A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rural hospitals remain at risk of closure; Medicare won’t pay hospital rates for scaled-down services

Rural hospital closures are a growing trend, and federal policies don’t support a model that would include a scaled-back version of services. But that’s what many rural hospitals need to do in order to ensure their future, Mary Meehan reports for Ohio Valley ReSource, a public-radio partnership that covers Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, especially their Appalachian areas. “The reality...

Study: Private insurance pays hospitals 241% more than Medicare; suggests shift to a Medicare model

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As health-care costs continue to rise for both employers and employees, one group of researchers says private insurers should move away from how they pay for hospital services, which requires them to pay a percentage of billed charges, and start paying the way Medicare does, based on a fixed-price agreements that are transparent to all. The American Hospital...

Hepatitis outbreak on the decline in Ky; 57 have died across the Commonwealth as result of the disease

The good news about hepatitis in Kentucky is that the number of hepatitis A cases is dropping. The bad news is that there are still as many cases each week as were once seen in a year’s time, and the state is by the far the leader in deaths from the liver disease. According to the state’s weekly report, the number of hepatitis A cases in Kentucky has dropped to around 20 per week for several...

In primary race, Beshear talks most about health care, but Edelen challenges some past contributions

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News If health issues matter when it comes to your vote for governor in the May 21 primary election, the candidates have given you a few things to think about. In the Democratic primary, Attorney General Andy Beshear has cast himself as the main defender of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which his father, then-Gov. Steve Beshear, used to expand Medicaid...

As school nurse programs are threatened, medicaid money made available for physical, behavioral health

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Many of Kentucky’s school districts have long struggled to pay for school nurses, let alone professionals in behavioral health care. And now some health departments may no longer be able to provide nurses because they will have to pay more into their employees’ pension system. Deputy Secretary Kristi Putnam (Photo from KHN) But schools are about to...

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...