Health

UK

The Medical Center at Bowling Green became the 16th affiliate to join the statewide network under the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center.

President and CEO of Commonwealth Health Corporation and The Medical Center Connie Smith said patients in south-central Kentucky will now "have access to the latest clinical trials, educational opportunities for physicians and staff and additional outreach and education resources for the community."

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network was created to provide high quality cancer care closer to home for patients across the region, according to a written release from the Medical Center. The Medical Center is the regional referral center for cancer care in the region with almost 1,000 cancer cases diagnosed at the hospital annually, according to the release.

Executive vice president for Commonwealth Health Corporation Sarah Moore told WKU Public Radio the Medical Center can now provide patients access to additional specialty and subspecialty physicians and advanced technology while allowing them to stay close to home for their treatment. The Medical Center has been an accredited cancer program for 12 years.

Other health providers in the Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network include Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, Methodist Hospital in Henderson and TJ Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow.

Creative Commons

Health insurance companies in Kentucky want to increase rates by an average of 17 percent next year.

The Kentucky Department of Insurance posted rate requests from the state's major insurance carriers on Wednesday. They include plans for individuals and small groups.

These are not premium increases. The base rate is one of several factors used to determine a person's premium, including age, sex and where a person lives. Individual premiums will vary.

State officials blame some of the increases on the failure of the Kentucky Health Cooperative. Many of the company's high-risk customers were picked up by other companies, leading to higher rates.

The rate requests cover plans sold on and off kynect, the state's health insurance exchange. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin plans to dismantle kynect by the end of this year.

Wikimedia Commons

University of Kentucky entomologists have created a website to provide information on the Zika virus, with mosquitoes starting to show up in the state.

Extension entomologist Lee Townsend says mosquito populations will peak in mid- to late summer. He said in a news release the website will include information on Zika cases as they appear and on mosquitoes that are potential virus carriers in the state.

Zika can be transmitted sexually, but it is primarily spread through mosquito bites.

The website can be found here.

All confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S. are from travelers bitten by mosquitoes while in another country, including six in Kentucky.

The virus causes mild, flu-like symptoms but can cause severe birth defects in babies whose mothers contract the virus during pregnancy.

public domain

More Kentuckians are gaining health insurance coverage, a trend that has continued since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2014, according to a report released Wednesday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The fourth quarter 2015 snapshot of the impact of the ACA in Kentucky indicates that the rate of uninsurance was 7.5 percent as of December 2015, down from 9 percent in June 2015.

Nationally, 11.7 percent lacked health insurance as of December; the rate was 10.2 percent for the eight states surrounding Kentucky.

“Lack of insurance is a significant barrier to getting necessary health care and preventive services timely,” said Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky is launching a Zika awareness and prevention program.

Six people, including at least one pregnant woman, have been diagnosed with the Zika virus in Kentucky.  All of them contracted it while traveling abroad.

State officials in the areas of health, agriculture, and entomology all participated in a Frankfort news conference Monday.

Infectious disease specialist Ardis Hoven is consulting with the State Department of Public Health.

“We’ll be looking and monitoring for local transmission, that’s the key issue, local transmission,” Hoven said. “To date, Kentucky has had none. In the United States, there has been no local transmission. It’s all been from travelers coming back from infected areas.”

Ft. Knox Army Post

Ireland Army Community Hospital at Fort Knox says it will begin limiting new surgery cases starting next month.

The hospital says the change is due to operating room staffing changes and the impact on maintaining safe, quality care. Cesarean sections and all currently scheduled surgeries will continue, but no new surgeries will be scheduled after June 1.

The hospital is scheduled to become an outpatient clinic and will end inpatient and emergency services by Dec. 15. The hospital said that could happen sooner if staffing becomes an issue.

The hospital said in a news release that service members and TRICARE beneficiaries will continue to have inpatient and surgical care needs met by central Kentucky community health partners.

The president of Western Kentucky University says building services attendants will get “pretty similar” benefits when their work is transferred to a private contractor. 

In a budget-cutting move announced this week, around 200 BSAs will work for Sodexo after July 31.  Dr. Gary Ransdell took questions from them and other employees at a forum Thursday afternoon. 

Under the change, employees will get fewer sick days. That’s a concern for Paul Barbour, whose wife works as a BSA.  Barbour says she’s taken a lot of time off because of ailments related to a car accident. Barbour fears the Sodexo will put productivity over people.

"Her main concern is that she's going to lose her job because Sodexo, being a private contract company, will not be as lenient with her as Western was because they're more into getting things done than being nice to employees," Barbour told WKU Public Radio.

Sodexo is also expected to offer less paid vacation time around Christmas time.  Employees will get three days off in December compared to the 10 days they were given by WKU.  

Flickr/Creative Commons

A recent report by Kaiser Family Foundation says Kentucky has one of the most successful implementations of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S.

The report cites the “single, integrated eligibility system [Kentucky] built for Kynect and Medicaid” as one of the most pivotal components to its success.

The foundation also concludes that the state’s leadership and collaboration, outreach and marketing efforts, and diverse network of enrollment assistance were also contributing factors to its success.

