New Medicaid Big Dog

Shawn Crouch - Kentucky Medicaid CommissionerKentucky gets a new Meidcaid commissioner. Everything is puppies and rainbows.

Shawn Crouch, formerly chief of staff of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, starts the new job on September 1. This after serving only 15 months in the CHFS job. Taking a quick peek at a Powerpoint presentation Crouch presented last month in Los Angeles, we learn he sings Fletcher’s praises and applauds his “visionary” health reform initiatives.

Trouble is Crouch may be a health insurance industry lackey. He’s worked for CHA and is credited for pushing the state into using a benefits administrator (aka putting an insurance company in the middle of things: allowing the insurance company to make a profit while limiting medications available to patients) for Medicaid pharmacy benefits.

What will become of Medicaid? Is this a good move?

Where there’s smoke…

For as long as there have been politicians in Kentucky, there’s been a powerful lobbying faction working for tobacco farmers. Tobacco farmers have prospered, tobacco interests have profited, and tobacco users have been dying for decades.

Smoker - KentuckyCigarette sales flourish in Kentucky, which ranks first or second in every study ranking states by per capita rates for lung cancer and other smoking-related deaths. Two years ago, Kentucky’s legislature passed an increase on cigarette taxes, lifting the state out of last place by boosting the tax from three cents to 30 cents.

The adversity faced by tobacco interests has never been stronger than it is today, and their ability to hold politicians accountable to them is wavering. Earlier this month, a pair of Kentucky congressmen voted for a 45-cent national tax on cigarettes in Congress. Ben Chandler, whose district represents many of those farmers, apparently felt the virtues of the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act outweighed the risks at home of voting against big tobacco.

Read moreWhere there’s smoke…

Exclusive: Michael Kelley to face Geoff Davis in KY-4

Davis not looking like such a shoo-in anymore?

Page One has learned there is a challenger for 4th District Congressman Geoff Davis (R), something that may surprise readers of the Kentucky Enquirer. In his Sunday column, Pat Crowley wrote that no candidate has stepped forward to face Rep. Davis in 2008. Specifically, “Kentucky Democrats struggle to even name any potential challengers to Davis.” We like Pat’s reporting, but we’ve learned Dr. Michael Kelley of Oldham County filed for 2008 candidacy just a few weeks ago, and is set to face Rep. Davis come the fall.

Side Note: Crowley reports Heather French Henry is the only name to surface as a potential challenger, despite, well, many factors. Sources say Henry has repeatedly informed Democratic Party insiders that she will not run for U.S. Congress for career-related reasons and, honestly, why would someone with as solid a career as the former Miss America give that up to run for office?

Our sources say Kelley will not be a candidate just for candidacy’s sake— he won’t be the sacrificial lamb— that he’ll have support similar to that of Ken Lucas in 2006. If you remember the horde of commercials purchased on behalf of Lucas (and the $1.5Million the FEC says he raised that year) you realize this could potentially be big bucks— and aid— for Kelley.

According to a contact at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, “Kelley will garner strong support from the state and national party because he’s not a career politician. He’s not your average hack from Halliburton. He has a simple plan that hits home with the voters and he connects with people on a personal level that career-types like Davis cannot.”

Kelley FamilyPage One sat down with Kelley earlier this month. We’d like to share a portion of the interview with more to come later in the year.

Michael Kelley, 41, is a family man and lifelong Kentuckian. He’s been married to his wife, Gretchen, for eleven years and they have four children together. Three daughters and one son, ages 5, 6, 9, and 10. He is a self-described country physician who graduated from the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine in 1993. In 1997 he joined a small medical practice and as a direct result has become concerned about the flaws in the American health care system. Dr. Kelley is also strongly opposed to Republican-led efforts to prolong the war in Iraq.

The cornerstones of Michael’s plan, which will be released in coming weeks, are as follows:

Read moreExclusive: Michael Kelley to face Geoff Davis in KY-4