Health

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A new study says the number of low-income Kentuckians without health insurance declined by 68 percent in the first year of the state’s Medicaid expansion.

The research was conducted by the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences Department of Health Management and Systems Sciences by faculty members Joseph Benitez, Liza Creel and J’Aime Jennings.

It was published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

The study said 35 percent of low-income Kentuckians were uninsured at the end of 2013, and 11 percent were uninsured in late 2014. The research aligns with past studies that show sharp drops in the rate of uninsured in Kentucky since the Affordable Care Act was implemented.

Benitez and his colleagues also found declines in the number of people lacking a regular source of health care and those with unmet medical needs.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Kentucky Medicaid beneficiaries and other welfare recipients will apply for services using a new website called Benefind starting Feb. 29.

Medicaid recipients previously applied for benefits using Kynect, the state health exchange that Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to dismantle by the end of the year.

Health and Human Services Cabinet Vickie Yates Glisson said the plan does away with the paper-version of the application — the program will be entirely online.

“Whether you live in any of our 120 counties, there should be access to a computer system that you will be able to come in and access these programs,” Glisson said.

The new program will also serve as an application hub for other state health, food and cash assistance programs, replacing the Kentucky Automated Management Eligibility System.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, and scale back its Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce “Save Kentucky Healthcare” during events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin’s plans to roll back what he called Kentucky’s nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

Beshear left office in December. During his eight years in office, he expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program and created a state-operated health insurance exchange where eligible Kentuckians could purchase discounted private health insurance plans. He did so under the Affordable Care Act.

Bevin criticized both programs as too expensive. He says he will dismantle Kynect by the end of the year and is trying to replace the Medicaid expansion with a different program.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

The majority of Kentucky adults favor raising the legal age to buy tobacco products, according to a poll released Monday morning.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, shows 60 percent of Kentucky adults support raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said raising the age would serve as a deterrent for young people starting to use tobacco products.

“If the shopkeepers are doing their jobs, it would mean that the only way a younger person could get cigarettes would be if an older person would either give them to them or buy them for them,” she said.

Kentucky’s smoking rate is 30.2 percent, the highest in the U.S., according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

What Kentuckians Need To Know About The Zika Virus

Feb 5, 2016
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The Zika virus has generated plenty of concern — and media coverage — as it spreads through Central and South America, with the the World Health Organization going as far as this week declaring a public health emergency.

The virus, transmitted through mosquito bites, is linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development and abnormal smallness of the head.

International health officials expect the Zika virus to spread farther — but people may not have much of a risk of contracting it in Kentucky anytime in the near future.

Mapping Zika: From A Monkey In Uganda To A Growing Global Concern

The type of mosquito that is known to carry the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, is rarely found in Kentucky, said Dr. Grayson Brown,  entomologist in the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

“It’s a mosquito that we have in Kentucky, but only about one out of about every 5,000 mosquitoes is an Aedes aegypti . So, they’re not very common and they don’t start showing up here until very late in the summer,” Brown said.

Norton Healthcare

A new national survey shows Kentucky and Arkansas lead the nation in the largest drops of the number of people without health insurance.

The Gallup-Healthways survey shows more than 20 percent of Kentuckians did not have health insurance in 2013. Last year, just 7.5 percent of the state’s population did not have insurance. Arkansas had a similar drop.

The survey shows states that expanded Medicaid and operated a state exchange outperformed other states in the percentage of people who have insurance.

Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has already given the order to dismantle the state exchange and is seeking to reform the state Medicaid system.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky’s leader is hopeful the organization can soon resume providing abortions at its downtown Louisville clinic.

The Planned Parenthood chapter began providing abortions at the recently opened Louisville facility on Jan. 21, but Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration ordered it to cease providing abortion services on Friday. The administration said Planned Parenthood’s application for a license to perform abortions was deficient. The license was never formally issued.

What’s not immediately clear is what may happen if Planned Parenthood resolves the issues in the application indicated by the Bevin administration.

Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the Planned Parenthood chapter will work to address the issues that Bevin administration has cited.

Kentucky State Government

The leader of the Kentucky Youth Advocates is renewing his call for state lawmakers to pass an Earned Income Tax Credit.

Terry Brooks points out the federal government and 32 states offer the program.

