Like many areas of our country, one of Kentucky’s more persistent challenges is making sure we have access to quality and affordable healthcare.
We’re fortunate in our region to have the dedicated doctors, nurses and medical staff we have, but they would be the first to say that it’s not always easy to keep the doors open because of matters beyond our control. We saw an unfortunate example of that in late January, when an Ashland-area hospital announced it would be closing later this year, a decision that also affects the 1,000 people who work there.
Louisville is not immune to this trend, either, with its Jewish Hospital and other facilities on the verge of closing last year before the University of Louisville stepped in to purchase them.
This year, the General Assembly is working to do what it can to help, and two bills in particular would go a long way in that regard if they become law. The first of those, setting aside a loan for the U of L deal, was overwhelmingly approved by the House a little over two weeks ago.
Late last week, meanwhile, the House voted unanimously for House Bill 387, which would create a rural hospital revolving loan fund.
It would be handled in similar fashion to the bill helping U of L by giving hospitals in counties with fewer than 50,000 people the ability to receive a 20-year loan that would be used to maintain or increase current hospital staff or expand healthcare services not currently available. That lifeline could go a long way for those affected hospitals that might otherwise close.
The same day we passed the bill to help our rural hospitals, we passed another that would help new parents of adopted children.
House Bill 390 will ensure that companies already providing extended paid leave for new parents also include that benefit for adoptive parents, if the child is 10 or younger. This wouldn’t apply if the adoption is among family members or if it involves fostercare situations where the child is already living in the home prior to the adoption.
With children in mind, the House also voted last week to include vaping products in the same category as chewing tobacco and snuff. The hope is that this higher cost will be another barrier that keeps teenagers from using ecigarettes, a trend that has spiked across the country in recent years.
On a more local note, I’m proud that our House district got another visit from Governor Beshear and Department for Local Government officials earlier this week, as he presented grants for Letcher and Pike counties.
That money will go to help Whitesburg build a splash pad and to add a playground and other amenities at Fishpond Lake.
In Pike County, an ARC grant will renovate a training center at Pikeville Medical Center, which will help many of our area residents with career and training development.
Although it has no impact, at least at the moment, on the General Assembly, there has been a lot of discussion here and across Kentucky about the coronavirus.
On February 27, Governor Beshear said no Kentuckian has tested positive, and so far cases in the United States are small.
As we continue to monitor the situation, it’s important that we do the same things we do every flu season, which is to wash our hands often and stay away from others if we get sick.
This week, the House is expected to get its first look, and possibly vote for, at our chamber’s proposal for the state’s two-year budget. I serve on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee that will vote on it first, and I will review next week what changes House leaders recommend.
If you would like to reach me, my email is Angie.Hatton@lrc. ky.gov, and the toll-free message line for me or any legislator is 1-800-372-7181.