Frankfort, KY: Governor Ernie Fletcher signed five pieces of health legislation today which address issues ranging from childhood obesity, small business health insurance, elder maltreatment, electronic sharing of medical information, and best practices for mental health and mental retardation services.
“I commend the General Assembly for tackling these vital issues in a bicameral, bipartisan fashion. We must continue to work together to improve the health and safety of Kentuckians,” said Governor Fletcher. “These bills touch on the health of every Kentuckian--from allowing better information exchange in the health care field, to creating a climate in which more small businesses can offer health insurance to employees, to fighting the obesity epidemic in our children. They recognize the need to protect our seniors from abuse or exploitation and for consumer choice and individual freedom in our services related to mental health and mental retardation. These initiatives will improve the lives of Kentuckians now and in the future.”
Bills signed by Governor Fletcher included Senate Bill 2, Senate Bill 172, House Bill 278 and House Bill 298. Passage of Senate Joint Resolution 94, which does not require the Governor’s signature to take effect, was also recognized.
SB 2, known as the “e-health bill,” allows Kentucky to start developing a secure, electronic network that will allow health care providers--including doctors, hospitals and pharmacies--to share medical information about patients through a paperless system. The Kentucky e-Health Network will allow faster information sharing to reduce mistakes, inefficiencies, and administrative costs—all resulting in better patient care.
SB 172 takes steps to improve the health habits of young people by providing for oversight and management of the school food service program and the development of a wellness policy at elementary schools that includes increased physical activity. The bill also establishes guidelines for vending machines and the sale of soft drinks. The final version of the bill was actively supported by the Get Healthy Kentucky! Board, appointed by Governor Fletcher last year to focus on solutions to Kentucky’s health problems. The percentage of Kentucky’s children and young people (6 to 19) who are overweight has tripled in the past 30 years.
HB 278, the Small Business Insurance Relief Act, creates a basic health benefit plan to make insurance more affordable for individuals and employers with 50 or fewer employees by tailoring benefits to specific needs, creating a uniform system for physicians to receive credentials with insurers or hospitals, and establishing an advisory committee to help Kentucky provide patients with quality and cost information about their health care. House Bill 278 is the product of collaboration between the Fletcher administration and organizations representing small businesses, insurance and other segments of the health care industry.
HB 298 helps protect senior citizens from physical abuse and financial scams. The bill encourages stronger coordination between agencies and requires targeted training for victims’ advocates, social workers, police and prosecutors in dealing with elder abuse cases. It creates a unified plan to provide training, communicate information and promote awareness of adult and elder maltreatment. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the primary agency responsible for investigating such cases in Kentucky, saw a 22 percent increase in substantiated cases of elder maltreatment in 2004.
SJR 94 directs the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to expand community-based services that are self-directed by the consumer and that promote independence and productivity using evidence-based best practices. The resolution, known as “Windows of Opportunity,” recognizes the efforts of the Cabinet – particularly within the Department for Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MH/MR) and the Department for Medicaid Services (DMS)--to develop a comprehensive Freedom Plan with input from stakeholders to move the Cabinet toward more consumer-oriented approaches that offer greater choice to individuals.
For more information on these bills, see: SB 2, SB 172, HB 278, HB 298 and SJR 94 at the LRC website.