Health

More Kentuckians are insured, protected from second-hand smoke and making healthier lifestyle choices, according to a recently released preliminary report on Gov. Steve Beshear’s kyhealthnow initiative.

The initiative was created to achieve by 2019 seven major health goals on issues ranging from insurance rates to obesity.

The  Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services  set the goal of reducing the state’s uninsured rate to 5 percent or less. With the implementation of Kynect and the expansion of Medicaid, Kentucky’s uninsured rate is currently 9.8 percent.

Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, the state’s public health commissioner, said she’s optimistic that the goal will be reached.

“If we continue to do what we’re currently doing, we feel that we’ll get there because in a year or so we’ve taken it down to 9.8 percent from a baseline in 2013 of 20.4 percent,” she said.

Although, the proposed smoking ban bill passed the House earlier this year, its future looks grim. And so does the future of the proposed heroin bill.

But, Mayfield said, “the session is not over yet.”

Kentucky has joined a multi-state and federal fraud lawsuit against Cincinnati-based Omnicare Inc., alleging that the company billed the state’s Medicaid program almost $6 million over nine years for drugs that were given to nursing home patients for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to papers filed by Attorney General Jack Conway in federal court in Abingdon, Va., Omnicare received “millions of dollars” in kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories for promoting the use of Depakote, an anti-seizure and mood-disorder drug, for dementia patients who were agitated or aggressive. The suit says Omnicare defrauded state Medicaid programs by billing for the illegally administered drugs.

The complaint is Conway’s third kickback case against Omnicare, which moved its headquarters from Covington in 2012. Omnicare spokesman Patrick Lee did not return a phone call Monday.

The company paid $98 million in 2009 to settle claims it took kickbacks from drug makers Johnson & Johnson and IVAX. It paid $8.2 million in 2014 to settle claims it paid kickbacks to nursing homes in return for their pharmacy business.

Abbott Labs settled the Virginia case by paying a $1.5 billion settlement in 2012, about $3 million of which went to Kentucky. Another institutional pharmacy operator named in the case, Louisville-based PharMerica, has agreed to settle out of court for an unspecified amount.

An estimated 16.4 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

That’s according to new data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, said number of uninsured Americans has reached a 40-year low.

“This is a historic drop in the uninsured and nothing since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid come near to this type of change," commented Frank.

About 14.1 million adults have gained coverage since open enrollment began in October 2013, according to the report.

An additional 2.3 million 19- to 25-year-olds have gained coverage since a new provision went into effect in 2010, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.

Kentucky has the second greatest reduction in the rate of uninsured people among the states, just behind Arkansas. The state’s uninsured rate is now 9.8 percent– down from 20.4 percent in 2013.

A federal report says raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to higher than 18 would likely prevent premature death for hundreds of thousands of people.

The report issued Thursday by the Institute of Medicine was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration and mandated by a 2009 law that gave it authority to regulate tobacco.

The law set the federal minimum age at 18. Congress would have to act to raise it nationally.

Most states currently have set the age at 18. Four set the age at 19 and several localities, including New York City, have raised the minimum to 21.

The report looks at the impact of increasing the age to 19, 21 or 25, but it does not make any recommendations.

Kentucky has received a $3.6 million grant that could help rural families with children get more money for food.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said the grant would test giving families an extra transportation deduction to account for the long journeys rural families often have to get to a grocery store. Some research suggests families could receive an extra $50 per month in federal food benefits.

Booster Seat Bill Emerges from House Committee

Feb 25, 2015

Booster seat advocates say legislative action is needed to fix Kentucky's current law. A bill that would increase the height requirement to 57 inches and age standard to nine years old, passed the House Transportation Committee Tuesday.

Dr. Susan Pollack with the Kentucky Injury Prevention Research Center has been lobbying for years on vehicle booster seat issues. "All this is recognition that kids don't get to adult height until older than what we had said and taller," said Pollack. "It's really a height issue because if you're not in the right position height wise, the seat belt doesn't fit you properly."

Brandon Muravchik testified before the House committee. He was injured in a car accident when he was eight and underwent surgeries as a child and as an adult. "Ended up being a four hour surgery and he removed two feet of my intestine," he said. "So, this is 23 years later; so I'm still suffering from it."

Similar measures have passed the full House previously, but failed to make it through the Senate. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Ernie Harris believes Winchester doctor Ralph Alvarado's inclusion in Senate membership could change the dynamics. "We will talk about this bill at some time. We'll see what he has to say. I think he'll be supportive of it. But, I don't know if the votes are there. It hasn't even crossed my mind until you mentioned it today," said Harris.

