Health

The Kentucky Access program is closing to make way for the Affordable Care Act.

The 14-year-old program was created to provide affordable health coverage to high-risk Kentuckians. It's ending because of a provision in the ACA that requires insurers to provide coverage to those people  regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Louisville Rep. Steve Riggs sponsored legislation that created the program in 2000. He says Kentucky Access isn't needed now that the ACA is implemented.

“It’s redundant, yeah. Duplicative. So that’s why the Department of Insurance is phasing it out, because now you can get that same type of coverage with the ACA, with Kentucky KYnect, and in many cases I understand it’s less expensive."

Kentuckians who obtained insurance through the program will now have to sign up for coverage under the state’s health insurance exchange, KYnect, before April or they will face tax penalties.

At its peak, Kentucky Access enrolled about 4,800 people.

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University of Kentucky researchers are working to find out whether microbes from coal mines could help fight disease.

Soil from coal mines is analyzed at UK's Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation lab, run by Jon Thorson. Thorson said because the microbes have to work harder to survive underground, they are more competitive, meaning they may be useful in fighting illness.

The Lexington Herald-Leader says Thorson has also contacted geologist Jim Hower, who has been studying gas emissions from a fire in an abandoned underground mine near Lott's Creek in Perry County. When Thorson found out, he asked Hower about getting soil samples for the research.

Thorson's team is working with colleagues from UK's Center for Applied Energy Research and the Kentucky Geological Survey to retrieve necessary soil samples.

Experts who watch HIV and AIDS cases in Kentucky say the rate of infection may see a rise thanks to complacency and the rise of heroin abuse in the state.

In spite of ongoing education and prevention efforts, the rate of infection in the state has remained constant over the past decade in Kentucky.

Mark Royse, executive director of AVOL, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the infection rate may be on the rise. AVOL serves HIV and AIDS patients in 72 Kentucky counties.

Royse says people believe the disease is a problem in poorer countries, but not the U.S.

He says as heroin use increases in the state, so too do infection problems that arise from sharing needles.

Kynect Enrollment Deadline Nearing

Dec 23, 2013

The deadline for Kentuckians to enroll in a health insurance plan through the state’s health exchange is just hours away.

Kentuckians will have until midnight tonight (Monday) to sign up for a new health care policy through KYnect (Connect), the state’s health insurance exchange, in order for the policy to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Those without insurance by the end of March 2014 will be assessed a tax penalty.

So far, about 100,000 of an estimated 640,000 Kentuckians without health insurance have signed up for a policy through the state exchange.

More information can be found at kynect.ky.gov

More than 440,000 Kentuckians on Medicare took advantage of free preventive treatments this year.  That's according to numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. They say the patients underwent colonoscopies, mammograms, smoking cessation treatments and other services that became free under the Affordable Care Act.

Before the law took effect, patients may have had to pay hundreds of dollars for care that is meant to reduce the need for more expensive treatments later on.

Nationally, over 25 million Americans covered by Original Medicare received a free preventative service this year.

About 66,000 people who get individual health plans through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee are being notified that they must pick a new plan due to new federal regulations.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, which is the largest underwriter of individual health plans in the state, and other insurance companies have begun sending out the letters to inform clients who have policies that don't meet new federal regulations.

Roy Vaughn, vice president for Blue Cross in Tennessee, told The Tennessean that letters are going out as policies come up for renewal and the company is pointing out similar plans that meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Vaughn said the letters are to help people choose a replacement so they don't have a lapse in coverage.

About 280,000 Kentuckians will have to trade in their current health insurance policies in the months ahead and enroll in other plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act.  One Kentucky official is confident those affected will get a better deal. 

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes oversees the commonwealth’s online health exchange.  She tells WKU Public Radio that those who don’t get to keep their current insurance plans will get better coverage under the federal health care law.

"There are a lot of plans out there that people claim they love and enjoy, but I assure you, the plans they can receive now are better," claims Haynes.  "They're richer benefits and plans."

Haynes says some current insurance policies don’t meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which grants coverage for pre-existing conditions and expands coverage to a wide range of preventive care services. 

Asked about the Obama administration’s earlier claim that people could keep their current insurance, Haynes says that’s still the case for about 96 percent of Kentuckians.

A report says Kentucky has among the highest percentages of children who have had three or more adverse experiences in their homes.

Those experiences include divorce, an incarcerated parent or substance abuse in their homes. And research suggests that those experiences can negatively affect children for years.

The Kids Count: First Eight Years report released Monday says 10 percent of Kentucky kids have experienced three or more of those factors.

That’s ties Montana for the highest percentage in the U.S.

The American Cancer Society is looking to enroll 300 people from the Bowling Green area in a study.  People between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer are eligible to enroll. 

"You fill out an initial survey when you sign up to be part of the lifestyle survey and then you get a survey every year," says Angie Geron, Community Representative for the American Cancer Society.  "It asks you about your daily habits like how long you sit and stand, how much you weigh, how many hours a night you sleep, all those things we take for granted that we don't think influence our life." 

American Cancer Society prevention studies began in the 1950s and have led to discoveries such as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, and the role obesity plays in the risk of several cancers. 

"It's a way we can fight back for our loved ones that have been diagnosed," states Geron.  "It's a way we can do something to impact the future as far as cancer research is concerned."

Enrollment for this latest study begins November 20.  You can learn more information by clicking here.

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

Arguing that some Kentucky legislators routinely file bills that would be, if enacted, harmful to women, activists rallied Saturday outside the state Capitol to support what they called "reproductive justice" in advance of the 2014 General Assembly session.

Roughly 75 activists caravanned from Louisville to Frankfort to advocate for legislation that would expand access to abortion and contraceptives, family support programs and comprehensive, science-based sex education.

Speakers at the rally lambasted what some called "religious conservatives" in Kentucky legislature who constantly introduce legislation that they claim harm low-income women.

"In Kentucky, year after year, there are proposals that continue to go before the legislature that would seek to limit a person's access to comprehensive sexuality education; seek to limit a person's access to the full range of pregnancy-related healthcare, including contraception and abortion; and seek to deny family support," Dawn Cooley, a minister at Louisville's First Unitarian Church, told the crowd.

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