A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Open enrollment available at Healthcare.gov through Dec. 15; subsidies keep most rates similar to 2017

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News It’s again time to sign up for federally subsidized health insurance through Healthcare.gov. Open enrollment for coverage in 2019 runs through Dec. 15. It’s worth taking a look, because most shoppers in the marketplace will qualify for financial help to lower their costs. About 80 percent of Kentuckians enrolled through the federal exchange qualified...

Kentuckians dropping off medicaid could double if work, ‘community engagement’ rules approved

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The federal-state Medicaid program provides health coverage to about 1.4 million Kentuckians, or about one in three. The exact number fluctuates, because Medicaid and other social programs have a substantial “churn,” people coming onto the program as others come off. If work requirements are approved for Kentucky Medicaid, the number of people “churning...

Analysts tell health advocates Medicaid budget ‘shortfall’ described by state officials premature

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The warning from the administration of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin that some Medicaid benefits may need to be cut because of a budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years has caused unnecessary alarm, a research and policy analyst for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said at the Kentucky Voices for Health annual meeting in Lexington Oct. 19. Dustin...

Medicare open enrollment period runs through Dec. 7; experts offer advice for those seeking coverage

“For those approaching Medicare or already covered by it, now is a critical time of year to review health benefits,” writes Sally Squires of The Washington Post. “Several changes are coming in 2019, including to Medicare Part D drug coverage insurance and to some Medicare Advantage plans, which are offered by private insurance companies and are known as Medicare Part C.” So,...

Louisville psychiatrist pens new book that looks at why people struggle with interpersonal relationships

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News In a world inundated with interpersonal conflicts, a Kentucky psychiatrist has written a groundbreaking new book that explains what lies at the root of these conflicts and offers a way to resolve them. “It’s a book that talks about why the things that go wrong in our relationships go wrong, and why we live on automatic pilot and do things that we...

USDA launching new anti-vaping campaign aimed at an epidemic among teens; educating on the risks

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is launching a new anti-vaping campaign aimed at teens. The campaign, “The Real Cost,” will target nearly 10.7 million students through hard-hitting advertising on digital and social media sites that are popular among teens, like YouTube and Instagram, and by placing ads at least 10,000 high-school bathrooms. The...

New report shows uninsured rate leveled out four years into Affordable Care Act, and probably rose

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News In the fourth full year since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was implemented, the percentage of Kentuckians without health insurance remained about the same, and probably increased. 2017 was the first year the percentage hasn’t dropped since the program’s inception in 2014, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, with...

Kentucky Rural Health Association accepting nominations for 2018 Dan Martin Award

Since 2003, the Kentucky Rural Health Association has awarded an individual with an award for their lifetime contributions to rural health in Kentucky. The award is named for its first recipient, Dr. Dan Martin of the Trover Foundation in Madisonville. Last year’s recipient was Loretta Maldaner, who had served in rural health for over 25 years before retiring in 2016 from her position as director...

Study shows secondhand smoke linked to school absence, ER visits and respiratory issues in teens

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News It’s long been established that exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful to babies and young children. Now a study shows that it’s bad for teenagers, too. The University of Cincinnati study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics, analyzed data from 7,389 non-smoking teens aged 12-17 who did not have asthma and had completed the 2017 Population...

Kentucky making strides in treating hepatitis C with harm-reduction programs, fewer treatment limits

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Eliminating hepatitis C in Kentucky and the rest of the nation will require universal screening and non-restricted access to treatment, and because new cases of the disease are largely driven by intravenous drug use, states must also commit to increasing harm-reduction programs like syringe exchanges and medication-assisted therapies. Those were the overarching...

Study says youth likely to start smoking after they turn 18, not before; calls for more prevention efforts

The celebration in recent years about lower smoking rates among teenagers could end up being all for naught, as a new study shows that more people are likely to now start smoking after they turn 18, not before. The study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2006 to 2013. It found that the start of cigarette smoking...

Kentucky’s Hepatitis outbreak worst in nation, but fading in Louisville, the ‘gold standard’ for response

Kentucky’s hepatitis A outbreak is now the biggest outbreak in the United States. As of July 7, the outbreak had struck 65 of Kentucky’s 120 counties with 1,094 hepatitis A cases and eight deaths. But federal officials say Louisville is a national example for how to respond to an outbreak, reports Phillip M. Bailey of the Courier Journal. As of July 17, Louisville had 540 cases and four deaths....

Kentucky’s new oral health plan calls for expanded roles for hygienists, expanded dental workforce

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s new plan for oral health calls for the state to expand the role of public-health hygienists, find other ways to expand the dental workforce in under-served areas, and raise dentists’ Medicaid fees. And to pay for part of the plan, it calls for a tax on soft drinks that cause tooth decay. The challenge is that all of these suggestions require...

State provides Q&A sheet to providers, patients in wake of ruling blocking Medicaid plan

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As the Cabinet for Health and Family Services scrambles to deal with the fall-out from a court ruling that vacated the state’s new Medicaid plan, which was set to go into place Sunday, July 1, its call centers and front-line staff are using a new question-and-answer document to help health-care providers advise their Medicaid clients. The document says...

Kentucky’s new Health Secretary Adam Meier makes move from creating policy to delivering it

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The state’s new health secretary moved from a policy job that he loved to one that puts him squarely into a position of delivering those policies he helped to create, a decision that he didn’t take lightly. Gov. Matt Bevin “didn’t have to twist my arm,” Adam Meier told Kentucky Health News in an interview. “It was a big decision...

Rates remain high, but fewer kids are smoking; e-cigarettes raise concern about reversing the trend

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s high-school students continue to smoke at higher rates than their national counterparts, but the good news is that their rates continue to drop. The bad news: An influx of new vaping products could reverse this downward trend. The recently released 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 14.3 percent of Kentucky high-school students reported...

Almost half of Kentuckians 30 and older have advanced gum disease that can cause tooth loss

Kentucky Health News Half of Americans aged 30 and older have a disease of the gums called periodontitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, gum disease can not only lead to tooth loss, but can also lead to other health problems like heart disease and diabetes. The CDC data found that 45 percent of Kentuckians aged 30 and older had periodontitis, with...

Summer’s here: Time to protect your skin from sun and keep regular watch for skin cancer

Friday, June 1 is the start of meteorological summer, which is a great reminder to make sure you have enough sunscreen on hand and to remember to check your body for skin cancer. The American Cancer Society says the top cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, rays from the sun or other sources like tanning beds. To protect yourself from the sun, the ACS recommends wearing clothing...

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...