Baptist Health CEO exits one week after job cuts Tuesday, Mar 21 2017 

Baptist Health chief executive officer Steve Hanson has left the company, effective immediately. His departure was announced Tuesday and comes just one week after the elimination of nearly 300 jobs systemwide. The Louisville-based health system, which includes nine hospitals, said via email that Hanson, CEO since March 2013, has been succeeded by two veteran Baptist leaders who will […]

Trump rally draws supporters and protesters Tuesday, Mar 21 2017 

By Shelby Brown–

President Donald Trump promoted his replacement healthcare plan at a rally March 20. Trump’s speech echoed those of his 2016 campaign. Trump reiterated that the House of Representatives will vote on the new healthcare plan March 23.

“It’s time for Democrats in Washington to take responsibility for the disaster that they, and they alone, created,” Trump said. “Thursday is our chance to end Obamacare and the Obamacare catastrophe.”

Trump touched on reducing taxes, keeping trade deals and border security. Trump’s original travel ban was blocked by several Federal judges. Most recently, Trump revised the ban and it was blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii.

“We are fighting on the side of our great American heritage,” Trump said.

Supporters began lining up this morning with doors set to open at 4:30 p.m. and Trump scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m.

   

 

Ticket holder restrictions kept most protesters outside. Organizations like Indivisible Kentucky, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter Louisville and Students for Reproductive Justice were present. U of L’s Bree Perry said intersectional representation was her main goal for the day.

     

“I had to make sure that black trans lives are represented, disabled lives are represented, and every part of me that sometimes gets pushed to the side,” she said.

Perry also expressed concerns about education under the Trump administration.

“I know a lot of people who were going to go get their PhDs and then Trump won,” Perry said. “They just aren’t comfortable being stuck in school and they don’t know how their financial lives are going to change under this administration because it’s so unpredictable. He’s so anti-lower working class people and that’s who a lot of my friends are in academia. If we don’t have a safety plan for our finances how are we supposed to achieve to higher education?”

Elizabethtown High School student, Jamax McAdams thinks Trump is on the right track.

“Everything he says, it’s really good and what he’s been doing in the first 100 days,” McAdams said. “He’s going to repeal Obamacare, he’s going to start the construction on the wall soon, so I’m liking what he’s doing so far. It’s everything he’s promised.”

Supporters chanted “USA” and “build the wall” through the evening. During Trump’s speech protesters attempted to disrupt but were escorted out by police. One individual waved a flag that read ‘Antifa International’ before a Trump supporter snatched it away from him.

Protester waves flag before being escorted out.

Eric Hymel, another protester who was removed, said he had demonstrated at a Trump rally in 2016.

“He’s lying to us on a daily basis,” Hymel said. “We cannot stand for this.”

Three members of Black Lives Matter Louisville were the last to be removed during Trump’s speech. J. Graham Brown School student, Christian Jones was one of those escorted out.

“We planned to infiltrate the rally and cause a disturbance because this rally is nothing but white supremacists and oppressors. They’re oppressing people. They’re trying to control people. We came here to stand up and speak for the voices of the unheard.” Jones said.

Black Lives Matter protesters escorted from rally

Kentucky Majority floor leader Jonathan Shell hosted the evening. Midwest Church of Christ’s Pastor Jerry Stevenson led the hall in prayer. Dr. Ralph Alvarado, a Kentucky senator spoke about his experience in this medical field and praised Trump’s healthcare plan.

“For the next 4 years I’m feeling very hopeful about where our country and where our state can go,” Alvarado said.

Governor Matt Bevin speaks at rally.

Governor Matt Bevin and Mitch McConnell were also present.

 

Photos by Dustin Massengill/ The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

 

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Norton to invest $78M to increase children’s hospital capacity Friday, Mar 17 2017 

Norton Healthcare will invest $78.3 million to increase the critical care capacity at its children’s hospital and to create the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. The 17-bed CICU, named after the Louisville native and Oscar-winning actor, will feature private rooms for children recovering from heart surgery and other procedures requiring intensive care. Norton said […]

GOP Health Care Bill Could Leave 24M More Without Coverage By 2026, CBO Says Monday, Mar 13 2017 

The Congressional Budget Office has released a report on the potential impact of the House GOP health care bill. It estimates that the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion between 2017 and 2026. It also estimates that compared with current law, 14 million more people would be uninsured by 2018, and 24 million more would be uninsured by 2026.

