Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky’


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Admittedly, when it comes to health—and, more generally, well-being—Kentucky has nowhere to go but up.

But its governor, Steve Beshear, has made it clear that, against the political machinations of its two senators, the state needs and wants Obamacare.

It’s no coincidence that numerous governors — not just Democrats like me but also Republicans like Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan — see the Affordable Care Act not as a referendum on President Obama but as a tool for historic change.

That is especially true in Kentucky, a state where residents’ collective health has long been horrendous. The state ranks among the worst, if not the worst, in almost every major health category, including smoking, cancer deaths, preventable hospitalizations, premature death, heart disease and diabetes.

We’re making progress, but incremental improvements are not enough. We need big solutions with the potential for transformational change.

The Affordable Care Act is one of those solutions.

In addition, Kentucky has enacted one of the often-overlooked parts of the new act: healthcare cooperatives [ht: sm].

One group of insurers opening for business today under the Affordable Care Act is out to change all of health care: health care cooperatives.

The co-ops are private non-profits offering insurance to individuals and small employers through the new health care exchanges. They emerged as a compromise, after Congress rejected a government-run insurance. They’re meant to compete with larger, commercial insurance companies.

The original idea was to have a co-op in every state, but Congress cut the start up funding, and only 22 co-ops open for business today, with another two expected to be up and running in the next few months.

Co-ops face several challenges, including limits on how they can spend their start-up money from the government. They are not allowed use it for advertising, for example, which presents a challenge in enrolling customers. They also lack the volume which would allow them to negotiate better rates with hospitals and drug companies.

So, as of yesterday, residents of the state can now begin to improve their health and overall well-being by joining the Kentucky Health Cooperative, Inc.

Yachts Arise

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In the world imagined by neoclassical economists, workers are simply free to stay at or leave their jobs. What doesn’t exist in their models is a worker who tries to do the right thing—and then suffers the consequences.

Mackie Bailey [ht: db] is one such worker—a Kentucky miner who provided information about dangerous practices at an underground coal mine in Harlan County where a man was crushed to death in June 2011 (for which the company and three supervisors pleaded guilty in federal court).* Bailey is now facing a complaint filed by the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing for taking part in the dangerous activities he reported to state and federal regulators.

To Bailey and his attorney, that’s an injustice, not just because supervisors ordered Bailey to do unsafe work, but because his information helped convict the people responsible.

“They’re trying to punish the whistle-blower,” said Bailey’s attorney, Tony Oppegard, who previously worked as a federal mine-safety official and as a prosecutor in the state mine-safety agency.


*The photo above shows Bailey operating a roof-bolting machine at the Manalapan Mining Co.’s P-1 mine in 2011.

Steve Bell's If ... 10.12.12

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I just took a memorable trip to Harlan County, Kentucky—a region with a rich history and crunching poverty.*


The latest battle in Harlan County is over mountaintop removal, which is already dominating the landscape and looming over communities across the border in Virginia:


*The median household income in Harlan County (according to the Census Bureau, for 2006-2010) is $26,582 (compared to $41,576 for Kentucky) and the poverty rate is 30.7 percent (compared to 17.7 percent for Kentucky)

Only in America

Posted: 21 September 2012 in Uncategorized
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Only in America is someone allowed to say with a straight face that coal mining is a cherished “way of life.” And only in America does that same person—a coal-industry executive—get to pretend he’s a miner, complete with bib overalls and a hard hat.

Heath Lovell is vice president of River View Coal, not a miner. Over the past two years, he and his wife have donated $21,400 to candidates for federal office, including to Mitt Romney and Rand Paul.


Poor Kentucky. Literally.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011,” median income in Kentucky had declined almost 11 percent from 2009, leaving it with the lowest median income in the country, more than $10 thousand less than the national average. Kentucky also had a poverty rate—16 percent—that was a full percentage point above the national average.*

*Kentucky was better, on one measure, than the national average: 14.4 percent of Kentuckians did not have health insurance, compared to 15.7 percent for the nation as a whole—both of which surpass by a large margin the rate in Massachusetts (3.4 percent).