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Legislation to Prioritize Health, First Responders, & Children Passes House

 

Before leaving Frankfort this week, I had the opportunity to reflect on the legislation that cleared the House this week, including measures aimed at protecting our children and bills that seek to improve access to health care. Most of what we acted upon traces its origin back to the work we did between the 2023 Regular Session and when we convened in early January. This period of time, commonly referred to as the legislative interim, provides us an opportunity to research, hear from folks, and work within our communities to identify areas we can improve. While we are a part-time legislature and only meet in session for a limited time, our legislative work really is year-round.

 

Here is a brief summary of a few measures that cleared the House this week and now find their way in the Senate:

 

Toughening Penalties for Crimes Against Children/HB 278 would work to increase penalties for offenses, prevent opportunities for predators to be near children, and remove barriers for victims to receive justice. The main goal of the measure is to generate a zero-tolerance policy towards those who choose to exploit children. Protecting children from exploitation is paramount to ensuring their well-being, development, and mental health.

 

Establishing the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Board/HB 316 would establish the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Board of the Kentucky General Assembly. The budget approved by the House several weeks ago contains record funding for Medicaid and other entitlement programs. And, while we know these programs play an important role in supporting Kentuckians in a time of need, we also have an obligation to ensure that they result in healthier individuals. We also must recognize that for most Kentuckians, they are designed to be temporary, not a permanent way of life. The board would be tasked with reviewing, analyzing, studying, evaluating, and providing legislative oversight to ensure Medicaid meets these goals.

 

Regulating Chemical Dependency Treatment Services/HB 408 would establish a framework to prevent rehabilitations from recruiting out-of-state residents, bringing them to their facility and putting them on Kentucky Medicaid. The measure lays out a process to ensure residents of a drug treatment programs are returned to their home community upon leaving the facility.

 

Prioritizing Mental Health of First Responders/HB 212 would allow rescue squad members to participate in the Alan "Chip" Terry Professional Development and Wellness Program. The program is named after former Covington Firefighter Chip Terry. The measure would direct the Division of Emergency Management and the Kentucky Fire Commission to enter into an agreement to ensure that rescue squad members have access to the program. This is another small but important step in the fight for more protections of our first responders, especially those dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

Establishing Sepsis Diagnosis Criteria/HB 477 would expand preventative screenings for sepsis. The measure would call for providers to do a blood culture upon a positive test. Additionally, HB 477 aligns Medicaid and Medicare standards with each other, ensuring all stages of sepsis are covered under insurance. Kentucky has one of the highest rates of sepsis and septicemia in our nation. More than 35,000 Kentuckians are hospitalized with sepsis each year, and on average, almost 17% of patients will die from severe sepsis and septic shock with an estimated cost of over $2.3 billion. Every hour without intervention increases the risk of death by 7%. Health care providers must treat patients for sepsis before it reaches the level of organ failure.

 

Covering Cancer Detection Screenings/HB 52 would require Medicaid, health plans (both state employees and student), and group health plans to extend coverage for specific screenings as they relate to the detection of cancer. If a physician suspects cancer, screenings become essential for confirming the diagnosis, determining the extent of the disease, and planning an appropriate treatment strategy. Timely screenings play a pivotal role in facilitating early intervention improving prognosis, and optimizing chances of successful treatment.

 

Last week we also took a moment to recognize March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  The House adopted a resolution to highlight the importance of screening for colorectal cancer, as well as to promote healthy lifestyle habits that can decrease a person’s risk of developing cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Kentucky. By 2030, colorectal cancer is projected to be the leading cause of cancer death in 20-to-49-year-olds.

 

As always, I can be reached anytime through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at amy.neighbors@lrc.ky.gov and keep track through the Kentucky legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov.

 

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