Just over 28 million Americans were uninsured in the first half of 2016, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. The CBO estimates that in 2026, there would likewise be 28 million uninsured Americans if the current healthcare laws remained in place. However, 52 million would be uninsured under the Republican repeal and replace plan thus far, also known as the American Health Care Act.

Much of the initial spike in uninsured Americans would come from repealing the individual mandate.

“Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums,” the CBO wrote.

But overall, a big chunk of that increase in the uninsured comes from Medicaid, as the Republican bill rolls back the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. In 2026, 14 million fewer people would be enrolled in Medicaid under the GOP healthcare bill, accounting for half the total increase in uninsured.

While the number of uninsured Americans would immediately climb, the trajectory for premiums is more complicated. In the near future, average premiums for single people buying insurance in the individual market would be up to 20 percent higher than they would be under Obamacare.

However, those premiums would eventually settle below where they would be under Obamacare. By 2026, those same premiums would be 10 percent less than they would be under the Affordable Care Act.

The AHCA is just the first part of the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The bill, written as part of the budget reconciliation process, can only make fiscal-related changes. Part two of the GOP’s process as described by House Speaker Paul Ryan will include deregulation. Part three will include changes to the law that could not be made in the reconciliation bill.

Read the CBO report here.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Protesters demand Pence listen to health care concerns Saturday, Mar 11 2017 

  • By Shelby Brown–

U of L students and alumni joined hundreds of protesters outside Vice President Mike Pence’s Louisville visit March 11. Pence met with Governor Matt Bevin and local business leaders at Harshaw Trane Energy Management. They met to discuss President Trump’s repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Protesters began gathering as early as 9 a.m. with Pence scheduled to speak at 10:45 a.m.

       

Organized by Louisville-based Indivisible Kentucky, the rally drew groups like Save My Care, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, the Kentucky Alliance Against Racism and Oppression, Jobs With Justice, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Stand Up Sunday.

“The majority of the people have been marginalized by this administration, ” Indivisible Kentucky board member, Reena Paracha said. “Health care is a human right. We can’t deny people health care based on their gender, based on their age, based on their preexisting condition, on any of that stuff. The people that are going to hurt the most with the ACA repeal are the people that don’t have much money, that are going to be struggling to pay and go and get health care. That’s why we’re here.”

Reena Paracha of Indivisible Kentucky addresses protesters

 

Chanell Helm urges protesters to oppose HB14.

The co-founder of Black Lives Matter Louisville spoke to the crowd. Chanelle Helm stressed awareness of legislation and calling representatives. She mentioned HB14, otherwise known as Blue Lives Matter and anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“Nothing is new,” Helm said. “Stop being shocked.”

U of L student Scott Clark was present when the  protesters began lining the streets before Pence’s motorcade left.

“I want to give Pence the message that ACA is important to a lot of people and not just the wealthy should have access to health care,” Clark said.

        

Trump named his replacement health care plan The World’s Greatest Health Care Plan of 2017, also known as House Republican Bill 1275. The American Health Care Act, however,  would repeal the ACA. Republicans have criticized the ACA in the past for increased insurance premiums, lack of health care providers accepting the insurance and having few insurers with plans available.

“You fix the problem, don’t toss the entire program out,” Paracha said.

U of L alumni Shelby Budrick said it was about more than health care for her. “This general disregard for human life that’s been put out there by the administration is infuriating to me.”

Olivia Evans, DuPont Manual junior was also protesting.

“This health care removal will impact Kentucky more than it will impact the other states because Kentucky has so many people that are employed by health care companies. I think that’s its crazy that someone could just want to get rid of it. It’s a little heartbreaking honestly. I want everyone to be able to have the health care they deserve.”

