tobacco products, according to a poll released Monday morning.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, shows 60 percent of Kentucky adults support raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said raising the age would serve as a deterrent for young people starting to use tobacco products.

“If the shopkeepers are doing their jobs, it would mean that the only way a younger person could get cigarettes would be if an older person would either give them to them or buy them for them,” she said.

Kentucky’s smoking rate is 30.2 percent, the highest in the U.S., according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

What Kentuckians Need To Know About The Zika Virus

Feb 5, 2016
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The Zika virus has generated plenty of concern — and media coverage — as it spreads through Central and South America, with the the World Health Organization going as far as this week declaring a public health emergency.

The virus, transmitted through mosquito bites, is linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development and abnormal smallness of the head.

International health officials expect the Zika virus to spread farther — but people may not have much of a risk of contracting it in Kentucky anytime in the near future.

Mapping Zika: From A Monkey In Uganda To A Growing Global Concern

The type of mosquito that is known to carry the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, is rarely found in Kentucky, said Dr. Grayson Brown,  entomologist in the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

“It’s a mosquito that we have in Kentucky, but only about one out of about every 5,000 mosquitoes is an Aedes aegypti . So, they’re not very common and they don’t start showing up here until very late in the summer,” Brown said.

Norton Healthcare

A new national survey shows Kentucky and Arkansas lead the nation in the largest drops of the number of people without health insurance.

The Gallup-Healthways survey shows more than 20 percent of Kentuckians did not have health insurance in 2013. Last year, just 7.5 percent of the state’s population did not have insurance. Arkansas had a similar drop.

The survey shows states that expanded Medicaid and operated a state exchange outperformed other states in the percentage of people who have insurance.

Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has already given the order to dismantle the state exchange and is seeking to reform the state Medicaid system.

WKU Public Radio

Western Kentucky University students struggling with mental health issues can now tap into an on-campus support group.  

The National Alliance for Mental Illness is starting the free and confidential program which is available to students in all degree programs.

The group’s first meeting is Feb. 1 from 6:00-7:30pm in room 211 of the Academic Complex. Meetings will be held twice a month.

WKU Social Work Professor Jay Gabbard is the faculty member overseeing the group, along with trained NAMI staff.

He wants students to know that having a mental illness doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in school and in the workplace.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20, and through management of the illness over the years I’ve managed to have a successful life,” Gabbard said. “But I think it’s best to utilize a three-pronged approach: medication, therapy, and support resources.”

CDC Anti-Smoking Campaign Targets Kentucky

Jan 25, 2016
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Louisville resident Linda Wood said she has smoked cigarettes since she was 16. Now 50, Wood said she’s seen television ads in the past showing the health issues caused by smoking.

“It makes you want to cut back a lot. And I have went from three packs a week to one pack,” Wood said.

Wood said when she watches the ads of Terrie Hall speaking with the aid of an artificial voice box, she thinks “that could be me.”

Wood said she is on her way to quitting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to reach more people like Wood. The CDC launched an anti-smoking campaign Monday that targets people living in states with high smoking rates, including Kentucky.

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Federal officials are unsure how much the government will recoup of the $1.2 billion spent on loans and startup costs for a dozen health care cooperatives that later failed, including Kentucky’s.

The situation with the Kentucky Health Cooperative is complicated by the liquidation of the entity, which a state court ordered this month.

Under the Affordable Care Act, co-ops were created to increase competition among plans and improve consumer choice, according to a recent story by USA Today.

Of the 23 co-ops created, a dozen have failed, including Kentucky Health Cooperative.

About $2.4 billion of federal funds was put into the creation of the startup health insurance providers.

Since it was established, Kentucky Health Care Cooperative has been awarded a total of $146 million in federal loans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401(K) 2012

The Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville has been awarded a multimillion-dollar federal grant to bring health care to rural and medically underserved Kentuckians.

The $2.55 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be used to create the Kentucky Rural & Underserved Geriatric Interprofessional Program.

The three-year initiative will partner with organizations from six rural counties in Kentucky: Hart, Metcalfe, Barren, Bullitt, Henry and Shelby.

Dr. Anna Faul, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at U of L, said the program is designed to help primary care practices in rural areas deliver care to older adults with chronic conditions.

“You really need an integrated approach where you can work with all of these professionals, and they can come around the table and create care plans that can be effective and also empowering for the older adult,” she said.

Kevin Willis

Bowling Green is partnering with a Nashville company to provide health care for city employees and their dependents.

The City Care Center will open Friday in 1,100 square feet of renovated space in the city hall annex.

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson says the city expects to save as much as $125,000 a year in health care costs with the new arrangement.

The care center will initially be staffed by a registered nurse for 20 hours a week.

Dr. Jane Gibson will be on site 16 hours a week.

"We've tried to make the hours somewhat flexible to accommodate employees,” Dr. Gibson said. “So we open early at 7:00 in the morning one day, and we stay until 6:00 another day, and work through lunch hours. It helps get people in without missing work."

WFPL News

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has notified the federal government that Kentucky will dismantle its state health insurance exchange, Kynect.

The move will direct Kentuckians seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to use the federal health insurance site, healthcare.gov.

More than 500,000 people have gotten health insurance through Kynect.

In a statement from the governor’s office, Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto called the program a “redundancy.”

“The transition will have no impact on Kentuckians’ ability to obtain or continue health care coverage for the 2016 plan year,” Ditto said.

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States initiatives to expand health insurance coverage through either traditional Medicaid or private insurance have equally good outcomes for low-income adults, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Harvard’s School of Public Health study compared survey results from 5,600 low-income adults in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas.

The study was released as Kentucky’s new governor mulls reforming the Medicaid expansion. Kentucky expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act while Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was in office. Arkansas, however, used federal dollars to pay for private health insurance for low-income adults.

Texas has not expanded health care at all.

Kentucky and Arkansas saw improvements in health care coverage rates and the ability of low-income adults to obtain prescription medication, chronic disease management, among other things, Sommers said.

According to the study, “the uninsured rate in Kentucky and Arkansas dropped 14 percentage points more than it did in Texas between 2013, prior to full implementation of the ACA’s health insurance provisions, and 2014, after the expansion’s first full year.”

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