Will Beshear Fund Smoking Cessation Programs?

Will Governor Steve Beshear fund smoking cessation programs through Medicaid? Kentucky is one of only five states that doesn’t currently do so. (Guess not everyone is like us in believing you shouldn’t be able to receive Medicaid if you continue to smoke.)

I’m asking because Passport Health, which operates Medicaid for the 16 county Louisville region, provides funding. Passport has also seen 51% of people who take advantage of the cessation program – get this – actually quit smoking. And there’s no reason the rest of the Commonwealth’s Medicaid recipients shouldn’t be similarly benefiting.

In 2007 the legislature here in Kentucky created the cessation program but didn’t do the important thing of attaching funding. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services can’t follow through because there’s no money for them to use. So what the heck can we do?

A coalition of 26 patient advocacy groups issued a press release yesterday urging Governor Beshear to do something. The letter, which you may read below, asks Beshear to include funding in his 2010 budget as a line item. And it’d only cost us taxpayers about $1.5 million– the federal government would match our investment with $3.5 million in additional funding.

Excerpt from the release:

Passed into law in 2007, HB 337 created a comprehensive smoking cessation program, including counseling and medications, for the 285,000 smokers on Kentucky Medicaid. Unfortunately, no funding was attached and the program has languished for two years as an unfunded mandate.

“We commend Governor Beshear’s leadership in increasing the tax on tobacco products this year, and ask that he continue the momentum toward a healthy Kentucky by funding the $1.5 million needed to implement a smoking cessation benefit for the smokers in our Medicaid population,” said Sarah J. Wilding, President of the Kentucky Public Health Association.

Kentucky has the highest adult smoking rate – and highest smoking-related death rate – in the country. Yet, for approximately $5 million ($1.5 from Kentucky and $3.5 in Federal matching funds), the Commonwealth could save thousands of lives and reduce our state’s Medicaid costs by millions per year.

“Since Kentucky Medicaid is already spending an estimated $1.2 billion each year to treat Kentuckians suffering from smoking related illnesses, the investment of $1.5 million will more than make up for itself by helping to decrease that figure by getting people off of cigarettes,” said Tonya Chang of the American Heart Association, on behalf of the coalition.

Here are those 26 organizations:

  • Advocacy Action Network
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association
  • American Lung Association in Kentucky
  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Catholic Conference of Kentucky
  • Child Advocacy Today: A Medical-Legal Partnership for Kentucky’s Children
  • Covering Kentucky Kids and Families
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana
  • Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians
  • Kentucky Association of Nurse Anesthetists
  • Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives
  • Kentucky Council of Churches
  • Kentucky Equal Justice Center
  • Kentucky Health Departments Association
  • Kentucky Medical Association
  • Kentucky Nurses Association
  • Kentucky Primary Care Association
  • Kentucky Public Health Association
  • Kentucky Rural Health Association
  • Kentucky Voices for Health
  • Kentucky Youth Advocates
  • Mental Health America of Kentucky
  • NAMI Kentucky
  • National Kidney Foundation of Kentucky
  • Purchase Area Health Education Center

That list makes the letter a pretty big deal.

Click here (Warning: PDF Link) for a copy of the entire press release.

Job Woes Continue

If it seems like people are losing their jobs all around you, it’s true. And not just in media.

The latest stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Jefferson County’s jobless numbers have almost reached 10 percent – at 9.7 for February. That’s the highest among surrounding counties and up .5 percent since January.

The lowest Kentucky rate is in Fayette, at 7.4, but it’s no haven of employment. Every county in Kentucky saw a rise in unemployment from January to February.

The highest is Menifee County at 18.9.

We Need More Scandals Edition

Still Pissed: Fox41’s Bill Lamb is still pissed at the federal government about having to keep his analog signal on through June. But Bill, you could have shown some guts and gone forward without the other stations. [Fox41]

Look, More People to Blame: Are you starting to get the feeling that the courts are going to eventually make Max Gilpin’s parents rich? After reviewing more evidence, they’re adding the principal, athletic director and an assistant coach at PRP to their civil lawsuit. And Sheldon Berman is standing by principal David Johnson and criticizing the newspaper. [C-J]

Give Me a Home: The homeless problem is getting worse, and a lot of people are moving in with relatives. And it doesn’t help that the Metro government can’t administer federal grants. [C-J]

Speaking of Homeless, Jerry Takes a Meeting: After representative of several homeless groups held a press conference yesterday saying, no, they weren’t surprised at all the mismanagement allegations in the state auditor’s report, Jerry Abramson set up a meeting with them for next week. The groups indicated that they’ve been silent about the problems for years out of fear that speaking out would endanger their grant money. [WAVE]

Casinos Still in Power in Indiana: Give them credit for trying, but Indiana lawmakers lacked the courage to pass a strong statewide smoking ban, instead providing an exemption for casinos and bars.  The bill that passed the Hoosier House requires places like Horseshoe to make 20 percent of its space non-smoking.  That place, by the way, really stinks. Smokers can have it. Now the bill’s up to the Senate. [IndyStar]

Let the Spending Begin: But none of that stimulus money will go toward building bridges. $52 million is going to Jefferson County Public Schools, and Sheldon Berman says that means he won’t have to layoff so many workers. [WHAS, C-J]

Return to Appalachia: That Diane Sawyer special on eastern Kentucky pulled some huge ratings, and the producers are back in the hills to produce a follow-up that will air Friday night at 10. It got the biggest audience for a 20/20 episode since 2004. [Herald-Leader]

Ashley on Tape: Watch Ashley Judd’s speech in Frankfort yesterday, thanks to the H-L, and read Billy Reed’s love letter to her. [Herald-Leader, BillyReedSays]

Heard on the Homo Mafia Gayvine: There’s some hanky panky going on at the Kentucky Equality Federation, and Jack Conway’s crew has sniffed it out. [Page One]

Sawyer Goes Home Again

Louisville’s Diane Sawyer is making the media rounds promoting her special on eastern Kentucky, appearing this week with the gals on “The View” and a live interview on WHAS-TV.

The special, called “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains” exposes the extreme poverty that has led to something called “Mountain Dew mouth,” a chronic dental condition that leads to the area’s reputation as America’s capital of toothlessness.  She outlines the career options for residents — working in fast-food, dealing drugs or working in the coal mines.

She tells stories of a football hero living in his truck, and a young woman struggling with a drug-addicted mother. But Sawyer finds the positive, according to this New York Daily News piece, quoted here:

I know the world, the vantage point we have in the world right now.Somehow, seeing the strength of these kids, in a way, renews your feeling that we’re made of very strong stuff. And I think sometimes too it’s great to not just look in at our own anxiety, but to look out at other people who are in much [tougher] situations than we.

The documentary airs on ABC Friday night at 10.