health

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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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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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An estimated 80,000 Kentuckians are serving as caregivers to family members suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The Greater Kentucky-Southern Indiana chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association wants more of those caregivers to be better informed about resources available to them.

Community Outreach Coordinator Helene French says one of the most important lessons she tries to get across to caregivers is that they can’t do it alone.

“You need to build a team, and think about what that team is going to look like--of family and friends, neighbors, people in your community, your physician, and nurses, and community resources.”

French says caregivers should look into government and private programs that provide help with respite care for those with dementia. Some of the governmental services available are income-based, while others aren’t.

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Officials at the state and local levels are in discussions about offering hepatitis C testing at all county health departments.

Some local offices offered the tests last year as part of a pilot project, when Kentucky began to see a spike in hepatitis C cases related to intravenous drug use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in May that Kentucky’s rate of hepatitis C is seven times higher than the national average.

Deputy Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh, with the Kentucky Department of Public Health, says increased screening opportunities would be a way for health and addiction experts to reach out to those who need help.

“Let’s say you are hepatitis C positive—that may influence you to then change your behaviors, so that you’re at less risk of spreading to others. So our goal is to try to get more people tested, to be aware of their status, and linked to treatment options before they develop severe problems.”

Humbaugh says there’s no timeline for having hepatitis C screenings in place at local health departments. But he says his office is receiving positive feedback from county health departments that want to make the screenings available.

Someone infected with hepatitis C can go years, or even decades, without showing symptoms. If untreated, the virus can lead to liver failure and death.

Hepatitis C infection is the number one cause of liver transplants in the U.S.

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A recently launched website, SurgeonRatings.org, lists surgeons who have been identified as having better than average outcomes based on an analysis of more than four million surgeries by more than 50,000 surgeons.

People can locate a surgeon for a specific surgery using their zip code. A list of surgeons will appear along with the surgeon’s hospital, board certifications, outcomes and recommendations from other doctors.  The listings have been compiled by Consumers’ CHECKBOOK/The Center for the Study of Services.

But people need to proceed with caution when using such websites, said Patrick Padgett, executive vice president at the Kentucky Medical Association.

“It’s really difficult to know exactly what would be an accurate measurement because there are so many different websites and there’s so many different ways of rating physicians,” he said.

In what could prove the largest-ever merger in the insurance industry, Aetna has announced a $37 billion deal to acquire rival Humana.

The agreement, announced by the Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, "would bolster Aetna's presence in the state- and federally funded Medicaid program and Tricare coverage for military personnel and their families," according to The Associated Press.

Kentucky is seeing a rapid increase in the number of syphilis infections, mirroring a national trend.

Public health officials are seeking expanded education and treatment for the sexually transmitted disease.

Kentucky’s number of syphilis cases has doubled since 2009, to just over 10 cases per 100-thousand residents.

The Courier-Journal reports the figures from the state Department for Public Health also show Louisville is home to nearly half of the state’s cases.

Kentucky state epidemiologist Kraig Humbaugh says most of the recent national increase in syphilis cases effect men—especially men who have sex with other men.

Syphilis is a bacterial disease with symptoms such as sores, headaches, and fevers. It can be treated with antibiotics, but—if left untreated—could lead to blindness or stroke in later stages.

It can also be passed from a mother to a fetus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling for increased public education efforts concerning safe sex, and greater promotion of syphilis awareness and screenings.

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