A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sen. McConnell aims to sponsor legislation making 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products in all states

By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he would sponsor legislation to make 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products in every state – a change that 12 states have recently adopted, but one that failed to pass the Kentucky legislature this year. McConnell said at a Louisville news conference that his move was prompted by the epidemic...

Judge again blocks Ky’s Medicaid plan with work requirements; Bevin administration eyes ‘next steps’

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A federal judge in Washington has again blocked Gov. Matt Bevin’s attempts to require many people on Medicaid to work or do other forms of “community engagement,” saying that such rules don’t square with Medicaid’s objective to give low-income people health care. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg also ruled March 27 against similar...

Beshear investigating pharmacy benefits managers for over-billing, discrimination against independents

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced March 21 that he is investigating pharmacy benefit managers, the “middlemen” between drug companies and health insurers, including Kentucky’s Medicaid program and state-employee health plan. Beshear is investigating whether PBMs have overcharged the state “and discriminated against independent pharmacies,” his office said in a press...

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley touts treatment over incarceration

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News State Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley told foreign scholars visiting Kentucky Friday that treatment, instead of incarceration, is what is needed to help people who suffer from addiction — a stand that is still a hard sell for some in Kentucky. “The best place to treat addiction is not a prison cell,” Tilley said. “And I...

A list of health-related bills in the General Assembly as legislators plan to return for last day March 28

When the General Assembly returns Thursday, March 28, for the final day of its session, it could pass any number of bills, including several related to health: to make schools tobacco-free, to set up a hotline for students to report “vaping” of electronic cigarettes; to give health departments a reprieve from increased pension payments; to require children under 12 to wear helmets when...

Bevin says he exposed his kids to chickenpox, rejecting vaccinations; health officials say that’s risky

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Gov. Matt Bevin said in a radio interview that he exposed his nine children to chickenpox instead of vaccinating them, a practice that is strongly opposed by health officials as risky. Bevin also cast doubt on longstanding government policy of requiring vaccinations and incorrectly attributed the requirement to the federal government rather than the state. His...

Ban on tobacco in schools still alive; may pass House with measure raising to 21 legal age to buy

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross Kentucky Health News With just three days left to pass bills, lawmakers in the state House are still working on measures that would protect Kentucky’s youth from tobacco and electronic cigarettes, efforts that health advocates have said could stop nearly one in three Kentucky students from ever smoking. David Osborne A bill to ban the use of tobacco at all public...

State officials defend handling of hepatitis A outbreak in wake of additional warnings, legislators concerns

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News State Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Adam Meier called a news conference on March 1 to discuss the state’s hepatitis A outbreak and spent most of the time criticizing news-media coverage, mainly the Louisville Courier Journal’s investigation that revealed state health officials had rejected expert advice to mount a stronger response. Since...

Bill to ban tobacco at all Ky. schools on life support; measure to raise minimum age to 21 may see new life

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News With just days left in the legislative session, the bill to ban use of tobacco at all schools and their events is on life support. But there may be new life in a bill that would raise the legal age for buying electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21. About 50 health advocates gathered at the Capitol Feb. 28 for what they called a last-ditch effort to get a statewide...

Policy can improve health more than healthcare; report offers 13 policies that work, Ky. only does six

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Improving a state’s health outcomes and lowering healthcare costs often has less to do with health care and more to do with implementing a range of policies that are known to have long-term impacts on health, such as smoke-free policies and universal pre-kindergarten programs. So says a new report which shows that Kentucky is only implementing six of the...

Study finds ambulance runs for rural patients 76% longer when hospitals close, 98% longer for seniors

When a rural hospital closes, it’s logical to assume that patients in its former service area will spend more time in ambulances getting to an emergency room farther away. A University of Kentucky study has figured out just how much more: “An estimated 11 additional minutes in an ambulance the year after a hospital closure in their ZIP code, a 76 percent increase compared to before the...

New House health committee chair Rep. Kim Moser: ‘Health care is too important to leave to chance’

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The new chair of the state House Health and Family Services Committee has been a legislator for less than two years and two months, but says she’s uniquely qualified for the position because of her background in health care and her willingness to speak out about important issues. Rep. Kim Moser, a Republican from Taylor Mill, told Kentucky Health News...

Half of U.S. adults don’t know symptoms of heart attacks; Kentuckians have second highest risk

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News About 50 percent of American adults don’t know the five common symptoms of a heart attack, even though a heart attack happens about every 40 seconds in the U.S., according to a recent study. The five common symptoms of heart attack are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, lightheaded or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort...

Rise in teen use of e-cigarettes erases years of progress in curbing teen smoking

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Teens’ use of electronic cigarettes is overwhelmingly responsible for erasing years of progress in reducing teen tobacco use, according to the latest annual National Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey found that 4.9 million middle and high school students reported being current users of some type of tobacco product in 2018, a third again as many as the 3.6...

Flu cases hit new high for the season in state’s latest report with two more deaths reported week of Feb. 2

The number of influenza cases confirmed in Kentucky hit the highest level of the season, by far, in the week ended Feb. 2, according to the latest surveillance report from the state Department for Public Health. The department’s laboratory confirmed 1,876 cases that week, for a total of 7,285 in the season. All 17 health regions of the state have confirmed cases, and only one region did not...

House health panel’s new chair, Kim Moser, starts fast with bills to ban tobacco at schools and more

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News State Rep. Kim Moser plans a busy first meeting as chair of the House Health and Family Services Committee on Thursday, Feb. 7. She says she has the votes to approve bills to make schools tobacco-free, urge medical-marijuana research, and make it easier to get treatment for addiction. “Those are all issues that we continue to talk about and have taken a...

Kentucky flu cases jump 65 percent in first week of the year; nearly half of all reported cases are children

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News The number of influenza cases confirmed in Kentucky rose by 65 percent in the first week of 2019, adding nearly 1,000 cases for a total of 2,408 in the current flu season, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from the state Department for Public Health. The department reported the first flu outbreak in a long-term-care facility, and for the first time...

More children in state, nation lack health insurance; Kentucky uninsured rate rose to 3.8 percent in 2017

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News For the first time in nearly a decade, the number of uninsured children in the United States and Kentucky increased, according to a report from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. From 2016 to 2017, the number of uninsured U.S. children rose by 276,000, to nearly 4 million. About 5 percent of the nation’s children were uninsured in 2017, up from...

KY drops three spots in America’s Health Rankings; big drops in vaccinations follow state rule change

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky dropped three spots in the latest America’s Health Rankings, to 45th from 42nd last year. It marked the third straight year that the state showed a significant increase in the number of years of potential life lost, a broad measure of overall health and life expectancy. Many figures in the report are based on the Behavioral Risk Factor...

As support for medical marijuana grows, resolution would urge federal government to speed research

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As support for legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes grows in the General Assembly, legislation has again been filed to ask the federal government to expedite research on the idea. A leading advocate of medical marijuana says the measure may be “a ploy to delay” action on his bill. The research resolution is sponsored by Republican Rep....