A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

As hepatitis A outbreak continues, state health officials say vaccine is best way to protect yourself

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Since state officials declared an outbreak of hepatitis A in November, Kentucky has had 577 confirmed cases of it. That’s almost 30 times the state’s average of about 20 cases a year, and five of those 577 people have died from the liver disease. The most common prescription for preventing hepatitis is hand washing, but the absolute best way to avoid...

More large to medium Kentucky hospitals receive low ranking in nonprofit group’s ranking of patient safety

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A nonprofit group that rates hospitals has released its latest patient-safety grades, once again giving most Kentucky hospitals a B or C. Kentucky’s overall ranking of 34th remained the same as the fall of 2017 report. The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., evaluated about 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 46 in Kentucky. Most of...

Index of readiness for disasters and health emergencies places Ky. about same as U.S.

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Is Kentucky is as ready to manage a natural disaster or a health emergency? Just as much as the nation as a whole is, according to a recently released Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report. The annual report, called the 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index, gives Kentucky a score of 7.1 on a 10-point scale for preparedness, the same as the national...

Critics say new Medicaid rules will result in greater loss of coverage than Bevin administration estimates

Changes in the state Medicaid program, to be phased in starting July 1, would lead to many more people losing health coverage than the state has estimated, 43 academic experts say in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in a lawsuit challenging federal officials’ approval of the changes. The experts argue that the changes are “likely to remove at least twice as many beneficiaries in the first...

Cigarette tax hike of 50 cents per pack is largest ever in Ky. but will do little to cut smoking, advocates say

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As part of a larger tax bill, the Kentucky General Assembly voted April 2 to increase the state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents, to $1.10 per pack. That fell short of the $1 increase wanted by health advocates, who bemoaned “a missed opportunity” to improve the health of Kentuckians. And in the final hours, legislative leaders dropped a plan to...

Ky leads nation in counties with local syringe exchanges, but not in most vulnerable communities

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky has long ranked high among the states in the number of counties with local syringe-exchange programs. Now it leads the nation, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. But most of the counties deemed most vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV or hepatitis C due to intravenous drug use have not approved exchanges. Forty-five of the state’s 120...

Latest Kentucky health rankings shows varied movement among middle-range counties

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The latest County Health Rankings report for Kentucky shows little change among the top and bottom quarters of the rankings, but a good deal of movement among counties in the middle — in both directions. The rankings look at health outcomes, gauged by life expectancy and measures of quality of life, and health factors, such as access to physicians and areas...

Researchers say e-cigs safer, but boost chances of youth smoking; more young adults vaping

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A federally commissioned report on electronic cigarettes found “substantial evidence” that e-cigarette use among teens and young adults increases their chance of using tobacco cigarettes in the future. The report was released the same week as a poll that found e-cigarette use among young adults in Kentucky is increasing. The Kentucky Health Issues...

House committee approves bill to keep doctors’ peer reviews from being used in malpractice lawsuits

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A bill to keep doctors’ reviews of other doctors from being used in medical-malpractice lawsuits has passed a House committee and moves to the full House, where a similar bill stalled out last year. Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, chair of the Health and Family Services Committee, told the panel that Kentucky is one of only two states that don’t apply...

Medicaid enrollees sue federal agencies, officials, alleging Ky Medicaid changes violated the law

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Sixteen Kentucky Medicaid enrollees filed a class-action lawsuit in Washington Wednesday, claiming that federal officials violated federal law this month by approving changes to Kentucky Medicaid and declaring their intent to approve similar changes in other states. The lawsuit alleges that work requirements in the program, to be phased in starting July 1, “sharply...

Committee recommends $1 increase in cigarette tax; doctors say it would increase revenue, save lives

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News What started as an information-only hearing about the benefits of raising tobacco taxes in tobacco-friendly Kentucky ended with an unexpected vote of recommendation by the Senate health committee to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1 a pack, to $1.60. Sen. Julie Raque Adams, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, opened the Jan. 17 meeting...

Substance abuse common in both urban and rural areas, but rural users less likely to seek treatment

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News In some ways, substance abuse is worse in urban areas, but rural drug users are less likely to get treatment, according to two studies recently released by the Rural and Underserved Health Research Center at the University of Kentucky. The studies looked at the last 10 years, which included several significant developments in the field. In 2008-2010 came the...

Poor adults on Medicaid more likely to quit smoking but only 15% of KY smokers use cessation benefit

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Low-income adults who gained health insurance under the expansion of Medicaid like Kentucky and most other states were more likely to quit smoking than those in states that didn’t expand the program. So says a study by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, published in the journal Medical Care. Researchers examined smoking-related...

HIV outbreak in Appalachian Ky. ‘just a matter of time;’ majority of counties have no syringe exchange

An outbreak of the human immunodeficiency virus, which leads to AIDS, is “just a matter of time” in Appalachian Kentucky because of conditions in the region and the lack of syringe exchanges for intravenous drug users in most vulnerable counties. That’s what Dr. Jennifer Havens, an epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky, told the Courier Journal’s Laura Ungar for a story updating...

Flu, pneumonia are 8th largest U.S. cause of death; officials urge all over six months to get flu shot

Flu season is here and will last through February or longer, prompting state health officials to encourage Kentuckians to get their flu vaccinations. “During the holidays families and friends will gather, which increases the potential for exposure to the flu virus,” Dr. Jeffrey Howard, the state’s acting health commissioner, said in a news release. “We urge everyone who hasn’t...

School Boards Association says it will support any legislation to make all schools in state tobacco-free

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Usually opposed to statewide mandates on schools, the Kentucky School Boards Association says it will support any legislation that proposes a statewide tobacco-free school law in the 2018 legislative session, because the majority of its members support such a law. “We really try to protect local decision-making on these things,” Eric Kennedy, director...

Ky. teen suicide rate more than doubles in two years; One in 12 sophomores report trying to kill themselves

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A recent survey found that one in 12 of Kentucky’s high-school sophomores said they had attempted suicide, prompting experts on the topic to discuss what is being done about it. The main solution offered was more family support for teenagers, even those who may be only temporarily troubled. In a tone of incredulity, Dr. Allen Brenzel, medical director of...

Journal of Rural Health shows the importance of integrating oral health, primary-care medicine

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Three studies reported in the autumn edition of The Journal of Rural Health show different ways a regular health care provider can help patients get access to dental care, and all three articles say that integrating oral health and primary care would benefit patients. The first study, using data from more than 26,000 participants in the 2012 Medical Expenditure...

Study finds more than a quarter of insured adults are under-insured due high-deductible health plans

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News More than one-fourth of U.S. adults with health insurance were under-insured in 2016, including 44 percent who got their coverage from the federal marketplace and almost 25 percent who got their coverage from employer plans, according to a recent study. Using data from The Commonwealth Fund’s 2016 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, a report from the fund...

Medicare recipients should compare drug plans annually to avoid ‘significant’ cost increases

If you automatically renew your Medicare drug plan without researching all of the options, you could face significant increases in your 2018 costs, says the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. “If subscribers to these plans do not review their coverage annually, they may be faced with higher monthly premiums, changes in the drugs covered under their plan’s formulary, or increased co-payments...