health

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401(K) 2012

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.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

Kentuckians’ views on a statewide smoking ban have remained virtually unchanged since 2013, with the vast majority of residents supporting the measure, a new poll shows.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll released Monday that found 66 percent of Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoke-free law, and 31 percent oppose it.

The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

Gabriela Alcalde, vice president for policy and program at the foundation, said there has been a steady increase in recent years of Kentuckians who favor a smoking ban law, which would prohibit smoking in indoor public places.

“There’s been extensive work by advocates as well as health educators,” she said.

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

WFPL News

More than two-thirds of Kentucky residents don’t want the state to roll back its expanded Medicaid system, according to a poll released Friday.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll also shows that half of Kentucky residents hold unfavorable views of the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that allowed the state to expand Medicaid.

“Most of them would rather keep Medicaid as it is today than scale it back to cover fewer people,” said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser.

The poll found 72 percent of Kentuckians don’t want to scale back Medicaid expansion to cover fewer people.

entucky’s Medicaid expansion — and its fate — are a closely watch component of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Bevin, a Republican who took office Tuesday, campaigned reforming the state’s adoption of the Affordable Care Act.

While talks of barring refugees from coming to the U.S. persist among politicians, Kentucky agencies are preparing to welcome some 2,000 refugees from around the world in 2016.

And those refugees will need health care.

The University of Louisville’s Refugee Health Program looks at health issues for those fleeing threats and violence, and provides services to people resettling in Kentucky.

Last year, 2,141 adult and children refugees received health screenings in Louisville, Bowling Green and Owensboro, according to the Kentucky Refugee Health Assessment Report, released on Thursday.

Rahel Bosson, director of the program, said although there are certain conditions that are population-specific among refugees, overall, some of the top health concerns for refugees are also common for Kentuckians.

“Dental abnormalities — things like cavities, tooth abscess. Vision problems, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, tobacco abuse,” she said.

LRC Public Information

The Republican leadership of Kentucky’s state Senate says they will not block about $250 million in state spending needed to pay for the health insurance of more than 400,000 people on the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

The GOP leaders are meeting this week to prioritize bills for the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear used an executive order to expand Kentucky’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. Incoming Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin has promised to repeal the expansion and replace it with something else.

Kentucky will start paying a portion of the Medicaid expansion in 2017. Next month, state lawmakers will debate a two-year state spending plan that would include that money, giving Republicans an opportunity to block it. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said the Senate does not plan to do that, instead opting for a gradual transition away from the program.

Caverna Memorial

A Hart County hospital is being acquired by The Medical Center of Bowling Green.

At an announcement in Horse Cave Monday morning, the leadership of Caverna Memorial Hospital said it had agreed to the deal, which will be complete by the end of the year. Under the plan, Caverna Memorial will be known as The Medical Center at Caverna.

Caverna Memorial has been independently operated since 1967, and is a 25-bed, non-profit critical access hospital.

The Medical Center executive vice-president Wade Stone says the increasingly complex and expensive nature of health care is making it tough for rural hospitals to remain independently-operated.

“It’s making sense for hospitals like Caverna—small rural hospitals—to start looking for options in terms of partnering, or being part of an acquisition, to make sure they have the resources they need to survive long-term.”

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A new study examining the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Kentucky offers insights into how residents are using and benefiting from the federal health law.

It was compiled by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota, and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The study released Tuesday analyzed the first quarter of 2015. The center will be updating the information quarterly and compiling studies about coverage, access to services, quality of care, cost and outcomes in Kentucky.

Half of the people who enrolled in Kentucky’s state-run health care exchange, Kynect, chose the Silver Plan, according to the study.

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