Health

WFPL News

More than two-thirds of Kentucky residents don’t want the state to roll back its expanded Medicaid system, according to a poll released Friday.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll also shows that half of Kentucky residents hold unfavorable views of the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that allowed the state to expand Medicaid.

“Most of them would rather keep Medicaid as it is today than scale it back to cover fewer people,” said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser.

The poll found 72 percent of Kentuckians don’t want to scale back Medicaid expansion to cover fewer people.

entucky’s Medicaid expansion — and its fate — are a closely watch component of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Bevin, a Republican who took office Tuesday, campaigned reforming the state’s adoption of the Affordable Care Act.

While talks of barring refugees from coming to the U.S. persist among politicians, Kentucky agencies are preparing to welcome some 2,000 refugees from around the world in 2016.

And those refugees will need health care.

The University of Louisville’s Refugee Health Program looks at health issues for those fleeing threats and violence, and provides services to people resettling in Kentucky.

Last year, 2,141 adult and children refugees received health screenings in Louisville, Bowling Green and Owensboro, according to the Kentucky Refugee Health Assessment Report, released on Thursday.

Rahel Bosson, director of the program, said although there are certain conditions that are population-specific among refugees, overall, some of the top health concerns for refugees are also common for Kentuckians.

“Dental abnormalities — things like cavities, tooth abscess. Vision problems, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, tobacco abuse,” she said.

White House

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the rate of HIV diagnoses has declined nationally, but not among all groups of people.

Annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by 19 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to the federal agency. The report cites dramatic and continuing declines among several populations including heterosexuals, people who inject drugs, and African-Americans, especially among black women.

But unlike the national trends, Kentucky isn’t experiencing a decline in HIV diagnoses, state epidemiologist Dr. Kraig Humbaugh said.

“We’ve had a pretty stable rate of new HIV infection. If you go back 10 years, you’ll see that it continues, on average, about one Kentuckian is newly diagnosed with HIV for every day of the year here,” he said.

LRC Public Information

The Republican leadership of Kentucky’s state Senate says they will not block about $250 million in state spending needed to pay for the health insurance of more than 400,000 people on the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

The GOP leaders are meeting this week to prioritize bills for the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear used an executive order to expand Kentucky’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. Incoming Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin has promised to repeal the expansion and replace it with something else.

Kentucky will start paying a portion of the Medicaid expansion in 2017. Next month, state lawmakers will debate a two-year state spending plan that would include that money, giving Republicans an opportunity to block it. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said the Senate does not plan to do that, instead opting for a gradual transition away from the program.

WKU will soon end its designation as the only public university in the state that isn’t tobacco-free.

In an email to faculty and staff this week, President Gary Ransdell said the campus would go tobacco-free by 2018 through a phased-in approach. 

Public Health Professor Dr. Cecilia Watkins helped draft the policy and hopes it will spur healthier choices

"Although I've never smoked, I know how addictive nicotine is, and I think it gives people the opportunity to get help with cessation and to change habits they need to change anyway," Watkins told WKU Public Radio.

The new policy will apply to electronic cigarettes, as well.  

Starting in January, WKU will reduce the number of sites where smoking is permitted on its main campus in Bowling Green from 48 to 12.  The number of sites will be reduced over the next three years until the campus is completely tobacco-free.

Supporters of the new policy say it will reduce litter on campus, but more importantly reduce secondhand smoke, and possibly help smokers kick the habit altogether.

An analysis of health insurance data shows more than 16,000 Kentucky children obtained health insurance during the first year of the Affordable Care Act.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the State Health Access Data Assistance Center say the Kentucky's uninsured rate among children dropped 4.3 percent during the first year of the federal Affordable Care Act. Their analysis revealed more than 10 percent of the private insurance plans purchased on the state health exchange were for children.

Researchers say the increase is because the state health exchange offered discounted insurance plans to people who did not qualify for public insurance programs. And the increased marketing of the state health exchange prompted people who were already eligible for Medicaid to enroll.

Federal prosecutors say a Kentucky-based pharmacy has agreed to pay $9.25 million to settle allegations that it solicited and received kickbacks from a manufacturer in exchange for promoting a drug with nursing home patients.

Prosecutors announced Wednesday the settlement with Louisville-based PharMerica Corp. resolves claims that it received kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories in exchange for recommending that physicians prescribe the Abbott-manufactured drug Depakote.

The settlement partially resolves allegations in two whistleblower lawsuits filed in federal court in the western district of Virginia.

In 2012, Abbott pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1.5 billion over allegations that it promoted Depakote for patients with dementia and autism — uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug was approved for bipolar disorder and epilepsy.

Kentucky Dept. of Veterans Affairs

The new Radcliff Veterans Center is under construction and hiring staff in preparation for the opening estimated for mid-2016. 

The center’s administrator Israel Ray said the skilled nursing facility will provide top quality care for those who have served their country.           

"It will be unlike any long-term care facility in the state of Kentucky, in terms of the services and the layout that is set up for those veterans who will reside at the Radcliff Veterans Center," said Ray. "It will on a beautiful park-like naturistic setting.” 

