3:24 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Tennessee Governor Seeking "Third Way' on Medicaid Expansion

Tennesee Gov. Bill Haslam

Tennessee is not exactly saying “yes” to expanding the state’s Medicaid program – known as TennCare. But it’s not saying “no” either.

Governor Bill Haslam made the announcement this morning to a joint assembly of the legislature, telling lawmakers he’s been working toward a “third option.”

“To leverage the federal dollars available to our state to transform health care in Tennessee without expanding our TennCare rolls," said the Republican Governor.

Haslam says he’d like to use the federal money to buy private health insurance for Tennesseans who have no other way to get it.

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9:40 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Survey: Kentucky Kids Healthier than U.S. Average

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.

8:37 am
Sat March 16, 2013

Kentucky Health Departments Continue Cuts over Medicaid Dispute

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.

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3:37 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Kentucky's Attorney General Tries to Head Off Crushable Pain Pill Abuse

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.

4:00 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Debate is Underway in Tennessee Over Costs of Expanding TennCare

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.

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5:05 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Aspirin Vs. Melanoma: Study Suggests Headache Pill Prevents Deadly Skin Cancer

A doctor checks for signs of skin cancer at a free cancer screening day in New York City.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 9:22 am

It's not the first study that finds the lowly aspirin may protect against the deadliest kind of skin cancer, but it is one of the largest.

And it adds to a mounting pile of studies suggesting that cheap, common aspirin lowers the risk of many cancers — of the colon, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and ovary.

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8:05 am
Sat March 9, 2013

Midwife Aims to Open First Alternative Birthing Center in Kentucky

Midwife Mary Akers delivers a baby boy January 19th.

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."

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8:19 am
Fri March 8, 2013

In Tennessee, Some Critics of TennCare Expansion Could be Changing Course

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.”

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6:39 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Haslam: Decision on Medicaid Expansion to Come by End of the Month

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (right)

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.

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10:49 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Beshear Signs Into Law Changes for 2012 "Pill Mill Bill"

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."

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