Health Costs Inch Up As Obamacare Kicks In

Sep 12, 2014

Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.

But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.

Americans crave information about diets, even as our national weight keeps rising. New studies are highlighting that there is still a lot that we don't know.

Tobacco and e-cigarettes will soon be banned from many Kentucky state properties under the executive cabinet. The new policy announced by Governor Beshear  Thursday covers  state buildings, vehicles and other designated locations.

The announcement adds onto previous legislation aimed solely at cigarettes. Beshear said his executive order aims to combat Kentucky’s number one ranking in cancer and smoking deaths.

“You know, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report alerting Americans to the deadly consequences of smoking. That’s five decades. Five decades of warnings," Beshear said.

"But warnings by themselves, as we know, are not enough.”

Many Kentuckians who lack health insurance can receive free colon cancer screenings through their local health department. The program is jointly funded through the state and private donations, and targets Kentucky residents who meet certain age and income guidelines.

Madeline Abramson, wife of Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, is speaking out on behalf of colon cancer awareness in Kentucky. Mrs. Abramson is honorary chair of the Kentucky Cancer Program’s “Dress in Blue Day”, a program aimed at educating the public about colon cancer.

She says the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation can often be detected and treated through screenings.

“It’s unusual to have a screening test where the cancer or pre-cancerous node can be taken care of at that time," Abramson told WKU Public Radio.

Abramson says some people are embarrassed to talk about the disease in the same way many refused to openly discuss breast cancer decades ago.

The percentage of people without health insurance in Kentucky has dropped at the second biggest rate in the nation.

According to a Gallup poll released this week, the  number of uninsured dropped from over 20 percent in 2013 to about 12 percent as of July 2014, reflecting an eight-and-a-half percent decline since the federal Affordable Care Act took effect. The only other state to experience a sharper decline was Arkansas, whose uninsured rate dropped about 10 percent.

The states rounding out the top five after Kentucky are Delaware, Washington and Colorado.

Gov. Steve Beshear touted the news in a press release, attributing the new data to the state’s implementation of the ACA via kynect, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The poll also reported that the rate of uninsured in 21 states like Kentucky that expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA and set up their own  exchanges declined “more significantly” than those states that did not.

As of July, over 520,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in health care through the state exchange, with three-quarters of the newly insured enrolled in Medicaid.

While VA hospitals are dealing with long wait times, Fort Campbell’s health system has excess capacity. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital has reopened its facilities to a limited number of retirees for the first time in a decade. Enrollment was cut off to veterans in 2004 because so many doctors and nurses were deployed to the Middle East.

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.

Kentucky BioProcessing

An experimental drug used to treat two Americans infected with the Ebola virus was created in Owensboro.

Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are reportedly showing significant improvement after being treated at an Atlanta hospital with a drug called ZMapp.

Compounds used in the drug are grown in genetically modified tobacco plants in an effort overseen by the Owensboro-based Kentucky BioProcessing. The Herald-Leader reports that KBP received a federal contract in 2007 to work on a drug that could treat those exposed to the Ebola virus.

An Ebola outbreak in west Africa has claimed nearly 900 lives, with many more victims infected. Brantly and Writebol, who were giving medical treatment to Ebola victims when they fell ill, are the first known humans to receive Z-Mapp.

A spokesman for the company that runs the Owensboro operation says production of the drug was already being ramped up for approval testing later this year, and that schedule may accelerate given the magnitude of the current Ebola outbreak.

KBP is also involved with the Owensboro Cancer Research program, which this week was given a federal grant to further its research into a possible HIV vaccine using tobacco plants.

Scratch one more simple explanation for autism off the list. This time it's the idea that children with autism have low levels of oxytocin, often called the "love hormone" because it can make people more trusting and social.

The University of Louisville

HIV vaccine research being conducted in Owensboro is getting a boost from a federal grant. The National Institutes of Health Monday announced a five-year, $14.7 million dollar grant for a project being led by the Owensboro Cancer Research program.

The goal is to create a gel-based vaccine that involves tobacco plants.

Researchers in Daviess County have been extracting a protein found in red algae, injecting it into tobacco plants, growing the tobacco on a massive scale, and then extracting the protein for use in a gel. Lab tests show the protein blocks HIV cells from entering uninfected cells.

Researchers have developed a gel using the protein that they hope can be used to stop the spread of HIV during sexual intercourse.

Owensboro Cancer Research program director Kenneth Palmer says the irony of using tobacco plants to possibly create a medical breakthrough isn’t lost on him.