The refundable credit is aimed at low-to-moderate working individuals and couples, and is based on income and number of children.

Brooks says the program has gained bipartisan support throughout the years.

“What I love about it from a political perspective is that the EITC was invented by Richard Nixon, and its three biggest fans were Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.”

Brooks says an Earned Income Tax Credit would be an effective tool in fighting poverty in the Bluegrass State.

A report issued by the Kentucky Youth Advocates last fall showed 26 percent of the state’s youth live in poverty.

“Unless, and until, we as a commonwealth begin to address that aspect of what it means to grow up in Kentucky, health outcomes, academic achievement outcomes, safety outcomes are all going to be tamped down,” Brooks said.

WKU Public Radio

Western Kentucky University students struggling with mental health issues can now tap into an on-campus support group.  

The National Alliance for Mental Illness is starting the free and confidential program which is available to students in all degree programs.

The group’s first meeting is Feb. 1 from 6:00-7:30pm in room 211 of the Academic Complex. Meetings will be held twice a month.

WKU Social Work Professor Jay Gabbard is the faculty member overseeing the group, along with trained NAMI staff.

He wants students to know that having a mental illness doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in school and in the workplace.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20, and through management of the illness over the years I’ve managed to have a successful life,” Gabbard said. “But I think it’s best to utilize a three-pronged approach: medication, therapy, and support resources.”

Ryland Barton, Kentucky Public Radio

The state inspector general ordered the Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky to immediately cease providing abortion on Thursday, the same day the organization announced it had begun offering the services.

In a letter sent to LaToya Rose, director of the Planned Parenthood chapter, acting Inspector General Stephane Hold said that the organization’s application for an abortion license had been found “deficient.”

In Kentucky, abortion facilities are required to have an agreement with an acute care hospital and an ambulance service that can provide treatment for abortion patients who have complications during the procedure.

The inspector general said in the letter that Planned Parenthood’s documentation of an emergency hospital and ambulance service were inadequate.

“The absence of adequate written agreements with an acute care hospital and a local ambulance service prevent us from continuing our review of your application at this time,” the letter said.

CDC Anti-Smoking Campaign Targets Kentucky

Jan 25, 2016
Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

Louisville resident Linda Wood said she has smoked cigarettes since she was 16. Now 50, Wood said she’s seen television ads in the past showing the health issues caused by smoking.

“It makes you want to cut back a lot. And I have went from three packs a week to one pack,” Wood said.

Wood said when she watches the ads of Terrie Hall speaking with the aid of an artificial voice box, she thinks “that could be me.”

Wood said she is on her way to quitting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to reach more people like Wood. The CDC launched an anti-smoking campaign Monday that targets people living in states with high smoking rates, including Kentucky.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401(K) 2012

Federal officials are unsure how much the government will recoup of the $1.2 billion spent on loans and startup costs for a dozen health care cooperatives that later failed, including Kentucky’s.

The situation with the Kentucky Health Cooperative is complicated by the liquidation of the entity, which a state court ordered this month.

Under the Affordable Care Act, co-ops were created to increase competition among plans and improve consumer choice, according to a recent story by USA Today.

Of the 23 co-ops created, a dozen have failed, including Kentucky Health Cooperative.

About $2.4 billion of federal funds was put into the creation of the startup health insurance providers.

Since it was established, Kentucky Health Care Cooperative has been awarded a total of $146 million in federal loans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Editor's note: A version of this post first appeared in January 2015.

Many people will see the snow currently blanketing much of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard as a nuisance coating sidewalks and roads. Others are celebrating it as an excuse to spend the day swooshing down a hill.

As for me, I like to think of snow as food.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401(K) 2012

The Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville has been awarded a multimillion-dollar federal grant to bring health care to rural and medically underserved Kentuckians.

The $2.55 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be used to create the Kentucky Rural & Underserved Geriatric Interprofessional Program.

The three-year initiative will partner with organizations from six rural counties in Kentucky: Hart, Metcalfe, Barren, Bullitt, Henry and Shelby.

Dr. Anna Faul, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at U of L, said the program is designed to help primary care practices in rural areas deliver care to older adults with chronic conditions.

“You really need an integrated approach where you can work with all of these professionals, and they can come around the table and create care plans that can be effective and also empowering for the older adult,” she said.

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