Catching up, thanks to the Kentucky Health News independent news services

Inside Passport has been on a bit of a hiatus recently, but thankfully our friends at Kentucky Health News have been working hard to make sure nothing slips through. Here is a look at some key items that they’ve posted recently:

  • Colon Cancer Screenings: All too often Kentuckians don’t get screened for colon cancer because of fear, embarrassment, lack of access and cost concerns, but with March being National Colorectal Awareness Month it is a good time to reconsider these concerns, know that preventive screenings are covered by most health plans, and recognize that a decision to get screened could save your life.
  • Preventive Health: A study that looked at preventive health services among states in three categories found that Kentucky fell near the middle of the pack for most of the measures, but was in the top 10 for adult flu vaccinations and top five for prevention of high blood pressure, but in the bottom 10 for human papilloma virus vaccinations for males.
  • The future of Kynect and Expanded Medicaid: Democratic state Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville has filed bills to keep Gov. Matt Bevin from keeping his campaign promises to dismantle the Kynect health-insurance exchange and scale back the expansion of Medicaid under federal health reform. Owens acknowledged that House Bill 5 and House Bill 6 would likely get nowhere in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans who support Bevin’s approaches. However, but the filing of the bills prompted a lively discussion among four legislators on Bill Goodman’s “Kentucky Tonight” program on KET Feb. 29.
  • Poll about Kentuckians’ health: Regardless of how Kentucky adults describe their health status, almost two-thirds of them said it would be difficult or very difficult to make positive changes in their health, citing time, money and motivation as their main barriers, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.
  • Free school meals: During the 2014-15 school year, 104 of the 173 public school districts in Kentucky provided free breakfast and lunch to all students, with 610 schools and 279,263 children benefiting in the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
  • Smoking-ban bill: Despite early hope, the bill to ban smoking in Kentucky workplaces was likely dead on arrival this year.
  • Zika in Kentucky: After the first case of Zika was confirmed in Kentucky March 9, health officials held a news conference at the Capitol to raise awareness of the virus, noting that the state was coming up on the spring travel season.
  • Making Kentucky tobacco-free: An overwhelming majority of Kentucky adults, 85 percent, want schools to be tobacco-free, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll. But only 28 percent of the state’s school districts have “protected students, staff members, teachers and guests from secondhand smoke by enacting 100 percent tobacco-free school policies,” says a press release from Interact for Health, which co-sponsored the poll with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
  • Painkiller prescriptions: Kentucky has the nation’s fourth highest rate of painkiller prescriptions, at about 130 prescriptions for every 100 people, Christine Vestal reports for Stateline. The high rate of painkiller prescriptions is being blamed on a rising rate of overdose deaths, leading health and government officials in many states to call for a limit on the number and strength of painkiller pills prescribed by doctors.
  • CDC recommendations for reducing overdoses: Doctors who prescribe highly addictive painkillers for chronic pain should stop and be much more careful to thwart “an epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses” that is “doctor-driven,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said March 15.
  • Annual Kentucky county health rankings: The sixth annual County Health Rankings report shows little change in Kentucky’s top and bottom rankings, but there were a few surprises, with several counties showing up in the top 10 for the first time.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. For more information, go online to kyhealthnews.blogspot.com.

 

Governor Bevin tells federal government he wants to dismantle kynect

Kynect LogoAs you may have heard, Governor Matt Bevin has followed through on a campaign promise and has notified federal authorities that he plans to dismantle kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.

According to an article in the Courier-Journal, Bevin wrote in a Dec. 30 letter to Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that he plans to wind down the state health exchange and transition Kentuckians to the federal site, healthcare.gov, to shop for insurance under the law.

Meanwhile, kynect  remains open and the changes will not affect anyone shopping for insurance for the current enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31. Nor will the changes affect anyone who signed up for Medicaid, the government health plan for low-income citizens, through the kynect site.

The earliest changes to kynect would come in November 2016, if the governor can work out a plan with the federal government to wind down kynect, which includes the online site people use to obtain health coverage. If he succeeds, Kentuckians would use the federal healthcare.gov site starting in November 2016. People would continue to enroll in Medicaid through the state.

 

More Kentucky children have health care coverage under Medicaid expansion, new report shows

KY Youth Advocates logoThe number of Kentucky children without health insurance fell by 27% over a one-year period, according to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA), helping the state move from 28th place to 15th place in state rankings on children’s health care coverage. Children in both urban and rural areas saw improvements in their uninsured rates.