In a statement from Saving KY Healthcare, former Gov. Steve Beshear — a principal with the nonprofit — said Kynect and Medicaid expansion had a big impact.

“The successful rollout was largely due to thorough coordination by officials throughout the state, and a comprehensive effort to ensure that all aspects of Kynect and the expansion were ready to launch on day one,” he said.

Flickr/Creative Commons/OpenFile Vancour

Kentucky schools could provide another tool in the state’s fight against heroin. 

The pharmaceutical company AdaptPharma is donating the antidote Narcan, also known as Naloxone, to Kentucky schools. 

"We understand the crucial role schools can play to change the course of the opioid overdose epidemic by working with students and families," said Thomas Duddy, Executive Director of Communications for AdaptPharma.

The free kits will contain a nasal spray that can reverse heroin overdoses.  Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says the program could help reduce the number of young people killed by heroin.

"It's still largely focused on the adult population, but we are seeing younger and younger adults involved in the use of heroin," Ingram told WKU Public Radio.  "It's just another tool in the tool belt as public health, law enforcement, and a host of others trying to minimize the harm caused by this epidemic."

Each Kentucky school district can decide whether or not it wants to participate in the program, which will begin this fall.

Joseph Lord, WFPL

E-cigarettes and smoking hookah have gained popularity among middle and high school students in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes tripled from 2013 to 2014.

Among high school students, 13.4 percent were found to be using e-cigarettes in 2014 compared with 4.5 percent in 2013. The number of middle school students using e-cigarettes also tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014.

Vince Willmore, vice president for communication at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said marketing of e-cigarettes has played a big role in young people using the product.

“They’re available in flavors that appeal to kids like cotton candy and gummy bear, so it’s not surprising that kids are using more of these products because they’re being marketed in the very same way that regular cigarettes have been marketed to kids,” he said.

Creative Commons

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that the Zika virus is “scarier than we initially thought” and that states need to be ready for potentially widespread infections.

And the agency confirmed for the first time on Wednesday that the virus causes birth defects.

The organization said the mosquito carrying the virus may be present in about 30 states. It was previously thought to be found in a dozen U.S. states.

Last month, Kentucky officials — led by Gov. Matt Bevin — held a news conference meant to reassure the public that Zika was not a threat in the commonwealth, and that they had been preparing for potential cases. There have been three confirmed cases in Kentucky. Two were people in Louisville, and each person had recently traveled to an area affected by the virus.

Here’s what state officials said then:

Creative Commons

Kentucky adults still have a hard time affording health care, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

In 2015, one in five Kentucky adults either didn’t get care or delayed care due to cost, according to the report. That’s down from 2014 and 2009, when 22 percent and 32 percent, respectively, went without needed care due to cost.

Susan Zepeda, president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said having insurance coverage is a great start, but it doesn’t always get the whole job done.

“Although more and more Kentuckians are able to get the care they need in a timely manner, they’re is still work to be done,” she said. “There are still people who are delaying care or finding that they’re unable to handle the medical bills after they receive care.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/ Mark Perlstein/Feature Photo Service

Even though it’s late in the season, the number of flu cases is on the rise in Kentucky.  State health experts are still encouraging vaccination.

For the ninth week in a row, the flu activity level is widespread, meaning that at least half of the state’s regions are reporting an increase in cases of the flu.  The traditional flu season lasts from October through May.  Increased flu activity began later this season than usual in Kentucky.  Due to the late peak in the season, both in Kentucky and nationally, increased flu activity is anticipated to continue well into May.

Teresa Casey, a registered nurse at the Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green, says people should think of others when they consider getting the vaccine.

"You may not decide to get the flu vaccine because you never get sick, but think about the people you are around, and if you did get the flu, who you would pass that on to," stated Casey.

Creative Commons

A new report shows nearly three-quarters of American adults report having at least one unhealthy behavior, such as smoking. But when it comes to multiple unhealthy behaviors associated with chronic disease, nearly 17 percent of Kentucky adults have three or more risk factors.

The report, America’s Health Rankings Spotlight: Impact of Unhealthy Behaviors, examines the prevalence of multiple unhealthy behaviors and inequities within groups. It was compiled by United Health Foundation.

The behaviors included smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, obesity and insufficient sleep.

Ana Fuentevilla, chief medical officer for United Health Care Community and State Program, said those five unhealthy behaviors, especially together, worsen the general population’s health.

“Just by working on one and eliminating that unhealthy behavior, you can really improve the health of that individual,” she said.

Community Action of Southern Kentucky

Social service providers in Kentucky are dealing with the rollout of the new Benefind system for public benefits. Those benefits include Medicaid and food stamps.

Across the state, there have been reports of long waits on the phone to update or change benefits with the Department for Community Based Services.

Melissa Grimes is Community Action’s program manager for Kynect. That’s the state’s health exchange that Governor Matt Bevin has promised to dismantle and replace with the federal exchange through Benefind.

Grimes says some of Community Action’s facilitators called Kynectors have had long telephone wait times.

“Some of the holds have been quite extensive for some of my Kynectors. I’ve heard up to three hours,” said Grimes. “But I think most are starting to get through now within an hour if not shorter.”

Pages