New data shows Kentucky children are healthier on average than children across the nation.
Numbers released last week by the Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health show 85.5% of Kentucky children were in very good or excellent health for a period covering 2011-2012. Nationwide, that number was 84.2%.
The percentage of Kentucky children who received preventive dental care came in below the nationwide average, with 75.5%. Nationwide, 77.2% of children received preventive dental health care.
The data also shows that just 41% of Kentucky children live in neighborhoods with a park, sidewalks, a library and a community center. That compares with 54% of children nationwide.
The Data Resource Center gathers data for the National Center for Health Statistics.
Health departments across Kentucky continue to make cuts because of a dispute between the state and a managed-care company hired to help serve Medicaid patients.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the cuts include laying off workers, ending school health programs and decreasing clinic hours.
Kentucky Health Departments Association President Scott Lockard told the newspaper that health departments cut 53 workers last year, and another 95 have been cut this year. He said some departments are facing furloughs through July 1.
The Madison County Health Department, for example, announced the end of its school nurse program in February. Fayette County's health department ended that program last year.
Kentucky's attorney general is urging the Food and Drug Administration to make generic pain pills harder to abuse.
Forty-seven state attorneys general have signed a letter asking the FDA to require drug manufacturers to develop tamper-resistant versions of their products.
The FDA is currently considering generics for two of the most commonly abused pain killers, Oxycontin and Opana.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway explains that generic crushable drugs lack the tamper-resistant gel coating on many name brand drugs. "Oxycontin is normally delivered in time release over 12 hours, but addicts can snort 12 hours worth of the medication in about 12 seconds," says Conway.
If generics come to market without being tamper-proof, Conway says much of the work Kentucky has done to curb drug abuse will be lost.
Opponents of expanding TennCare as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act say the country can’t afford to add to the national debt. But hospitals in Tennessee are pushing back, saying the money amounts to just seven-thousandths of one percent of the country’s red ink.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Wright Pinson held up a sheet of paper with a pin dot in the middle, representing the potential savings for no expansion compared to the country’s $16 trillion debt.
“I think that you would agree that weighing all of the conflicting politics and data, the health and welfare of the citizens of Tennessee far outweigh this dot,” Pinson said.
The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs in the first three years. Pinson says the state should take the money and worry about the future later.
Mary Carol Akers looks in the trunk of her car before she leaves for work to make sure she has all the necessary tools for her job.
"You can see the oxygen tank, medications. I've got catheter kits and IVs, anything mother and baby might need," she says.
Akers makes a lot of house calls. She is a certified midwife serving Hardin and surrounding counties in central Kentucky. The retired Army lieutenant colonel has delivered babies at military hospitals throughout the world, and over the course of her career, she estimates she has delivered six thousand babies.
In the car with Akers on her way to a house call, she explains why some women choose not to give birth at a hospital.
"I think that one of the things about birth centers and midwifery is high touch and low tech, and high touch and low tech require a lot more work than putting them on the monitor and going to the desk to watch it from there," explains Akers. "I've also seen women go to the hospital with a birth plan in mind and be bullied out of it."
Previous naysayers are coming around to the idea of expanding TennCare. Even while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, they say pulling more poor people into the state’s Medicaid program could have some upsides.
Other Republican-led states have taken the leap, even as Governor Bill Haslam continues to weigh the pros and cons.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says at first, all he could see was that after three years, the state would have to start picking up part of the tab.
“There are some other facts that have come to light since then that would offset some of those expenses. That’s why I have an open mind about it.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will make up his mind on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program by the end of the month. He says he’ll leave time for the state legislature to consider his decision.
There’s no pressing deadline except that the state legislature intends to wrap up work in April and Haslam needs lawmakers to sign off either way. If he does go along with the Affordable Care Act and expand the state’s Medicaid program, it could take a lot of convincing.
“If the decision is no, then their discussion is short I think. If the decision is yes, then I think they’ll need a decent amount of time to discuss that,” said the Republican Governor.
Two Republican lawmakers are still trying to advance bills that would bar the state from expanding Medicaid. They argue the state still can’t afford it even though the federal government pays the bill for the first three years.
Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Tuesday legislation aimed at fixing problems with 2012's crackdown on pill mills.
House Bill 217 exempts hospitals and long term care facilities from constantly running prescribing reports on patients in their care.
But supporters of the bill, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Senate President Robert Stivers and Beshear said the new legislation doesn't weaken the 2012 efforts to tackle pill mills—pain clinics that abuse their prescription-writing authority for people seeking pain medication for recreational use.
"But as with most major reforms efforts, the implementation of House Bill 1 demonstrated a few imperfections that needed to be fixed," Beshear said. "House Bill 217 makes those fixes, without reducing the impact of the original legislation."