“Once again, the benefits of establishing kynect and expanding health care coverage to more Kentuckians have been independently substantiated in a new report released this week by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and Kentucky Youth Advocates,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “While most people would agree that a healthy child is a better, more productive student, the report found even greater returns in the long term. Children with Medicaid coverage were less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to graduate from college, making them healthier and more successful adults who are less likely to be reliant on government assistance. When we invest early and often in the health and well-being of our children, we are investing in the economic future of our Commonwealth. And the return we see on that investment is priceless.”

The report, which compared 2013 and 2014 Census data, estimated that the number of uninsured children in Kentucky declined from about 60,000 in 2013 to about 43,000 in 2014. The report authors attribute the gains to the strong Medicaid and KCHIP programs and improvements to Kentucky’s health coverage system, such as the creation of kynect.

“When children have health care coverage, they are able to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and show up for school ready to learn,” said Terry Brooks, KYA executive director. “It also means their families can afford to take them to the doctor when they are sick so they don’t wind up having to rely on more expensive hospital care if they get sicker.”

The report also notes that improvements to children’s coverage have been shown to provide a strong return on government investment. Research shows that children with Medicaid coverage were less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to graduate from college. They also had better health and economic success as adults making them less reliant on safety net programs.

Families who would like to enroll their children in health care coverage should call 1-855-459-6328 or visit kynect.ky.gov. Families can enroll their children in Medicaid or KCHIP at any time; open enrollment for private health plans begins on Sunday, November 1.

The full report can be found online by clicking here.

 

Improving Kentuckians’ health and reducing healthcare costs remain top priorities in election

Vote for 2015Reducing healthcare costs and improving the health of residents are two priority areas Kentuckians want the next governor and legislature to work on in the next year, according to new data from the Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP).

Overall, KHIP found the economy, jobs, and education as the top three priorities.

Regarding health priorities, nearly 9 in 10 Democrats (88%) said reducing healthcare costs was extremely or very important to them, while almost 8 in 10 Republicans (78%) said that. The gap was wider on improving residents’ health, with 91% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans viewing this aspect of Kentucky life as very or extremely important for the state.

Overall, priorities seen as extremely or very important were:

  • Improving the economy: 91%
  • Improving K-12 education: 90%
  • Improving job situation: 89%
  • Reducing healthcare costs: 83%
  • Improving residents’ health: 81%
  • Government transparency: 71%
  • Fully funding retirements: 70%

“These results give us a reliable snapshot of the most important issues Kentucky adults want to see the next governor and members of the legislature address,” Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a news release. “It is important for our policymakers to know what priority Kentuckians place on these issues facing the Commonwealth.”

Additional KHIP releases on health-related topics – including a statewide smoke-free law, experiences with kynect and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the impact of prescription drug abuse, and more – are available online at the KHIP website.

Among the offices up for election on November 3 are Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Agriculture Commissioner, and more. For more information about the election, including finding out where you can vote, go online to elect.ky.gov. Don’t forget to make your voice heard, and vote!

 

Kentucky Works to Make Sure all Medicaid Members Keep Their Address Current and Up to Date

KY Youth Advocates logoThe Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services (DMS) is working with Passport and other healthcare providers to make sure all Medicaid members keep their address is updated with the state.

If DMS receives any returned mail from an address that is not current, members could be dis-enrolled from Passport (and lose all of their Passport-specific benefits). However, if this happens, the member will NOT lose their overall Medicaid eligibility; instead, they will remain eligible for Kentucky Medicaid and will be in the fee-for-service (FFS) category until their address is updated.​

If an address appears incorrect, the member will have the remainder of that month plus another month to update the address.

Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) recently posted an article on their website about this, along with instructions for members to update their address. According to the post:

  • If health coverage was secured through the Kynect website (ky.gov), the address can be changed online. Or, a member can call 1-855-459-6328 to change an address.
  • If a member applied for health coverage through DCBS, the member can call 1-855-306-8959 to change an address.
  • If a member applied for health coverage through SSI, the member can call 1-800-772-1213 to change an address.

If you have any questions about this, please contact Kynect at 1-855-459-6328 or Passport at 1-800-578-0603.

 

Quarterly Report Examines Impact of Affordable Care Act on Kentuckians

foundaThe Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has contracted with State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota, to study how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is impacting Kentuckians, releasing their initial health data snapshot for the first quarter of 2015.