Photos by Shelby Brown/ The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Key Takeaways From The GOP Health Overhaul Plan Thursday, Mar 9 2017 

Got questions about the GOP plan to overhaul federal health law? Join us on Twitter Thursday 12-1 p.m. ET for our #ACAchat. Kaiser’s Julie Rovner, NPR’s Alison Kodjak and health policy analysts of various political persuasions will be online discussing how the Republican plan could work, who wins and who loses. See you there!

After literally years of promises, House Republicans have a bill they say will “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

Some conservative Republicans have derided the new proposal — the American Health Care Act — calling it “Obamacare Lite.” It keeps intact some of the more popular features of the ACA, such as allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ health plans to age 26 and, at least in theory, ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions will still have access to insurance.

In some cases the elements of the law that remain are due to political popularity. In others, it’s because the special budget rules Congress is using so Republicans can avoid a Senate filibuster do not allow them to repeal the entire law.

But there are some major changes in how people would choose and pay for health care and insurance. Here are some of the biggest.

Tax credits to help buy insurance

Both the GOP bill and the ACA provide tax credits to help some people pay their premiums if they don’t get insurance through work or government programs. And in both, the credits are refundable (meaning people who owe no taxes still get the money) and advanceable (so people don’t have to wait until they file their taxes to get them). But the GOP’s tax credits would work very differently from those already in place.

Under current law, the amount of the credit is tied to a person’s income (the less you earn the more you get) and the cost of insurance where you live.

The GOP tax credits would be tied largely to age, with older people getting twice as much ($4,000 per year) as younger people ($2,000). But the Republican plan would also let insurers charge those older adults five times as much as younger adults, so even a credit twice as big might not make up the difference in premiums.

The GOP credits also do not vary by location, so they would be worth more in places where health care and health insurance are less expensive.

The GOP credits do phase out gradually, starting with incomes above $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for families.

Medicaid

The biggest changes the Republican bill would make are to the Medicaid program. Starting in 2020, it would roll back federal funding for the ACA’s expansion that allowed states to provide Medicaid coverage to all low-income individuals under 138 percent of the poverty level, rather than just the specific categories of poor people (children, pregnant women, elderly, disabled) who were previously eligible.

Thirty-one states opted to expand access to Medicaid. People who are covered under the expansion would continue to be funded by the federal government after that, but states would no longer be allowed to enroll anyone under those expanded criteria. And an enrollee who loses eligibility for the expansion program could not re-enroll.

But the bill would go further as well, making changes to the underlying Medicaid program that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., described as “the biggest entitlement reform in the last 20 years.”

Currently, Medicaid costs are shared between states and the federal government, but the funding is open-ended, so the federal government pays its percentage of whatever states spend. Under the proposed bill, the amount of federal funding would be capped on a per-person basis, so funding would go up as more people qualify. But that per-capita amount might not grow as fast as Medicaid costs, which could leave states on the hook for an ever-increasing share of the costs of the program.

“Capping federal contributions to the Medicaid program will likely force states with already tight budgets to limit eligibility and cut benefits to at-risk Americans,” said the American Public Health Association in a statement.

Help for wealthier people

If you earn a lot of money, or even just enough to put aside something extra for health expenses, the GOP bill will provide a lot to like.

First, it would repeal almost all of the taxes that were increased by the ACA to pay for the expansion of health coverage. Those include higher Medicare taxes for high-income earners, a tax on investment income and various taxes on health care providers, including insurance companies, makers of medical devices and even tanning salons.

The bill would also provide new tax advantages for those who can afford to save, including allowing more money to be deposited into health savings accounts, and lower penalties for those who use those accounts to pay for nonmedical needs.

In addition, the plan would lower the threshold for deducting medical expenses on income taxes and allow people with job-based tax-preferred “flexible spending accounts” to put away more pretax money. It would also restore over-the-counter drugs as eligible for reimbursement from those accounts.

Mandates to buy or provide coverage

The GOP plan doesn’t actually repeal the requirements for individuals to have coverage or for employers to provide it. That’s because it can’t under budget rules. Instead, the bill would reduce the penalties in both cases to zero, rendering the requirements moot.

The individual requirement was used by the health law to force healthy people into buying coverage to help improve insurers’ risk pools since they could no longer bar customers with pre-existing conditions.

