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...

Three events set to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including one at Whitaker Bank Ballpark

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign is having events in Kentucky this month, including Sunday, Oct. 15 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington; Sunday, Oct. 22 at Smothers Park in Owensboro; and Saturday, Oct. 28 at Waterfront Park in Louisville The National Breast Cancer Foundation has a website where you can get...

Ky’s decade-old program for children at risk from drug-using adults become model for other states

Kentucky’s program to help children placed at risk by adults’ drug use has become a model for other states. Ohio’s new plan is modeled explicitly on Kentucky’s, and Indiana and North Carolina are launching initiatives too, Shefali Luthra reports for Kaiser Health News. “Kentucky was a pioneer, starting in 2007, when opioid addiction first emerged as a public health concern....

State teens lagging behind nation average in getting vaccines to prevent cervical cancer

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Fewer than half of Kentucky’s teenagers are getting the human papillomavirus vaccine, which is known to prevent several cancers, including cervical cancer — a disease for which Kentucky leads the nation. A federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, using data from the 2016 National Immunization Survey for teenagers, found that 48 percent...

Dreamland author says opioid epidemic leads to discussion of addiction, first step to finding solutions

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Since Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic was published in 2015, the author says the nation has seen both positive and negative changes in the epidemic that is sweeping Kentucky and other states. “The negative changes are pretty dramatic,” Sam Quinones said in a telephone interview with Kentucky Health News. “The number...

Study finds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding insufficient for a healthy diet

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, only covers 43 to 60 percent of the cost of the federal nutrition guidelines, according to a study by researchers who say policymakers should consider that as they propose deep cuts to the program. “Even though SNAP is not designed to cover all of the cost of food – it’s meant...

Number of Kentucky school districts implementing 100 percent tobacco free policies drops sharply

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Only two school districts have passed 100 percent smoke-free school policies in Kentucky this year, compared to 16 in 2016, perhaps because they are waiting to see if the state will require such action. “Sometimes when the state legislature takes things on, local officials kind of wait and see if the state’s going to do it,” Ellen Hahn, director...

Ashland ophthalmologist Oakley named new president of Kentucky Medical Association

Dr. Maurice Oakley, an ophthalmologist from Ashland, is the new president of the Kentucky Medical Association, an organization with over 7,000 members. Oakley will focus on “breaking down barriers to good health and active involvement from physicians in doing so,” with an emphasis on the opioid issues plaguing the state, says the news release. “There are so many barriers within our medical...

Roundtable says poor health a major obstacle to economic development in Appalachia

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Appalachia faces many hurdles when it comes to economic development and creating a healthy workforce, including education barriers, addiction issues, stigma and overall poor health. Those were the conclusions of a 13-member panel convened to discuss the findings of two new Appalachian Regional Commission reports that found Appalachian health continues to fall...

Study finds painkiller prescriptions for injured workers fell after passage of tracking database law

After Kentucky fully implemented its prescription-monitoring database in 2012, fewer workers injured on the job received prescription painkillers, and when they did they got fewer of them, according to a new study. The study, conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, examined workers’ compensation claims for more than 21,000 Kentucky workers with new injuries in 2011-13, and nearly...

FDA expected to decide if smokeless cigarette can be sold in U.S., delays ruling on health claims

Philip Morris International says it has created a heat-not-burn smoking device that will have 90 to 95 percent less toxic compounds than cigarettes, “an innovation it claims could save lives and eliminate smoking in America,” William Wan reports for The Washington Post. The process gently heats sticks of tobacco in a special battery-operated device and is sold in 25 countries under the...

Number of painkiller prescriptions decline statewide, but remain high in many individual counties

Kentucky Health News reported in July about a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing ranges of painkillers sold per person in each county in 2015 and whether there had been an increase or decrease since 2010. Individual county data was unavailable at the time of the July report, but has since been made available. The CDC report calculated the rate of “morphine equivalent doses”...

Deadlines for individual insurers extended to Sept. 5 amidst uncertainty over cost-sharing subsidies

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Insurers in the Obamacare marketplace for individual coverage have been given three more weeks to finalize their 2018 rates, pushing the deadline to Sept. 5. The most recent filing deadline was Aug. 16. This is in response to the uncertainty around whether the Trump administration will continue to fund the cost-reduction payments that help low- and moderate-income...

Giesbrecht named new public health veterinarian; will focus on diseases spread between animals, humans

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 75 percent of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past 10 years originated from an animal or an animal product. Kentucky has appointed a new public health veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Giesbrecht, to help protect Kentuckians and the state’s animal populations from such diseases. “We are very pleased to have Dr. Giesbrecht join our...

Smoking largely responsible for shorter life spans, higher infant death rates in Appalachia

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News People who live in Appalachia are dying sooner than two decades ago, and the region has a higher infant death rate compared to the rest of the nation. A new study blames both largely on the region’s high smoking rate, as well as its other bad health habits. “What this report shows is the extreme damage that tobacco is causing our people, and how we are...

Registration open for annual HealthWatch USA Healthcare Transparency conference in Lexington

Somerset-based HealthWatch USA will hold its annual Healthcare Transparency and Patient Safety conference Nov. 3 in Lexington. In addition to exploring issues around problems that occur with medical devices and implants, the importance of creating cultures of safety and health-care accountability, this year’s conference, “The Setting of Strong Quality Standards and Research Integrity,”...

From Mayfield to Russellville, report shows Western Kentucky hospitals are a billion-dollar business

Hospitals in 15 Western Kentucky counties contribute $1 billion to the economy, Ivan and Mary Potter report for their West Kentucky Journal. “Those dollars come from private and group insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and private-pay patients,” they write. Using a compilation by U.S. News and World Report, the Potters researched hospitals in McCracken, Graves, Marshall, Calloway, Trigg, Lyon,...

Syringe exchanges coupled with therapy, treatment could virtually eliminate hepatitis C, conference told

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky leads the nation in new infections of hepatitis C, a liver disease now driven mainly by intravenous drug use. It could be virtually eliminated, but that would require a committed strategy to increase syringe exchanges, medication-assisted therapies, and cutting treatment restrictions such as a ban on treating active intravenous drug users. That was the...

Blocked again, Republicans divided about whether to keep trying to pass a health insurance bill

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News After his last-ditch attempt to pass a health-insurance bill failed early Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “It’s time to move on,” and scheduled other business. President Donald Trump, hungry for a legislative victory, did not agree. “Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead!...

FDA delays rules restricting electronic cigarettes, could endorse them as an aid to stop smoking

“Electronic-cigarette makers won a major reprieve on Friday when the Food and Drug Administration delayed regulations that could have removed many of their products from the market and opened the door to endorsing e-cigarettes as a means to get smokers to quit,” Sheila Kaplan reports for The New York Times. In an interview, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a physician, “sounded notably...