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Local News

Health Equity Summit Set for April 16

The Louisville Metro Center for Health Equity and Norton Healthcare Centers are co-sponsoring a summit on health equity later this month.

Health department spokesman Dave Langdon says this is the second in a series of summits aimed reducing the racial, socioeconomic and other barriers that some citizens encounter when it comes to access to health care resources.

“Basically, what we want people to walk away (with) is a sense of urgency on how to create and expand policies to make changes to achieve health equity in our city,” he said.

Langdon says the free event will include a presentation by the associate director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, and discussion of how new technologies can help reduce health care disparities.

The summit begins at 7:30am on April 16 at the Muhammad Ali Center.

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Here and Now

Supreme Court Considers Health Care Rules, Why No One Intervened at Penn State, Actors Theater Piece Looks at Returning Soldiers: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: The Supreme Court said today that it will take up the constitutional fight over the President’s embattled health care law. The core issue: under the U.S. constitution, can the government require Americans to buy health care? And if the answer is yes, what else can the government require Americans to buy? We’ll get reactions.

1:12pm: The cases of alleged abuse at Penn State University have many asking why those who are reported to have witnessed it didn’t call the cops. Psychologists say the “bystander effect” may be at play.

1:35pm: Actors Theatre of Louisville is staging “ReEntry,” a play about the struggle of soldiers returning to their homes and trying to resume their normal lives. We’ll talk to the play’s co-writer and director.

1:40pm: At this time 10 years ago following the September 11 terrorist attacks, US and coalition forces were battling the Taliban in Afghanistan. They took control of Kabul on Nov. 14, 2001 and Jalalabad on Nov. 14. The battle of Torah Borah would be fought in December. Now with the war winding down and American troops setting the state for withdrawal in 2014, the BBC’s Mike Thompson reports on current Afghan attitude toward the presence of foreign troops.

1:49pm: Sue Grafton’s alphabet series of mysteries featuring private eye Kinsey Millhone have been longtime fixtures on the best seller lists. Today her 22nd “V Is For Vengeance” comes out. Grafton talks about the series, and also tells us what’s on her reading list, and why she’s not always a fan of crime novels.

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Local News Next Louisville

Humana To Purchase Health Care Company

Louisville-based insurer Humana, Incorporated has announced plans to purchase a Texas-based health care company.

Spokesperson Jim Turner says pending regulatory approval, Humana will buy Concentra, Incorporated for about $790 million in cash.

“Concentra is a strong company, it fits very will with Humana’s focus on working directly with our individual members. Already, approximately three million humana members live very close to a Concentra center. We view that as a big plus, he said.

Concentra operates more than 300 medical centers in 42 states, offering services such as urgent care, physical therapy and occupational medicine. It also has more than 240 worksite facilites.

The purchase could be completed by the end of the year.

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Local News

Cook Says Changes Are Coming To Passport

The board of directors of Medicaid manager Passport Health Plan met Thursday for the first time since an auditor’s report revealed inappropriate spending and conflicts of interest within the agency.

Passport CEO and board chair Dr. Larry Cook says an interim-CEO will be hired to relieve him of his duties in that position. He will remain on the board, but may be replaced next year when he gives up his vice presidency at the University of Louisville, which he has been planning to do since before the audit. Passport is part of U of L Health Care.

Passport receives public funds to manage Medicaid plans in Jefferson and 15 surrounding counties. Cook says the board will soon meet with the state health cabinet and determine whether any money should be repaid to the state.

“That’s a possibility,” he says. “We’ll work with the cabinet and if they think that’s an appropriate thing to do, I presume we’ll do it.”

Cook says the board will more closely review expenses and determine whether its lobbying efforts are appropriate. Two executives who were found in conflict of interest due to consulting jobs will stay on at Passport, but not without changes.

“In referring to consultant activities, in referring to travel activities, life will obviously change for all of our current and future employed people,” says Cook.

The auditor’s report also found that Passport had transferred some thirty million dollars to various partners, including U of L. Cook says while it’s possible some of Passport’s money was misspent, these transfers were legal.

“We feel we exercised all due process,” he says. “We do not feel we have violated IRS rules or Kentucky law and I’m certain that issue will be explored by the parties.”

Dr. Cook’s full statement:

Audio MP3

Governor Steve Beshear has issued the following statement:

“Attached is a letter sent to the Passport Board yesterday from Secretary Janie Miller of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services calling for an immediate meeting to address corrective actions in response to the troubling audit findings. It is my understanding that the Passport Board plans to hire an interim CEO.   Obviously a new interim CEO is needed at Passport, but any candidate for that position should be reviewed by the Cabinet to make sure that there are no potential conflicts of interest, allowing that interim CEO to make it his or her first and only priority to clean up this mess.

