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...

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...

New state health commissioner Jeffrey Howard’s sincerity, passion ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Kentucky

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s recently installed health commissioner is a 30-year-old doctor, two years short of being a surgeon, a goal he still plans to achieve. But right now he’s in charge of public health in a state with huge health issues, and local health departments with big financial issues. Dr. Jeffrey Howard is still learning. He will graduate from Harvard...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...