Instead, the Republican plan would provide a penalty for those who do not maintain “continuous coverage.” Those with a break in insurance coverage of more than 63 days could still purchase insurance without regard to pre-existing health conditions, but they would be required to pay premiums that are 30 percent higher for 12 months.

The employer “mandate,” which requires firms with 50 or more workers to offer coverage or pay a fine, has actually had relatively little impact on insurance coverage, analysts have concluded, and probably is not necessary to prevent employers from dropping coverage. In both the ACA and the GOP bill, however, workers whose employers offer coverage could not decline that coverage and get a tax credit instead.

How to pay for it

With all the taxes and fees stripped from the ACA, how will Republicans pay for their tax credits? The answer is not clear.

“We are still discussing details, but we are committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with fiscally responsible policies that restore the free market and protect taxpayers,” said the Republican fact sheet that accompanied the release of the bill.

Also still missing is an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that will detail not only how much the proposal will cost, but also how many people would gain or lose health insurance. Republicans insist that estimate will be available before the full House votes on the bill.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Copyright 2017 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit Kaiser Health News.

GOP Bill Would Repeal Obamacare Taxes And Penalties, Keep Some Subsidies Monday, Mar 6 2017 

After years of waiting, it’s finally here.

The Republican plan to reshape the Affordable Care Act — what they call “repeal and replace” — kills the requirement that everyone buy health insurance by eliminating the tax penalty for those who don’t have coverage. It also makes significant changes in the financial assistance people can receive to buy a health plan.

“Our legislation transfers power from Washington back to the states,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, in a statement. “We dismantle Obamacare’s damaging taxes and mandates so states can deliver quality affordable options.”

The bill would offer tax credits, refundable in advance, to people with incomes below $75,000. But those credits will be lower in many cases than the subsidies now offered in the ACA.

The bill, which will go through many revisions and challenges, was released late Monday by two House committees, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce. Members are expected to start voting on parts of the bill Wednesday.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Richard Neal, D-Mass., the ranking Democrats on the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committee issued a joint statement saying the bill would “rip healthcare away from millions of Americans, ration care for working families and put insurance companies back in charge.”

The legislation will ultimately need approval by the full House and the Senate before it goes to President Trump for his signature. Until then, most of what is known as ‘Obamacare’ will stay in place.

But it’s far from clear that Republicans in the House are unified in their support of the bill. Members of the far-right Freedom Caucus have said they oppose giving tax credits to people who don’t pay any federal income tax.

And with only a slim majority in the Senate, only a few Republican defections could defeat the bill there.

Four Republican Senators wrote a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying they were concerned an early draft of the House plan would not adequately protect people who have insurance through Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. And Senator Rand Paul was among three conservative Republicans who criticized an earlier version of the bill as “Obamacare lite.”

Under the proposed bill, tax credits would start at $2,000 a year for individuals under age 30, rising to $4,000 for those of 60. The proposal, first seen in Feb. 10 draft of the bill, has been criticized as too meager to cover the full cost of a health insurance plan that provides full benefits.

But the proposed tax credit could potentially pay for insurance that protects only against a catastrophic health event.

They would begin to be phased out at incomes of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for families.

To encourage people to buy coverage, the plan allows insurers to charge a 30 percent penalty to people who let their insurance lapse, and then try to buy a new policy.

In states that expanded Medicaid, people who are eligible can continue to enroll until January 1, 2020, and those states would continue to benefit from the federal government paying a greater share of the health costs of those beneficiaries.

Several taxes contained in the ACA would be repealed at the end of this year. These include taxes on health insurers, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, and a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored group health plans (aka Cadillac plans).

An analysis by Avalere Health and McKinsey of an earlier draft of the bill, which contained many of the same provisions, concluded that it would lead to millions of people losing coverage.

The plan offered by the House Republicans falls short of the outright repeal that has been demanded by more conservative members, including those in the House Freedom Caucus.

That could be due to the shift in public attitudes toward the ACA in recent weeks.

Public opinion has grown more favorable as major changes appeared imminent. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll in late February found 48 percent having a favorable opinion versus 42 percent viewing the law unfavorably. Kaiser says the shift is due largely to a change in the view of political independents, among which 50 percent now view the law favorably.

