Kentucky editorial roundup

By: The Associated Press, Associated Press
November 23, 2016 Updated: November 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


Nov. 21

The Courier-Journal on fighting diabetes in Kentucky:

Gov. Matt Bevin and Kentucky lawmakers face significant challenges as they weigh competing priorities for state funding.

Education. Underfunded pensions. Roads. All important — and all deserving of attention for the impact they have on Kentuckians.

But there's another serious problem that state leaders simply can't ignore: the mounting crisis of diabetes. Nearly half a million adults in Kentucky have diabetes. There are thousands not yet diagnosed.

The Courier-Journal's special report on the crisis of diabetes highlights this disparity: Kentucky allocates only about $2.6 million for efforts to combat diabetes through health departments across the state, but the disease is costing $3.8 billion — more than two-thirds in medical costs and the rest in lost productivity.

Kentucky needs healthy, productive people to fill jobs in a robust and expanding economy.

Across the state, from insurance companies to churches and non-profit organizations, there are collaborative efforts focusing on diabetes education, prevention and management. We applaud those efforts.

The state deserves credit for initially leading the way in fighting diabetes. In 2011 the state was the first to mandate a statewide diabetes action plan (DAP).

That plan recommended a diabetes prevention program as a part of the state employees' health insurance. Experts agree that prevention and early diagnosis saves money because treating the disease can be costly, especially when it is advanced.

That was a start, but there's more to do.

We know the state is laser-focused on the effort to shore-up the state's underfunded employee pension funds.

And we can all agree that healthy Kentuckians are important.

How do we get Kentuckians healthy?

First, keep the Medicaid program that brings health insurance to thousands across the state, especially those in impoverished Eastern Kentucky. Don't pull the health-insurance safety net away with payment lockouts, premiums and co-pays.

Yes, private-sector health plans include co-pays and premiums.

Yes, it is ideal to require people to have "skin in the game" by requiring co-pays — and worth considering as an approach.

But it needs to be done thoughtfully and compassionately. For many, food, childcare, rent and gasoline for the car to get to work are all expenses that likely would come before co-pays, prescriptions and premiums. Treatment of chronic disease, such as diabetes, would require frequent doctor visits, all with co-pays.

Don't look at health care as an expense to be slashed from the business ledger. Look at getting Kentuckians healthy as an investment that can deliver valuable returns.

We agree with Rep. Robert Benvenuti III (R-Lexington) when he said at a House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting recently, "The goal needs to be to get able-bodied people to work so they can provide health insurance for themselves and their families."

That's the point exactly. Kentuckians first need to be healthy so they can go to work.

Listening to Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, she would have you believe that providing health insurance through Medicaid is an utter failure.

"We're not seeing an improvement in health outcomes," she said at a hearing in June about Bevin's proposed changes to Medicaid.

She's the one who's not listening.

But listen to those on the frontlines of medicine. Dr. Barbara Casper, a professor of medicine at U of L and chief of internal medicine, is one of them, and she sees things differently. "I can't tell you how relieved all of us are that we can get medication for our patients," she said. "This is the best I've seen it in 31 years."

Moreover, a reputable study in the October issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, confirms that access to insurance leads to reduced use of more-expensive emergency services, increased screenings for diabetes, glucose testing, and regular care for chronic conditions. In the study, Kentucky and Arkansas, with expanded Medicaid show those results, while Texas, without Medicaid expansion, doesn't.

Those are positive outcomes.

Next, continue providing fully funded dental and vision coverage. Experts say this relatively inexpensive coverage offers the important early diagnosis of diabetes before life-threatening and life-altering complications begin.

Finally, the state must consider increased funding for public awareness campaigns around diabetes, along with education and diagnostic efforts through the health departments across the state. Since 2008, funding for state health departments has been cut $40 million. Individuals must take responsibility for their own lives. No question about that. But, health departments can be a partner to help people take charge of their health by encouraging better diets and exercise.

Public awareness campaigns can work. A 2016 CDC report shows campaigns to get smokers to quit have been working. And encouraging healthier lives can be a long-term win for all of Kentucky.

Funding is a challenge in a state struggling with competing demands.

Perhaps, worth considering, for both the revenue and health benefits, are taxes on sugary soft drinks and increasing the cigarette tax.

Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia all have taxes on sugary drinks.

Among neighboring states, Kentucky's cigarette tax, at 60 cents a pack, isn't the lowest. Virginia's tax is 30 cents. Indiana is just under $1.

One way or another, the state needs to pour more resources into anti-diabetes campaigns before the crisis grows even worse. Gov. Bevin could have a legacy as the governor who reversed the tide of this surging public health problem.

