A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Officials call for more coronavirus testing, expect new antibody tests to be key to reopening economy

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Health experts say more coronavirus testing — both for the virus itself and for antibodies that show whether a person has been previously infected — is needed before the nation and the states consider relaxing social-distancing rules and “reopening the economy,” as President Trump says he wants to do. “How we are able to move forward...

Clinicians suspected Kentucky’s first case of coronavirus, but patient didn’t qualify for testing

Crystal Miller, head of the health department serving Harrison County, at a press conference Saturday. Others, L to R: Gov. Andy Beshear; Health Commissioner Steven Stack; Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett; Cynthiana Mayor James Smith; and Mark Newman, head of UK HealthCare. (Photo from KHN) By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky found its first case of the new coronavirus,...

Risk of Americans getting new coronavirus remains low, but top expert cautions this is evolving situation

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky health officials have been monitoring more than 100 people for the novel coronavirus, all of whom agreed to voluntary isolation after recent travel to mainland China, but as of Sunday there had been no confirmed cases in Kentucky. The state has tested one person for the virus, and that test came back negative, Gov. Andy Beshear said at a Feb. 27 press...

Bill to help people with addictions get medication-assisted treatments moves on to full House

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A bill to help people with opioid and alcohol addictions to get prescription drugs to treat their substance-use disorders — the recognized standard of drug treatment — passed unanimously out of committee Thursday and now heads to the full House. House Bill 389, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would ban the requirement of “prior authorization”...

Bills to help health departments with pensions pass House; some will require public-health tax hikes

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Two bills that were presented as part of a “three-phase approach” to create a sustainable solution to local health departments’ pension crisis passed the state House Feb. 13. The third part of the plan involves the state budget. The budget committee chair, Republican Rep. Steven Rudy of Paducah, cautioned House members that passage of the bills...

Poll finds Kentucky adults overwhelmingly favor legalizing medical marijuana; bill looms this week

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As lawmakers move close to legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky, a new poll shows that an overwhelming number of Kentucky adults would support such a measure, and that a solid majority would approve legalizing the drug under any circumstance. The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that nine in 10 of adults in the state favor legalizing marijuana for...

Pension bill could force some Kentucky counties to raise taxes in order to receive state assistance

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Under a new pension funding proposal pending before the Kentucky General Assembly, some counties could be asked to increase their public-health taxes to help pay for their health departments’ pension liability. “Because we’ve been giving a free ride to some of these guys, they haven’t had to go to their communities and ask for a tax increase,”...

Senate president, long the key obstacle to medical marijuana in Kentucky, now sees ‘narrow path’ to it

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The most important legislative opponent of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky said Friday that there is a “narrow path forward” for it. Senate President Robert Stivers said that the day after a medical-cannabis bill was filed in his chamber. Senate Bill 107 has bipartisan sponsorship from 11 of the Senate’s 38 members. It is a companion...

Flu cases dip in new year, but still much higher than last season; 21 deaths from flu confirmed in Ky.

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Influenza has killed 21 people in Kentucky this season, two under the age of 18, according to the state Department for Public Health. The latest weekly report shows that the flu activity in the state has dropped a bit in the first two weeks of the year, compared to the last two weeks of 2019, when the state was reporting more than 2,000 new cases each week. In...

Smoke-free advocates rally in Frankfort for measures to decrease soaring youth use of e-cigarettes

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s Coalition for a Smoke-free Tomorrow rallied in Frankfort this week to call on state lawmakers to pass several measures aimed at decreasing electronic-cigarette use among the state’s youth, a phenomenon that continues to surge. Between 2017 and 2019, e-cigarette use more than quadrupled among the state’s middle-school students and...

Officials warn outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria likely coming from petting pet stores puppies

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Getting a puppy for Christmas? Keep clean and take it to a vet. At least 30 people in 13 states have been sickened by a drug-resistant bacteria that federal health officials say was likely picked up from puppies in pet stores, three of them in Kentucky. The infection is from a multi-drug-resistant strain of the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. The outbreak has...

Kentucky receives D-minus for high rate or pre-term births on annual March of Dimes report card

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Childbirth, which should be one of life’s most joyous occasions, has become more deadly for Kentucky mothers and remains problematic for many Kentucky babies because it comes too early. One in nine Kentucky babies is born prematurely, so many that the March of Dimes gave the state a D-minus on its 2019 Premature Birth Report Card. And the rate of Kentucky...

Medicaid program for employer-sponsored insurance premiums has new application process

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A program that will pay the premiums of working Medicaid members who have access to insurance through their employers has a “new and improved” application process, the state says. The voluntary program, called the Kentucky Integrated Health Insurance Premium Payment program or KI-HIPP, allows Medicaid members to sign up for their employer-sponsored...

Officials say issues with Medicaid pharmacy benefit managers will be a priority in next legislative session

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News State Rep. Danny Bentley didn’t mince words when he told a health advocacy group that a priority of the next legislative session will be to deal with pharmacy benefit managers’ Medicaid payments to drug stores. Independent pharmacies in Kentucky and around the nation have said for years that the problems are so bad that PBMs threaten their survival. “I’m...

Study says 16 rural hospitals in Kentucky at high risk of closing; another found 35 in poor financial health

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Many rural hospitals across Kentucky are struggling to keep their doors open. And though the numbers vary on just how many are in dire financial straits, the conclusion is the same: in much of rural Kentucky, health care as we know it is in trouble. “We can’t keep doing health care the way that we’ve done in the past, and that’s the bottom...

Adult obesity reaches all-time high of 36.6% in Ky.; Docter calls on insurance to cover obesity prevention

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky adults just keep getting larger, reaching an all-time high for the number of obese adults in the state, ranking it fifth in the nation. “As a society, as a whole, we’re not quite convinced yet what a major problem this is,” said Dr. Barbara Fleming-Phillips, an internist who helps run the weight management clinic at UK Healthcare’s...

Workshop offers tips to keep kids save on farms; biggest risks include tractors, animals, machinery

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Growing up on a farm gives children the opportunity to play in ways that few others get to experience, and gain a set of useful skills, but agricultural safety experts caution that farm life also comes with safety challenges that all too often can result in injury or even death. According to the National Ag Safety Database, 33 children sustain agriculture-related...

FDA probing 127 reports of seizures and other neurological issues possibly related to e-cigarettes

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating 127 reports of seizures, tremors, fainting or other neurological symptoms that may be related to electronic cigarettes, and is asking people to report if they have such symptoms, the agency announced last week. “The FDA is continuing its scientific investigation to determine if there’s a direct...

State says it won’t tolerate poor treatment of independent pharmacies in Medicaid program

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky legislators were assured last week that the state is committed to resolving the payment issues that the states’ independent pharmacies have with pharmacy benefit managers in Medicaid, issues that the pharmacies have said are so bad they threaten their survival. “We are not going to tolerate it, and we will do whatever we have to do to ensure...

Kentucky Hospital Association awarded $250,000 to fund software that could thwart ‘ER hopping’

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The Kentucky Hospital Association has been awarded a $250,000 grant to equip Kentucky’s emergency departments with software designed to help physicians have access to patient information from multiple sources in real time. The grant for the software, called EDie, came from Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem Inc., a major health insurer. “Information...