We will have more on this story as it develops.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Bill would let doctor panel review malpractice claims first Friday, Mar 3 2017 

A bill that’s now passed in both Kentucky General Assembly chambers would let a panel of doctors review medical malpractice claims before they can be filed in court. The proposal’s proponents said the legislation would reduce the number of meritless lawsuits and medical malpractice insurance rates and would entice more health care professionals to come to […]

New Data Show Stark Health Disparities In East, West Louisville Friday, Mar 3 2017 

The differences between race and income as they relate to health are in high contrast according to new data out on Louisville.

East Louisville is in better health than West in areas like diabetes, rates of health insurance and physical activity.

500 Cities Project

(Click image to enlarge)

The data comes from the 500 Cities Project, a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project drills down to 500 cities across the country, representing a third of the U.S. population.

“People in the West and Southwest and Central neighborhoods bare a disproportionate share of chronic disease,” said Dave Langdon, public information officer with the Louisville Department of Health and Wellness. “You’re more likely to be sick, you’re more likely to die sooner.”

Almost 50 percent of seniors living around Parkland and Portland in West Louisville have lost all their teeth, according to the data. That’s compared to less than 10 percent of seniors in Cherokee Gardens.

The same goes for visits to a dentist. Neighborhoods immediately west of downtown have the lowest rates of visiting a dental clinic, while people in Broad Fields and Wellington have some of the highest rates of dental visits.

500 Cities Project

(Click image to enlarge)

“It’s basically a tale of two cities,” said Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “You’ve got the East End Louisville and West End Louisville and the disparities are stark. It has to do with poorer education, difficulties with how kids grow up, safety issues.”

The highest rate of adults who’ve had a stroke, have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, diabetes and asthma are in West and South Louisville, the data shows.

500 Cities Project

(Click image to enlarge)

Health insurance also comes into play. In the eastern parts of Louisville, up to 10 percent of people are uninsured. That’s compared to West Louisville, where up to 25 percent of people are uninsured, the report says.

“Place makes the biggest difference to health than anything else,” said Don Schwarz, vice president of projects at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We often say that your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code in determining how long you live.”

500 Cities Project

(Click image to enlarge)

Throughout the city, there were high rates of high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol and heart disease.

The data comes from smaller surveys that the CDC used to make a model estimates using census tracking.

More information on the project can be found here.

House Passes Bill Adding Review Before Medical Malpractice, Neglect Trials Wednesday, Mar 1 2017 

Medical malpractice and neglect lawsuits would have to be reviewed by a committee of doctors before they head to court under a bill that narrowly passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Supporters of the legislation say the state is too “litigation friendly” and that the policy would help weed out frivolous lawsuits.

Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti said the bill will make the state more attractive to doctors and hospitals.

“They’re looking for climates that respect them, that do not demonize them, that understand that mistakes are made,” Benvenuti said. “And when mistakes are made, there’s a price to be paid for that. That’s all fine with them. But we need a balanced approach.”

Under the bill, a panel of three doctors would review claims made against doctors, nursing homes and other healthcare organizations before they head to court. The body would produce an opinion that could be used as evidence if the case goes to trial.

“Our climate here simply is not favorable to attract the best and the brightest,” Benvenuti said. “We are so fortunate that as we sit here today we still have outstanding healthcare providers in Kentucky. But let me tell you, that’s changing. People are moving.”

The legislation has been altered since it passed the state Senate earlier this session. The bill now requires panels to deliver their opinions within nine months, and trial judges would decide whether to admit the panels’ findings as evidence.

Opponents to the bill say it would add hefty costs and delay resolution for plaintiffs by adding a layer of review before a trial.

“If we have a problem in this state it’s a medical errors problem, not a malpractice lawsuit problem,” said Rep. Chris Harris, a Democrat from Forest Hills. “Let’s focus on cracking down on the few doctors that account for most of these claims”

Harris also argued that there wasn’t any evidence that doctors are leaving Kentucky because the state doesn’t have the law in place.

“The sky is not falling in Kentucky,” he said.

The bill passed the House with no votes to spare, 51-45. The Senate will now have to consider the House’s changes before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

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