- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Jan. 13

The Bowling Green Daily News on Rep. Brett Guthrie’s attempts to close a loophole in a federal law regarding sports medicine:

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie saw a loophole in a federal law and recently took steps to close it.

House Resolution 302, also supported by U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, would offer legal protection when sports medicine professionals cross state lines when they assist their teams. Guthrie and his staff have been working toward the bill for a couple of years.

The legislation would ensure these professionals are covered under medical liability insurance when they travel with their teams.

We agree that the proposed law - now headed to the U.S. Senate - is a commonsense idea that’s long overdue.

We also echo the comments of Dr. Craig Beard of Western Kentucky Orthopaedic Neurosurgical Associates.

“This was a loophole that Brett was sharp enough to help close,” he said.

The 2nd District is fortunate to have a congressman who looks at both the small and big pictures in crafting needed legislation.

The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act was approved on a voice vote Monday in the House. The resolution represents legislation that was midway in the process in the 114th Congress which ended its session last year.

Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said the bill originated from a discussion with Alabama emergency room physician Dr. Alan Moore, whom Guthrie knows.

Moore traveled from Auburn, Ala., to Pasadena, Calif., with the Auburn University football team when it played several years ago in the Rose Bowl.

The emergency physician’s California trip revealed the possible tenuous legal circumstance he would be in if his services were needed. The circumstance didn’t occur, but it could have, Guthrie said.

Later, Guthrie said a medical group in the Washington area approached him and voiced similar concerns about the liability of sports medicine professionals crossing state lines.

Comer’s support for Guthrie’s bill shows he’s learning the ropes in Washington as he tackles big and small issues.

Beard said 25 years ago he assisted Western Kentucky University with medical responsibilities and recognized that travel from state to state was a vague area of liability. If approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Donald Trump, the law would replace previous practices.

Out-of-state travel in the past has meant contacting a local physician and working under his umbrella. If medical attention was needed, the local physician would be in charge with the visiting physician assisting. The new liability standard would cover sports medicine professionals who work with high school, college and professional sports teams when they cross state lines with their teams.

A spokesman for WKU’s athletic department also praised the idea of Guthrie’s bill.

“While this has not been an issue for WKU, we appreciate Representative Guthrie’s efforts to provide protection for the medical professionals who are essential to the safety and well-being of student-athletes across the country,” said Kyle Neaves, WKU sports assistant director.

Comer’s support for Guthrie’s bill shows he’s learning the ropes in Washington as he tackles big and small issues.

Beard said 25 years ago he assisted Western Kentucky University with medical responsibilities and recognized that travel from state to state was a vague area of liability. If approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Donald Trump, the law would replace previous practices.

Out-of-state travel in the past has meant contacting a local physician and working under his umbrella. If medical attention was needed, the local physician would be in charge with the visiting physician assisting. The new liability standard would cover sports medicine professionals who work with high school, college and professional sports teams when they cross state lines with their teams.

A spokesman for WKU’s athletic department also praised the idea of Guthrie’s bill.

“While this has not been an issue for WKU, we appreciate Representative Guthrie’s efforts to provide protection for the medical professionals who are essential to the safety and well-being of student-athletes across the country,” said Kyle Neaves, WKU sports assistant director.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Jan. 13

The Lexington Herald-Leader on how Kentucky might be affected by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

No state has gained more than Kentucky from President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. No state stands to lose more from its repeal by the Republicans who won control in November.

Space does not permit a full accounting of the good the ACA has done here. Some highlights:

- An additional 635,000 Kentuckians have access to substance-abuse treatment.

- In the No. 1 state for cancer, more low-income Kentuckians are getting cancer screenings.

- Insurers can no longer exclude or price out individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

- The percent of adult Kentuckians who have no health insurance has declined from 15 percent to 6 percent.

All this is invisible to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has yet to publicly acknowledge what his constituents would lose if Republicans wipe out Obama’s health-care legacy.

The ACA’s greatest impact in Kentucky came through expanding Medicaid, the government health program, to cover able-bodied adults with yearly incomes up to 138 percent of poverty or $16,243 for an individual.

