- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Report: 15 rural Kentucky hospitals in danger of closing

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - One minute before midnight Tuesday, the only hospital in Fulton County will close its doors for good, forcing the county’s roughly 6,000 people to drive to Tennessee for emergencies and signaling the end of 190 jobs and about 12 percent of the city of Fulton’s tax revenue.

And if conditions don’t improve soon, at least another 15 rural hospitals could follow in Parkway Regional Hospital’s footsteps, according to a new report from state Auditor Adam Edelen. The review of Kentucky’s 66 rural hospitals showed 68 percent are below the national average in assessed financial strength while nearly one quarter are in poor financial health and in danger of closing.

Officials in Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration were quick to point out the study is far from a complete picture because 14 hospitals, more than 20 percent, did not participate. And the study does not include numbers from 2014, when the federal government increased spending by more than $1 billion in Kentucky - of which $506 million went to hospitals - to pay for the more than 400,000 people who joined the state’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Those are huge changes to hospitals’ bottom lines that are not shown here,” Beshear said in a news release.

The report did cover the first few years of Kentucky’s switch to managed care for its Medicaid program, where the state contracts with private insurance companies to pay medical claims. The audit found the change increased administrative costs for 79 percent of rural hospitals by an average of $156,796 each year.

Edelen, a Democrat and potential U.S. Senate candidate in 2016, stressed the report is not a rebuke of Kentucky’s switch to managed care or its decision to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act - two pillars of Beshear’s tenure that will likely shape his legacy. Instead, Edelen said it’s a baseline for studying the financial future of rural hospitals, which care for 45 percent of the state’s population.


Comer: Kentucky’s Medicaid enrollments not sustainable

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky can’t sustain the cost of expanded Medicaid enrollments under the federal Affordable Care Act and needs to cut the rolls, Republican gubernatorial hopeful James Comer said Monday while promoting his health care plan.

Speaking to a group that included health care executives, Comer said if he’s elected governor in November he would review eligibility standards for Kentucky’s Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

His goal is to shift people off Medicaid and into private health insurance plans, Comer said.

More than half a million people have signed up for health insurance through kynect, the state-run health exchange, but most of those Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid. Kentucky was among the states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. So far, the federal government has picked up the entire cost of the expansion. But beginning in 2017, Kentucky taxpayers will start paying for part of the bill.

Currently, about one in four Kentuckians are signed up for Medicaid, Comer said.

He didn’t offer specifics on changing eligibility, but said the state can’t sustain Medicaid rolls at those levels.


Obama to visit Louisville on Thursday

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama will visit a Louisville-based technology company on Thursday for an event on the economy.

The stop at Indatus will be Obama’s first visit to Kentucky since 2011 when he went to Fort Campbell near the Tennessee border to greet soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

While Obama has not been in Kentucky for a few years, he has loomed large over the state’s politics. Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell won a landslide victory in November based largely on tying his opponent to Obama. Polls routinely show about 60 percent of Kentucky voters disapprove of Obama as president.

Kentucky will be in the political spotlight again in November with one of the country’s few governors’ races in what is traditionally an off year for elections.


Man fatally shot by police outside Elizabethtown grocery

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky State Police say a man has been fatally shot by an Elizabethtown police officer during an altercation outside a grocery.

Police were called to the Kroger just before 8 p.m. Sunday with a report of a disturbance. State police said Elizabethtown Officer Josh Burris arrived and confronted a man who had a handgun and was assaulting a woman in the parking lot.

State police say the man fired his weapon and that Burris responded with gunfire, hitting the man.

The man was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

State police said the man, whose name hasn’t been released, had additional weapons and ammunition at the scene.

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