Harris says members of his committee will be polled to gauge support.

Kentucky's Uninsured Rate Down To 9.8 Percent

Feb 24, 2015

Kentucky has the second greatest reduction in the rate of uninsured people among the states, according to the Gallup Healthways Well- Being Index released Tuesday.

The survey said Kentucky’s uninsured rate is now 9.8 percent—down from 20.4 percent in 2013.

Kentucky is behind Arkansas, which has an uninsured rate of 11.4 percent compared to 22.5 percent in 2013.

Louisville students living in under-served neighborhoods are benefiting from a program aimed at helping them live healthier, according to a progress report released Monday.

The Farm to Family Initiative at Hazelwood and Wellington elementary schools was implemented 15 months ago to prevent childhood obesity among children ages  8 to 12. The initiative  is a collaboration between  KentuckyOne Health and the Food Literacy Project.

Kentucky ranks next-to-last in a measure of each state’s overall well-being.

It’s the sixth straight year Kentucky has come in 49th in the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which was released Thursday.

The rankings are based on 176,000 phone interviews across the nation, and measure five different categories:

Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals

Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life

Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security

Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community

Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Kentucky finished 49th in two of the five categories, social and physical activity, and was 48th in the category of purpose. The state ranked 46th in financial well-being.

The commonwealth's highest ranking was in community, where it finished 28th.

Each year, the Food and Drug Administration approves dozens of drugs, but often those medicines don't make a huge difference to people with disease. That's because these "new" drugs are often very much like existing medicines — or are, in fact, existing medicines, approved for a slightly different purpose.

But every now and then the FDA approves a truly new drug. And that's the story of Pfizer's palbociclib, brand name Ibrance, which the agency approved for the treatment of a common form of advanced breast cancer.

Sunday at midnight is the deadline for Kentuckians to sign up through Kentucky’s health care exchange, in order to get coverage for 2015. The Governor’s office reports more than 150,000 people have signed up for health care coverage since the current enrollment period began November 15.

Those without a plan after February 15 could face a tax penalty when filing this year that could exceed the annual cost of insurance.

More than 521,000 Kentuckians signed up for coverage during kynect’s first enrollment period.

The rate of uninsured Kentuckians has dropped—and the number of people with employer-sponsored coverage continues to rise, according to a new poll released Thursday.

Fifty percent of Kentucky adults are insured through their employer or their spouse’s employer, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll found.

In 2012, 37 percent of adults had coverage through an employer or a spouse’s employer.

Health officials in Illinois are trying to find the source of a measles infection, after five babies were diagnosed with the contagious respiratory disease in a Chicago suburb. Saying that more cases are likely, a health official warns, "The cat is out of the bag."

Because the Illinois patients are all under a year old, they can't be vaccinated. The new cluster of cases joins more than 100 other reports of measles in 14 states this year; most of them have been traced to an outbreak at Disneyland in California in December.

Erica Peterson, WFPL

A new analysis of products purchased at dollar stores around the country show that most included significant amounts of at least one hazardous chemical. The Campaign for Healthier Solutions tested 164 dollar store products—including several from stores in Louisville—and found high levels of chemicals like polyvinyl chloride, phthalates, lead and tin in 81 percent of them.

The products tested ran the gamut, from children’s toys to home décor to school and office supplies. Many were found to contain phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters that have been linked to birth defects, cancer, reproductive issues and asthma. Some had bromine, which is a component of fire retardants and is a possible human carcinogen. There’s no safe level of lead exposure for children; the heavy metal can cause brain and kidney damage.

In statements, the companies said they comply with all federal and state regulations:

Credit Cynthia Goldsmith / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As the number of measles cases across the nation grows, a vaccination exemption for Kentucky students could allow for cases to emerge in the Commonwealth.

The highly contagious viral disease is especially susceptible to children resulting in rashes and pink eye and could lead to more serious illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea.

A recent outbreak is believed to have started at a Disneyland theme park in southern California, but now 13 other states are reporting cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 102 measles cases have been reported in 14 states, more than half of those were in California. No cases have yet been reported in Kentucky or Tennessee.

Kentucky Director of Health Planning Dr. Kraig Humbaugh says the majority of the people that contract the virus each year in the U.S. are unvaccinated. Every state requires children entering public or private schools and day cares to receive a vaccination before entering. However, 48 states have clauses for exemption.

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