In his voluminous denunciations of the ACA, McConnell almost never mentions Medicaid, and when he does it’s to bemoan the “many who’ve been forced into Medicaid.” Same for Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington. As if 425,000 working-poor Kentuckians had to be forced into diabetes treatment or having their abscessed teeth repaired.

In McConnell’s world, the 8,597 Kentucky women who received breast cancer screenings in the second quarter of 2016 thanks to the Medicaid expansion would have preferred mastectomies, chemotherapy or an agonizing death, at a higher cost to everyone. In those same three months, 32,968 Kentuckians were subjected to a dentist’s care and 3,754 were screened for hepatitis C, thanks to the repressive Medicaid expansion.

The cost of uncompensated care to Kentucky hospitals (services for which they were not paid) declined from $2.6 billion in 2013, the year before the Medicaid expansion, to $552 million in 2015.

Gov. Matt Bevin voiced confidence last week on WHAS radio that the still-to-be determined replacement plan will continue the tradition of indigent care, saying “Have you ever seen anyone in the United States of America dying on the side of the road for lack of medical care?” Maybe not, but without health insurance, Americans routinely perish in hospitals from diseases that would have been survivable if they had been discovered earlier or managed better.

Republicans can’t come up with a replacement until they’re anchored in reality. Health-care costs are increasing at the lowest rate in decades. But one of the favorite talking points is that the ACA is driving up health-care costs. Republican critics also blame the ACA for soaring deductibles and co-pays that people in insurance plans outside the ACA exchanges are also experiencing.

The ACA is not perfect. Americans’ health care remains at the mercy of insurance and pharmaceutical industry profits. Medical providers too often harm patients and waste resources. Kentucky’s dismal health picture could take a generation at least to turn around.

But the ACA moved us closer to a rational, humane system. If the Republicans can come up with something that covers as many people at less cost, we, like Obama, will support it. So far, nothing like that is in sight.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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Jan. 14

The Richmond Register on a right-to-work bill:

During the first week of the 2017 legislative session, Republicans kept their campaign promise of making Kentucky a right-to-work state.

The bill, which passed in a rare Saturday session, prohibits mandatory union membership at workplaces with collective bargaining unit. Supporters say it makes Kentucky more competitive in attracting new business and industry.

Gov. Matt Bevin, House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate President Robert Stivers have said repeatedly they want to focus the session on legislation they believe - or at least contend - will boost Kentucky’s economy.

If right-to-work is the only significant piece, we doubt there will be much of a boost to the state’s economy.

Organized labor is already weak in Kentucky, with no more than 11 percent of its workforce represented by a union in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Commonwealth is now one of about 25 other states which have passed similar laws, which really only levels the playing field.

In fact, Kentucky’s economy isn’t exactly struggling.

Its economic growth in 2016 was “on par” with 2015, which was one of the best years Kentucky has experienced in more than a decade.

According to the Cabinet for Economic Development, the state was on pace to have its best year since the mid-90s. Through the end of November, the state’s manufacturing, service and technology companies announced a total of 14,912 planned new full-time hires, well beyond 2015’s pace, which topped 16,000, officials said.

Yet, if Kentucky wants to get back to employment levels of the 1990s, it needs to develop a workforce that can do 21st century jobs.

There are several programs and initiatives focused on just that, including the apprenticeship program that give students education and experience within established manufacturers.

However, there needs to be more vocational programs offered in schools. Two local school districts - Madison and Estill - were hoping to do just that when they submitted applications for new vocational centers. But neither made it to the end of the Work Ready grants program.

Currently, Estill County has to send students to Madison County to receive vocation training. But the Madison County Area Technology Center is small and classes are usually full. Plus, the number of programs it can offer is limited.

The Work Ready grant program, which seeks collaborative economic development and job creation projects among communities, businesses and schools, is a great idea. But, it needs to be expanded or extended. Hoover mentioned that as a possibility in a previous interview and we hope he’s serious about it.

Nearly 100 applicants were hoping for a piece of the $100 million set aside for the Work Ready program. Unfortunately, less than a quarter will actually receiving funding.

For Kentucky to truly see economic growth, it needs to invest in its people. We hope our leaders see the success of the Work Ready program as the tip of the iceberg and continue to find creative ways to bring opportunities to the Commonwealth.

Online: https://www.richmondregister.com/

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