Bevin Delays Applying For Medicaid Waiver

Aug 2, 2016
Creative Commons

Gov. Matt Bevin is delaying submitting changes to the state’s Medicaid program, which his administration had intended to submit to the federal government by Monday.

Adam Meier, Bevin’s deputy chief of staff for policy, said the extension is due to the large number of comments the state received regarding the proposal.

Under Bevin’s proposed plan, some recipients would have co-pays for doctor visits, basic dental and vision benefits would be eliminated for able-bodied adults, and beneficiaries who earn above the federal poverty line would pay monthly premiums. Those who don’t pay premiums would have co-pays.

In addition, beneficiaries would be required to accrue funds to earn dental and vision benefits by participating in activities such as community service or job-training.

Creative Commons

Ever wanted to find the cheapest price for a surgery but had no luck accessing information?

There’s a plan to change that in Kentucky, and it’s currently under consideration by the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, which must give the green light to build a health care cost comparison website for the state.

This week, Kentucky earned an F on the 2016 Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws, an annual report released by the independent health policy organizations Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute and Catalyst for Payment Reform.

Kentucky’s main offense? Not having the database or a consumer website.

“Do you think it’s OK that a mom and her husband will have to pay an excess of $2,000 based on random selection of hospitals to deliver their baby?” said Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

Creative Commons

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a new federal law can begin to turn the tide of drug fatalities in Kentucky and nationwide. 

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, sets up a federal grant program to help combat heroin and prescription drug abuse.  The law seeks to improve prevention and treatment resources, and provide more first responders with anti-overdose drugs. 

Flanked by law enforcement in Bowling Green on Wednesday, McConnell said CARA will give local agencies the funds to help addicts while prosecuting drug dealers.

"For the people who are using, it's obviously a sickness and they must be cured," remarked McConnell.  "These guys have a lot of sympathy for those people, but they have no sympathy, I assume, for the people making it possible for this addiction to be fed."

While not every area of Kentucky has a heroin problem, most of the state is experiencing prescription drug abuse, as well as crystal meth and synthetic drugs.  Statewide, more than 1,200 people died last year from drug overdoses.

Zika Infection Confirmed in Kentucky Infant

Jul 23, 2016
Creative Commons

Public health officials in Lexington say the Zika virus has been confirmed in an infant born to a woman who traveled during pregnancy to an area where the virus is circulating.

According to news media reports, test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate the infant was exposed to the virus in the womb. Health officials say neither mother nor child is capable of spreading the virus to others or to mosquitoes in the area.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department says even though the infant's mother never described symptoms of illness, antibodies against Zika found in her infant suggest maternal infection during an early stage of pregnancy.

Health officials say the infant doesn't have obvious physical abnormalities, but close follow-up and testing is recommended.

Creative Commons

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

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.

Creative Commons

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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.”

Creative Commons

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Leicester Royal Infirmary

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. 

flicker/creative commons/Pascal Gaudette

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.”