“Insurance coverage, access, cost of care and experience with Medicaid expansion and the state insurance exchange, kynect, are all among the issues SHADAC is tracking,” Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a news release. “This multiyear study from a nationally known independent source will provide valuable data to inform health policy decisions.”

According to the report, for the first three months of 2015:

  • There were decreases in the number of uninsured and increases in public health insurance coverage among 18-64 year-olds both in Kentucky and the U.S.
  • Urban hospitals had more uncompensated care (hospital care for which no payment was received) compared to rural hospitals in Kentucky, but both levels dropped between 2013 and 2014.
  • Of all Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid:
    • 32% live in Eastern Kentucky
    • 25% live in Western Kentucky
    • 19% live in Greater Louisville
    • 16% live in Greater Lexington
    • 8% live in Northern Kentucky
  • A total of 38,169 dental services were provided to Medicaid enrollees ages 19-64.
  • A total of 5,675 substance abuse treatment services were provided to traditional income-based and expansion enrollees ages 19-64.
  • A total of 4,586 hepatitis C screenings were provided to Medicaid enrollees ages 19-64.

For more information, go online to healthy-ky.org or follow them on Twitter @healthyky and @shadac.  And to see the Louisville Courier-Journal article about this, click here.

 

Rate of Kentuckians Without Health Insurance Continues to Drop

kyA recently released Gallup poll  shows that the number of Kentuckians without health insurance continues to fall, with only 9 percent of residents saying they are without health insurance. This is the second largest drop since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, when 20.4 percent of Kentuckians were uninsured, behind only Arkansas (down from 22.5 percent to 9.1 percent).

Kentucky was one of the states that immediately created its own private insurance exchange, Kynect, in 2013, along with expanding eligibility for Medicaid to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate — the latter making up a large majority of the Kentuckians who have gained health insurance, according to an Insider Louisville article.

Nationally, the uninsured rate has fallen from 17.3 percent in 2013 to 11.7 percent. Seven of the 10 states with the greatest reductions in uninsured rates have expanded Medicaid and established a state-based marketplace exchange or state-federal partnership, while two have implemented one or the other.

 

More Information About Making Sure Members’ Address are Kept Up-to-Date with DMS

KentuckyIn a recent post regarding a change in our DMS contracts related to ensuring members’ addresses are correct, three key facts about were missing:

  • Once a member is flagged as having a “bad” address – either because they no longer live in the same place or because the Postal Service has issues delivering their mail – we (Passport) have at least 30 days to remedy the situation.
  • If a member’s mail is returned and their address isn’t updated in time, they will be dis-enrolled from Passport (and lose all of their Passport-specific benefits), but they will NOT lose their overall Medicaid eligibility. They will remain eligible for Kentucky Medicaid, and will be in the fee-for-service (FFS) category until their address is updated.​
  • This change is ultimately a good thing for all of our members and providers, as it will ensure that our members are getting the best care possible.

If you have any questions about this, please contact Kynect at 1-855-459-6328 or Passport at 1-800-578-0603.

 

Medicaid Members Need to Make Sure their Addresses are Kept Up-to-Date with DMS

KentuckyWith the new contract that the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services (DMS) awarded to Passport and four other MCOs, effective July 1, a new change related to ensuring members’ addresses are correct has taken effect. And it’s a change that has potentially far-reaching outcomes.

All members of the Kentucky Medicaid system must have their most recent address on file at all times with DMS. To report any address change, the members will need to contact the office where they applied for Medicaid:

  • If they applied at DCBS, they need to call 1-855-306-8959.
  • If they applied at SSI, they need to call 1-800-772-1213.
  • If they applied at Kynect (either with a kynector or directly through Kynect), they need to call 1-855-459-6328.

If the members take no action and their mail is returned, they will be dis-enrolled and lose their Passport benefits.

 

Supreme Court Upholds Use of Government Subsidies to Help Pay for Health Insurance

Day at CapitolThe Supreme Court ruled early Thursday to uphold a key section of the Affordable Care Act that government subsidies to make health insurance affordable should be available to all Americans.

By a 6-3 vote in the King v. Burwell case, the justices “affirmed an Internal Revenue Service ruling that subsidies should be available not only in states that have set up their own health insurance exchanges, but also in states where consumers rely on the federal government exchange,” according to an article in The Washington Post.

This decision doesn’t directly affect Kentucky because we are one of the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that decided to establish and operate its own health exchange (kynect). But that’s not the same story for our neighbors in Indiana and Tennessee (and 32 other states).

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. The full opinion is available online here.