J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Before landing a $3.1 million no-bid state contract on Gov. Steve Beshear’s last day in office, the software company that counts a former Beshear cabinet secretary’s husband as a “partner” had already received $8.1 million worth of state business outside of the competitive bidding process.

SAS Institute, a Cary, N.C., technology company, was hired in 2012 to develop a fraud-detection system for Kynect, the state-owned health insurance exchange. It didn’t have to bid for a state contract of its own. Instead, according to Kentucky Finance & Administration Cabinet records, it piggybacked into the job through a “modification” of the main contract with Deloitte Consulting.

As the arrangement was taking shape, one man — Frank Lassiter of Midway, Ky. — had connections on both sides. For SAS, he had just begun serving as one of more than 1,000 technology “partners” listed on its website. For the Beshear administration, Lassiter was executive director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Office of Administrative and Technology Services until 2011. His wife, Mary Lassiter, was state budget director before being named secretary of Beshear’s Executive Cabinet in 2009. Both contributed money to Beshear’s re-election campaign in 2011.

Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, said the governor’s office is weighing the possibility that political — and marital — connections paved the way for SAS.

LRC Public Information

Kentucky’s new health secretary says her state agency will meet proposed budget reductions through a variety of cost-cutting measures, such as not filling vacant positions and cutting back on travel.

Under Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed spending cuts, the cabinet’s budget will be reduced by $64 million over the next two years and $31 million this year.

Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, who heads up the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said Wednesday that implementing the cuts allows her a “clean look” at the cabinet’s programs and services.

“It does give us an opportunity to evaluate areas that certainly haven’t been delivering a satisfactory return on investment,” Glisson said.

Creative Commons

The expansion of Medicaid has closed an economic gap for health insurance in Kentucky, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

The poll shows more lower-income adults have become eligible for insurance since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid. In 2013, before the expansion took effect, more than three in 10 adults earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level were uninsured.

Now, only one in 10 adults earning that same amount are uninsured, according to the poll.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said the ACA and Medicaid expansion are a step towards health equity in Kentucky.

“What this is doing is improving the equity to access in health care by reducing those gaps between lower income people who have insurance and the number of higher income people who have insurance,” said Zepeda.

Lisa Autry

This is the second of a two-part series on proposed changes to Kentucky Medicaid and how Governor Matt Bevin wants to model the program after a similar one in Indiana.  You can see Part 1 here.

When the federal Affordable Care Act was rolled out, Indiana was faced with the same dilemma as other states: give health coverage to more of the uninsured by expanding Medicaid, while taking on hundreds of millions of dollars in costs. 

Indiana Governor Mike Pence persuaded the federal government to approve an alternative for his state. Just over a year ago, the state implemented the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0.  Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin wants to launch a similar program as he looks to revamp his state's Medicaid system. 

In the year since Indiana implemented the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, or HIP, more than 370,000 Hoosiers have enrolled in the program.  Among them is Mary Buchanan, who is self-employed.  A shoulder injury no longer allows her to work full-time.  By working less, the 63-year-old from Rockport couldn’t afford the private insurance she used to carry.  She picked up the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, or HIP, about a year ago.

"One less thing for me to worry about 24\7, said Buchanon, who met WKU Public Radio at the Spencer County Library.  "What if something happens to me?  Am I going to have to file bankruptcy?  One trip to the hospital can wipe you out.”

Under HIP 2.0, Buchanan pays just under $14 a month in premiums and has no co-pays or deductibles for her medical care.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Brandy Shaul

This is the first in a two-part series on Medicaid, Kentucky's expansion of the government-subsidized program, and proposed changes to Medicaid.

As Governor Matt Bevin prepares to re-design Kentucky’s Medicaid program, a new national survey shows the commonwealth with the second-largest gains in insurance coverage. 

More than half-a-million Kentuckians obtained coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.  Some 80 percent of the newly insured went onto the Medicaid rolls. 

But many Medicaid enrollees are worried about what lies ahead under the state’s new Republican governor.  Teresa Bowley was at a recent health insurance sign-up event in Bowling Green to ask a question about changing providers.  Six months ago, she qualified for coverage through Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion. 

Now when she gets sick, she goes to the doctor. But that hasn’t always been the case. 

”You just don’t. You just try to think this will go away on its own.  You have to miss work," Bowley explained.


An effort at Western Kentucky University to provide dental care to underserved children is getting a boost.

The WKU Institute for Rural Health has been awarded a two-year, $120,000 grant from the Florida-based Jesse Ball duPont Fund.

Institute director Matt Hunt says students from the WKU College of Health and Human Services will provide care in rural counties in the Barren River Area Development District.

“A lot of the communities we serve don’t have any dentists in that particular county. So we’ll be able to provide preventative care, such as exams, cleanings, fluoride varnish, and sealants for the children.”

The WKU project is called Saving the Teeth of a New Generation of Kentuckians. Hunt says the goal is to serve 1,600 children in the next two years.

According to WKU, students in the College of Health and Human Services have logged nearly 18,000 hours in patient care and education via the IRH.

Creative Commons

Several universities are banding together to address Kentucky's physician shortage.

The University of Kentucky College of Medicine will offer satellite programs at Morehead State University and Western Kentucky University, to increase the number of doctors in the state.

UK President Eli Capilouto says those who attend med school close to home are 60 to 70% more likely to practice medicine in those areas.

The partnership, which will also include St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Kings Daughters Medical Center and The Medical Center in Bowling Green, could begin within two years.

Flickr/Creative Commons

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Joost Nelissen

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.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

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
Creative Commons

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.