However, while a new interim CEO is important, it is also essential to have a top to bottom change in management and a total reorganization in the governing structure of Passport.  Any new management and governing structure must understand that they are accountable to the taxpayers and that they will be transparent with the taxpayers’ dollars.  Additionally, the Cabinet will be conducting a full financial and programmatic audit of Passport, and I expect the new management to be fully cooperative in that effort. Finally, we notice from Passport’s news release that they plan to begin ‘a review of all lobbying efforts to determine appropriateness for an organization that is established as an at-risk, provider-sponsored, 501(c)3 not-for-profit HMO.’  A review alone is totally unacceptable.  We expect a immediate freeze on any expenditures for lobbying and any other expenditures not directly related to medical care for Medicaid recipients until the Cabinet and new Passport management can address these issues.”

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Shuffle

Engineering Pharmaceuticals

Saturday, August 7, 2010 9pm

Producer: Richard Paul
Listen Again

Engineering Pharmaceuticals explores one of the major causes of rising health care costs – development of new drugs. It can cost up to a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market. This program goes behind the curtain and shows how drugs are created and looks at efforts to bring down the cost.

We look at what, exactly, drugs do; how they actually act to attack diseases. We hear the sound of pharmaceutical scientists making new drug compounds as they explain the process and where its costs lie. And we learn how engineers are helping redesign the drug manufacturing process to try and bring costs down. We also learn the ramifications of these high costs in places where people can barely afford food, let alone much-needed pharmaceuticals.

Engineering Pharmaceuticals produced by Richard Paul and hosted by Barbara Bogaev, is part of the Grand Challenges Series from the Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science and the Purdue College of Engineering.

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Local News

Doughnut Hole Checks To Be Sent This Week

by Gabe Bullard

Relief for seniors who are in the so-called Medicare doughnut hole is on the way this week.

Medicare beneficiaries are in the doughnut hole if their prescription drugs are too expensive to be paid for under the initial Medicare coverage, but are not expensive enough for catastrophic coverage.

Starting this week, seniors who fall into the doughnut hole will automatically be sent a check for $250.

The payments are part of the healthcare overhaul legislation. Third District Congressman John Yarmuth says he believes these early benefits may change the minds of those who opposed the overhaul when it was being debated in Congress.

“As more people understand the benefits—whether they’re immediate or long-term—they’ll appreciate the positive impact this is going to have on their medical situation,” he says.

The checks will be followed by a name-brand drug discount next year. Subsequent measures will be introduced over the next decade to phase out the doughnut hole by 2020.

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Local News

Yarmuth Not Concerned With Backlash Over Health Care Vote

by Gabe Bullard

Third District Congressman John Yarmuth says he doesn’t think talk of repealing the recently passed health care overhaul legislation will come to fruition.

Yarmuth returned to Louisville Friday touting the parts of the legislation that take effect this year, such as the elimination of pre-existing conditions on some health plans and changes to prescription drug plans for seniors. He says any candidate supporting the overhaul’s repeal will have to oppose those reforms.

“Let them go ahead and do that. I think that would be a wonderful political strategy that would elect a lot of Democrats,” he says.

Yarmuth says his office has received calls congratulating and condemning him for his vote on the health care legislation. He says he has not received any threats. He was the only member of Kentucky’s congressional delegation to support the package.

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Local News

Humana on Health Reform: Costs Will Rise

Private insurers are among those reacting to the passage and likely signing into law of the health care reform bill.  Louisville-based Humana spokesman Tom Noland says the company stands to gain from it by the number of uninsured who will soon be added to the rolls – and have to buy their product.  But Noland says the company’s costs could go up.

“Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t do anything to contain costs, which is the biggest problem in health care.  And in fact the incentives within the bill are going to likely raise costs rather than lower them,” said Noland.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News, it’s still hard to predict what the legislation could mean for individual and family premiums.  And the efforts that are in the bill to contain rising health care costs may not have much of an effect for years to come.

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Local News

Yarmuth Thinks Health Care Debate is Almost Over

by Stephanie Crosby

Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville says a procedural vote that could be employed by Democrats to try to pass health care legislation is just a way the game is played in Washington.

Some Republicans say the vote that would ‘deem’ the Senate version of the bill approved without an actual vote on it would allow lawmakers afraid of re-election challenges to hide from their vote.

Yarmuth says he’s ‘agnostic’ on the issue.

“If people need that to make them feel better about it, then that’s fine with me,” says Yarmuth. “I don’t think it’s really – nobody’s really going to be able to claim ‘well, I didn’t support the bill’ if in fact they voted for this rule.”

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich announced today he’ll change his previous opposition to now support the legislation. Yarmuth thinks more Democrats will do the same.

He says a vote could come by Sunday.

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Local News

McConnell Says Health Care Overhaul Will Drive November Elections

by Gabe Bullard

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says the health care overhaul will be the top campaign issue for his party this November.

The president has called on Congress to vote up or down on Democratic-led overhaul plan.  McConnell opposes the legislation, but says GOP candidates for Congress across the country could benefit from it.

“It would be my prediction that if this thing passes, it will be the issue in virtually every House and Senate race in the country this November and I expect most of the Republican candidates are going to be saying, ‘Vote for me and I’ll repeal it,'” he says.

McConnell says strong campaigning against Democratic incumbents in Congress will be crucial for Republican candidates. That follows reports that the National Republican Congressional Committee is experiencing a lag in fundraising.