The center is on 194 acres donated by Fort Knox.  A total of 120 veterans will live in the campus-like community.  Ray said the staff and the design of the center will create a quality, home-like community for those who have served their country.                                          

“No one will have to share. In the typical model there’s a piece of fabric or a cubical curtain, if you will, that separates two individuals in a semi-private room," said  Ray. "That will not be the case for the Radcliff Veterans Center. Every veteran will have their own private suite.”

The center is currently hiring  eight administrative staff, mostly as department heads. More hiring will follow, to staff up to a total of about 200 employees.

The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are 16,000 veterans in Hardin County. That’s in addition to 56,000 veterans in Jefferson County and 7,000 in Bullitt County.  

All across the nation Saturday, people will be throwing out un-needed medications in an effort to keep the drugs out of the wrong hands. 

It’s the annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving says there are several reasons to dispose of old prescriptions.

"Obviously if there are children in the house they could get to them and not know what they are and overdose," Loving told WKU Public Radio.  "It makes you the target of a burglary  if people know you have a bunch of pain meds in your medicine cabinet."

Collection drives will be held across the U.S. Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. local time. 

In Bowling Green, the city police department, Kentucky State Police post, and Greenwood High School will serve as drop-off locations. 

Prescriptions may also be disposed of at the Owensboro Police Department and the Kentucky State Police post in Elizabethtown. 

Log on to www.dea.gov to find locations in your area.

Despite improvement in the national economy in recent years, more Kentucky children were living in poverty in 2014 than the year prior, according to data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About 260,000 Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2014, accounting for more than 26 percent of the state’s kids, the Census data show. That’s a slight increase from 2013, when the rate was 25.3.

Although the one-year shift is considered statistically insignificant, it means that nearly nearly 9,000 more children lived in poverty across Kentucky during 2014 than the year before. And it confirms a steady increase in the state’s child poverty rate since the epic economic recession that began in 2008. That year, about 23 percent of Kentucky kids lived in poverty, according to an analysis of the U.S. Census data by Kentucky Youth Advocates.

It’s a trend consistent with the overall state poverty rate, which has increased from 17 percent to 19 percent since 2008, the data show.

Children living in impoverished families are more likely to find hardship in social and academic settings, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Office of State Auditor

More than 3,000 rape kits are sitting untested in Kentucky’s state and local law enforcement offices, according to State Auditor Adam Edelen.

In a report released Monday, Edelen said law enforcement agencies have failed to enter DNA evidence from rape kits into the FBI’s national DNA database, which can match DNA profiles and help identify an attacker’s identity or link an attacker to previous crimes.

“The results of this initiative are stomach-turning,” Edelen said in a released statement on Monday.

“When a victim has the courage to undergo an invasive and traumatizing exam after an assault, he or she deserves to have the evidence in that sexual assault kit analyzed. One of government’s fundamental responsibilities is to bring these rapists to justice.”

The auditor’s report said the number of untested rape kits stems in part from communication issues and a lack of resources.

Kentucky Leads Nation in Drop of Uninsured

Sep 17, 2015

The number of people in Kentucky without health insurance fell 5.8 percent last year, the largest drop of any state in the country according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kentucky was one of 31 states that chose to increase the number of people eligible to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance in 2013. Since then, Kentucky has added about 400,000 people to its Medicaid program and has been held up as an example by President Barack Obama of the success of his health care law.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said the report shows Kentuckians are not waiting until they are sick to access health care benefits, a fact that will improve the state's overall health.

Republicans question whether the state can afford the expansion, noting that a quarter of the state's population is now receiving government assistance.

Creative Commons

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado is looking into whether Kentucky can start selling its successful health insurance exchange program, Kynect, to other states.

Alvarado wants to offer the technology and expertise behind Kynect to other states for a fee. States currently have the option of creating their own insurance marketplace or using the federal government’s under the Affordable Care Act. More than 30 states currently rely on the federal exchange.

Alvarado, a Republican physician who represents Winchester, said profits from his plan could help pay for the future costs of expanded Medicaid in Kentucky, which are estimated at $1.1 billion over the next six years.

“It will provide our neighbors who want state exchanges a service that they want, and it would give our taxpayers a break from having to foot that bill in the future,” he said.

Caverna Memorial

A Hart County hospital is being acquired by The Medical Center of Bowling Green.

At an announcement in Horse Cave Monday morning, the leadership of Caverna Memorial Hospital said it had agreed to the deal, which will be complete by the end of the year. Under the plan, Caverna Memorial will be known as The Medical Center at Caverna.

Caverna Memorial has been independently operated since 1967, and is a 25-bed, non-profit critical access hospital.

The Medical Center executive vice-president Wade Stone says the increasingly complex and expensive nature of health care is making it tough for rural hospitals to remain independently-operated.

“It’s making sense for hospitals like Caverna—small rural hospitals—to start looking for options in terms of partnering, or being part of an acquisition, to make sure they have the resources they need to survive long-term.”

Creative Commons

A new study examining the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Kentucky offers insights into how residents are using and benefiting from the federal health law.

It was compiled by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota, and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The study released Tuesday analyzed the first quarter of 2015. The center will be updating the information quarterly and compiling studies about coverage, access to services, quality of care, cost and outcomes in Kentucky.

Half of the people who enrolled in Kentucky’s state-run health care exchange, Kynect, chose the Silver Plan, according to the study.

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