Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new, wide-ranging health poll shows that opinion remains split on the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, with most unfavorable opinions coming from northern and western parts of the state. Those areas also happen to have the highest rates of uninsured in the state.

Susan Zepeda is president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which conducts the annual poll along with Cincinnati-based Interact for Health.

“Overall, what we’re finding with these reports is that an increasing number of Kentuckians have health insurance, but many are still delaying or simply can’t afford necessary health care,” Zepeda said.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll showed that just 41 percent of Kentuckians have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

Creative Commons

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is expecting a busier-than-usual mosquito spraying season.

While state officials have reported only a handful of infections, fears of the Zika virus have the department ramping up operations.

Keith Rogers, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, says the department has enough pesticides to last through the summer.

“We feel like we’ve purchased enough product, and have the resources, to certainly get us through late summer. If we do see an increase need in spring, or an increase in mosquito population, we will have the resources to purchase additional products.”

Rogers says despite budget cuts, the agriculture department will have enough funding for mosquito pesticides even if it has to make reductions in other areas.

The typical spraying season is June through August.

While Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is privately working on a plan to change Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid system, a coalition of advocacy group has created its own recommendations.

Bevin has said his administration would apply for a federal 1115 waiver — a course of action that allows states to test out new ways to operate Medicaid.

Although there hasn’t been any public input on the waiver process, a coalition called Kentucky Voices for Health has crafted its own suggestions designed to improve health and manage costs of the system.

Rich Seckel, executive director of Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said the group’s report could help improve the Medicaid system.

“What I found exciting about these recommendations was not the sort of predictable concern about cost barriers but the opportunity to do some innovation,” Seckel said.

A new jobs-training program is aimed at helping young Kentucky adults with the transition out of foster care.

Governor Matt Bevin unveiled the Fostering Success program this week.

It will put 18-23 year olds who have left foster care into a 10-week office job at a local branch of the state Department for Community Based Service.

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks says the program will introduce participants to a range of options they might not have otherwise known about.

“There are going to be routes clearly laid out to take them to community colleges, to four year colleges, and also to trade and technical and career apprenticeships.”


Labels for the first long-acting opioid addiction treatment device are rolling off printing machines Friday. Trainings begin Saturday for doctors who want to learn to insert four matchstick-size rods under the skin. They contain the drug buprenorphine, which staves off opioid cravings.

The implant, called Probuphine, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, and is expected to be available to patients by the end of June.

“This is just the starting point for us to continue to fight for the cause of patients with opioid addiction,” said Behshad Sheldon, CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Probuphine.

But debate continues about how effective the implant will be and whether insurers will cover it.


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.