Hard-to-fight infections are attracting the attention of Kentucky's lawmakers.
A public health expert recently briefed lawmakers on the growing risk. Dr. Kevin Kavanagh with Kentucky based Health Watch USA says the increasing risk of contagions, such as potentially deadly staph infections and untreatable gastro-intestinal bacteria, justify tougher measures.
Kavanagh says hospitals need to expand their use of antibiotic ointments and antiseptics.
“All hospitals can be doing it, either with surveillance and testing of individual patients or some hospitals may choose to use the universal decolonization or essentially just treating everybody as if they had MRSA,” said Kavanagh.
Interview with Susan Zepeda, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
An annual statewide poll shows that one-quarter of Kentucky adults are without health insurance.
The Kentucky Health Issues Poll is funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. That group's President and CEO, Susan Zepeda, says an even higher number of adults in the commonwealth was without coverage for at least part of 2013.
"Three in ten Kentucky adults were uninsured at some point in the last 12 months, which really underscores the need for helping people get access to insurance," Dr. Zepeda told WKU Public Radio.
Zepeda says the recent poll is important because it sets a baseline for how many Kentuckians have health insurance, and from what sources, ahead of the broader impacts of the federal Affordable Care Act.
That baseline, Zepeda says, will help policy analysts determine how much effect the changes related to the ACA are having on individuals and states.
Several Democrats in the Kentucky House have filed a bill that would make it a felony for doctors not to consult with patients seeking abortions a day before the procedure.
The bill is one of many filed this year that would limit abortion access.
Derek Selznick, Reproductive Freedom Project Director of the ACLU of Kentucky, says this bill and others would most severely affect women outside of major cities.
“If a woman is from a rural part of the state, that means she’s gonna have to get a hotel. If she works an hourly job, she’s out two days’ wages. All of these are serious impediments that offer really no higher quality of care. All they do is put a higher burden on a woman seeking abortion.”
Selznick says the bill is cobbled together from Republican proposals in the Senate.
A new federal grant is designed to help Kentucky reduce the major risk factors leading to obesity and chronic disease.
The goal of the five-year, $1.7 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant is to promote improved physical activity and nutrition, reduce obesity, and prevent and control diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Kentucky could use the help. According to the 2012 edition of America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation, the commonwealth is at or near the bottom of nearly every major health indicator, ranking the 44th least healthy state overall.
Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the U.S. and has the most preventable hospitalizations of any state in the country.
Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield says part of the grant focus will be on partnering with schools to help children make better health decisions.
A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows that a majority of Kentuckians support a statewide smoking ban.
The poll released Thursday from the non-profit Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows 65% of Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoke-free law. The new numbers are up six points from last year, and 17 points from four years ago.
Opponents of the measure are concerned the law would infringe on the rights of private business owners. Foundation President Susan Zepeda says the issue isn’t political and that a state ban on smoking in public areas wouldn’t end up hurting business owners.
“That question of a particular business that might not want to make the policy unilaterally, just as their own business, for fear that it would drive customers to the business down the street, but if the entire state had a smoke-free policy, it would level that playing field for all the businesses," suggests Zepeda.
Of surrounding states, only Missouri and West Virginia have no ban in place, while Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia have some form of statewide anti-smoking laws.
Democratic Representative Susan Westrom of Lexington says she will try for a third time to get a ban for Kentucky through the 2014 General Assembly session beginning this month.
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.
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.
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 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.