In the long run, Kentuckians will not only be healthier, but the state will save money on healthcare costs to taxpayers and employers, which is good for everyone.

This is a crisis. People are dying. We must do better.



Nov. 22

The Lexington Herald-Leader on naming new high school after Frederick Douglass:

The Fayette County school board reached deep into both this community's educational history and the country's past in choosing Frederick Douglass as the name for the new high school under construction on Winchester Road.

Frederick Douglass, the man, has one of the most fascinating stories to arise from the American experience, a testament to education, perseverance and the importance of fighting for what's right. Born into slavery in Maryland, he barely knew his mother who lived on another plantation and never knew who his father was.

Despite rules, written and unwritten, against educating slaves, he understood that literacy was the key to escaping slavery and learned to read and write. He escaped to freedom when he was about 20 and took the last name of Douglass to confound slave hunters.

Douglass joined the abolitionist movement and became known for his oratory. He was so eloquent that many doubted that he'd ever been a slave, prompting him to write a detailed account of his life in slavery. Douglass was a true visionary. He advocated for women's right to vote and, through his newspaper, the North Star, condemned not just slavery in the South but also segregation in the North. "Right is of no sex. Truth is of no color. God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren." was the slogan on the paper's masthead.

Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington was the result of the segregated education system, enshrined in Kentucky in the 1891 constitution, that arose after the Civil War. It opened in 1948 and closed in 1971 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools.

The old school building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 as a structure "that physically embodies the history of the state's 'separate but equal' educational policy."

Although the school has been closed for decades, the Douglass High Alumni Association has remained active and advocated tirelessly for naming the new high school after the old one.

Alva Mitchell Clark, a member of that group, praised the school board's decision, saying it's "a wonderful way to complete the integration process 53 years later." We agree.



Nov. 21

The (Ashland) Independent on Kentucky's bipartisan transition team members:

State Rep. Jeff Hoover of Jamestown is poised to become the first Republican Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives since 1921. Hoover has sent an early signal of ushering in a new, much less contentious era in Frankfort by naming a bi-partisan team of current and former lawmakers to help guide his party's transition to majority power.

That team includes former 100th District Rep. John Vincent of Ashland, who was a Republican in a legislative body dominated by Democrats. He proved, however, it is possible for a minority legislator to be effective by working with legislators in both parties and by concentrating on issues that have more to do with advancing good government and meeting real needs than in advancing partisan policies. That is the kind of government needed in Frankfort and Washington.

Hoover named former Democratic Speaker Bobby Richardson of Glasgow and former Republican Floor Leader Danny Ford of Mount Vernon, both longtime friends of Hoover's, to co-chair the team of four Republicans and four Democrats. Other members are former GOP lawmaker Alecia Webb-Edgington of Fort Wright, GOP state Sen. Julie Raque Adams, who previously served in the House with Hoover, and former Democratic lawmakers Bill Lear of Lexington and Jim LeMaster of Paris along with Democratic state Sen. Julian Carroll, a former speaker and governor. That's an impressive team of smart people known more for their effectiveness than their partisan politics.

Hoover said the group will advise him and the new Republican majority on House rules and the committee system in an effort to make the House work more efficiently and to improve the tone between the two parties. They won't be involved in setting policy for the Republicans.

"These are folks I have the highest respect and regard for," Hoover said. "I'm asking them to look at how we can make the house more efficient and effective."

We're all for that. Of course, with a Republican governor in Matt Bevin and the Republican Party enjoying solid majorities in both the Kentucky House and Senate, the GOP is in a position to completely control state government with little or no input from the Democratic minority. We hope that does not happen, if for no other reason than it would effectively disenfranchise every Kentuckian living in a district with a Democratic state senator and representative. That would only widen the political division.

While there are issues in which elected Democrats and Republicans are unlikely to ever agree, but there are many issues in which there is broad agreement.

Bevin wants a right-to-work law, and with Republicans firmly in control, he is likely to get one, with or without the support of the Democratic minority. There also is little hope of the General Assembly raising the minimum wage in Kentucky, an issue supported by Democrats but not Republicans. The two parties also are divided on abortion rights and Obamacare.

However, the Democratic minority in the General Assembly is much more conservative than the National Democratic Party on many issues and more likely to work with the new GOP majority in the Kentucky House.

John Vincent, now the Ashland city attorney, has never been known as a rabid Republican. Instead, he has always been someone dedicated to working for what is best for all of Kentucky. We need people like him in Frankfort and Washington.

It is much too early to judge what kind of Speaker Jeff Hoover will be, but his early actions are most encouraging.


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