- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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June 24

Richmond Register on more health plan options:

As states and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sort through plans submitted for the federally-facilitated health exchanges, one thing is certain - there will be fewer options.

Last week, CMS released a county-level map of projected health insurance exchanges participation for 2018. The map showed insurance options on the exchanges continue to disappear as plan options are down from last year.

In Kentucky, most counties will have only one health insurance option again. The biggest change is Humana Health Plan will no longer offer exchange plans. However, it offered plans in only nine counties in 2017.

Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky was the only company to offer coverage on the exchange in every county in the state for 2017. A spokesperson wouldn’t confirm the insurer’s plans, but based on last year, it may be the only option for many in the Commonwealth.

The CMS’s county-level map did project a portion of Kentucky counties will have a second option, which will most likely be CareSource. This year, CareSource offered plans in 61 counties, which was up from 46 in 2016.

In the past two years, five providers have exited the exchange in Kentucky. The same is happening all across the country.

With the possibility of even more leaving, the CMS county-level map projected 47 counties across the country may have no option. As many as 1,200 counties - nearly 40 percent nationwide - could have only one issuer in 2018.

Even if Congress does not come to a consensus on replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s possible the exchanges could simply implode as more insurers leave.

We hope this is a sign to our leaders in Washington that more work needs to be done.

Hopefully, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have been paying attention to this problem.

Instead of fighting over just trying to repeal the ACA, McConnell needs to be working toward creating a better system that will survive.

After seeing the initial plans from the Senate and House, we’re not positive that’s happening. However, we’re hopeful all sides will come together for the betterment of Kentuckians and all Americans.

We live in the greatest nation and to not have healthcare options that are affordable and truly helpful is shameful. Congress needs to step up and fix this problem.

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

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June 24

The Independent on the Grahn landfil:

The Grahn Landfill - northeastern Kentucky’s first regional attempt at responsible disposal of solid waste - has not accepted any solid waste for 35 years and has been forgotten by most area residents as an experiment that never lived up to its promise. But leaders of the counties of Carter, Boyd, Lawrence and Elliott have not forgotten the landfill that “closed” and ceased operation in 1982. In fact, they still jointly fund work there.

The status of the Grahn Landfill near Olive Hill is still considered open by the state. The landfill was created in the 1970s by four of the five counties that make up the FIVCO Area Development District; Greenup County was the only FIVCO county excluded. In 1982, officials agreed the Grahn landfill was no longer needed in the region, based largely because of privately owned landfills like the Green Valley Landfill in Greenup County and much more recently the Big Run Landfill in Boyd County. The Grahn landfill was capped.

However, environmental problems that began before the Grahn landfill was closed have eased but not ceased, and as long as they persist, the four counties are responsible for safely maintaining the closed landfill.

The Grahn landfill still isn’t officially closed because leachate - the liquids that often drain out of landfills during heavy rains - continues to emerge from the site.

The testing and removal of leachate is required by state and federal environmental agencies to ensure no harmful pollutants leak into nearby groundwater. FIVCO needs money to pay for that process, and the four counties must bankroll it.

The county fiscal courts could technically decline to provide the funds, but they’d risk the EPA slapping them with fines of up to a $25,000 per day. They obviously cannot afford that risk. All four counties have provided the financial aid FIVCO sought throughout the past three decades. Between 2001 and 2007, the counties contributed a combined $48,000, according to FIVCO records.

Kelly Ward, FIVCO economic development director, said he had not requested funding from the counties for the landfill in the past 10 years, as FIVCO was able to draw from its annual budget to pay for monthly testing. He’d renegotiated with contractors to test and haul the leachate at an affordable rate, less than $200 per month, for a few years, he said.

However, that special fund evaporated in recent years when the cost of testing “skyrocketed” to $800 per month, or four times the amount FIVCO was paying, Ward said. The cost increased after FIVCO had to acquire a new landfill permit through the Kentucky Division of Water.

This year, FIVCO is asking each county for $3,000 to cover the costs associated with the landfill. Ward said he does not relish the task of asking the counties for money, but until a permanent solution is realized, the counties will have to continue to pay.

Obviously, the four counties must continue to pay the cost of meeting the legal obligation, but at the same time they must agree on and implement a permanent solution to the leachate problem at the old landfill. Until then, today’s taxpayers must continue to pay for mistakes made more than 30 years ago.

Online: https://www.dailyindependent.com/

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June 27

The State Journal on a grant awarded to Kentucky State University:

Kentucky State University was awarded a grant recently that should magnify the ripple effect its premier program - and others - should be having on local education. The university and partnering school districts should take full advantage of the opportunity.

Kentucky State research and extension associate Ken Thompson, who applied for the funding, told reporter Austin Horn the $147,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will allow KSU to work with high schools locally and across the state. Western Hills is among the schools that will have aquaculture as part of other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum.

The program could have myriad profound positive impacts on secondary education, and younger students who will benefit from planned open houses at the university.

It can help open eyes to the career paths in a field where Thompson said jobs are “plentiful,” while providing an introduction to scientific study overall. The imperative to replenish and advance many other fields reliant on STEM skills will also be addressed.

Then there is the ability to use as a recruiting tool the aquaculture program that has remained a shining light despite KSU’s internal financial and administrative difficulties of late. It is not only the lone college aquaculture program in the state, it is by many measure a darn good one, a fact that should be touted at every opportunity.

“The goal is to educate,” Thompson told Horn. “But also, we need to increase our student enrollment. My hope is to establish relationships with teachers, school administrators, parents and kids that are involved. Obviously we’re not going to get all those students, but hopefully some of those students would consider KSU that hadn’t thought about it before.”

Thompson and the school must now be good stewards of the grant to ensure it is maximized for all the above reasons. Room for growth abounds.

Online: https://www.state-journal.com

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