Health

A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas officials told legislators Thursday that the state's share of Medicaid expansion costs could start at $100 million per year and increase from there, and those costs could double if the federal government required full funding of waiting lists as a condition of expansion.

One day after her predecessor testified in favor of expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Susan Mosier provided neutral testimony that warned legislators of potential fiscal pitfalls.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Robert Moser, who until December was the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, headlined a long list of Kansans asking legislators Wednesday to expand Medicaid.

Updated at 1:07 p.m.

State and county health officials will provide free chest x-rays and antibiotics to more than two dozen Olathe Northwest High School students and staff who tested positive for tuberculosis.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment teamed up to test more than 300 people at Olathe Northwest after a student contract tuberculosis earlier this month.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are finally getting an opportunity to make their case to lawmakers.

Republican legislative leaders opposed to expansion have blocked hearings on the issue for two years. They agreed to allow hearings this year only after supporters in the Kansas House threatened to force an immediate vote on the floor.

Noah Jeppson / Flickr--CC

Thousands of Missouri residents who may have been exposed to asbestos in the Jackson County Courthouse over more than three decades will now get their day in court.

The Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s decision declining to certify a class consisting of Missourians who worked at the courthouse during and after the courthouse’s renovation in 1983 and 1984.

The state of Kansas and four nonprofit organizations are seeking federal approval to conduct an experiment that they hope will boost participation in a summer meals program that now is serving only a fraction of eligible children.

Led by the Kansas State Department of Education, the coalition is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to temporarily waive some rules so that it can conduct a demonstration project to feed needy children in rural parts of the state when school is out for the summer.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Yahye Mohamed wants to be a surgeon when he grows up, but the shoe was on the other foot Monday when he attended a health fair at his public housing complex in Kansas City, Mo.

Or, to be more precise, some hands were in his mouth.

Shortly after he hopped aboard Truman Medical Centers’ mobile dental bus, parked at the Chouteau Courts development at 586 Tracy Ave., Yahye, 10, was in an exam chair.

The experience left the Garfield Elementary fourth-grader with mixed feelings.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Parenting is a tough job for anyone, but raising children with autism, who often have behavioral or communication problems, can be especially demanding.

Research has shown that parents of children with autism are at increased risk of depression.

But in Kansas City, some of these mothers and fathers are finding a measure of respite, and sympathetic ears, through comedy.

On a recent Thursday night, a handful of parents with kids who have autism took a break from parenting and faced down their latest challenge: stage fright.

Blue Bell Creamery

The foodborne listeria outbreak that sickened five patients and contributed to the deaths of three at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita was traced to a production line at Blue Bell Creameries' ice cream plant in Brenham, Texas.

Kansas health officials say that they initially matched the listeria found in two patients at Via Christi with listeria found in an ice cream product food sample in South Carolina. Around the same time, Texas health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had traced the South Carolina listeria to the plant in Brenham.

Three Kansans have died from an outbreak of listeriosis, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Friday.

Five Kansans became ill between January 2014 and January 2015 after a majority of them ate Blue Bell Creameries ice cream products at the same hospital, KDHE said. The five patients had been hospitalized for unrelated causes. KSN-TV in Wichita reported on Friday that the ice cream was shipped to Via Christi Hospital in Wichita. 

The Kansas Department of Agriculture has quarantined parts of two counties in the southeast corner of the state in response to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The quarantine is aimed at keeping the bird disease out of Kansas.

Paul Sableman / Creative Commons-Flickr

The University of Kansas Hospital is opening what hospital officials say is the first urgent care clinic in the downtown core of Kansas City, Mo.

Set to open on Monday, the clinic will be housed in the lobby of the Sprint Center, next to the College Basketball Experience.

In a news release, KU Hospital said the decision to open a clinic downtown was driven by the growing number of people working and living there.

Available to patients older than 6 months, the clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional hours might be added.

File photo

Millions of veterans nationwide now have a card that’s supposed to improve their access to health care. But a Kansas senator and some other members of Congress doubt the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is really serious about the new Veterans Choice Program.

The program is meant to let veterans get care from private providers if they live at least 40 miles from a VA health care facility or if they face a wait of more than 30 days for an appointment.

Kansas lawmakers are preparing to vote on a bill that would further tighten the rules for the state’s two main public assistance programs.

The measure, which the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee endorsed on Wednesday, writes into state law several recent administrative changes made as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s welfare to work initiative.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

In Indiana, low-income people can open health savings accounts.

Utah lawmakers are building work participation and co-pays into their Medicaid overhaul.

Iowa will charge a monthly premium – and crack down on the costly practice of using emergency rooms for non-emergency care.

But as other deep-red states agree to expand Medicaid within their borders, Gov. Jay Nixon says Missouri is leaving federal health care dollars on the table.

A federal judge has thrown out Centene Corp.’s abuse-of-process claim against a former employee who alleged she was fired after complaining about the managed care company’s business practices. 

Centene is the parent company of Sunflower State Health Plan Inc., one of three for-profit companies managing KanCare, Kansas’ privatized version of Medicaid.

An Overland Park business has been ensnared in a crackdown on compounding pharmacies that make products containing a drug used to boost lactation in breastfeeding women.

The Food and Drug Administration last month issued a warning letter to Perry Drug Inc. citing it for compounding drug products containing domperidone, a drug not approved by the FDA.

Although domperidone is approved in several countries to treat gastric disorders, it is not approved anywhere to enhance breast milk production.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas legislators are trying to determine what they should do, if anything, to regulate hookah.

But first, several of them have to determine exactly what hookah is.

“Having lived a very sheltered life in southeast Kansas, I had to Google this to even find out what it was,” Rep. Jim Kelly, a Republican from Independence, said during an informational hearing on the subject last week.

Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco.

To Hani Chahine, they’re also a focal point for social gatherings and commerce.

Twice as many Kansans and Missourians signed up for health insurance this year under the Affordable Care Act compared with the first enrollment period last year, new figures released Tuesday show.

More than 250,000 Missourians and nearly 100,000 Kansans selected plans on the federal insurance exchange, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The data reflects complete enrollment numbers for the period from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, and includes additional special enrollment activity through Feb. 22.

Organizations that advocate on behalf of Kansas adults and children with mental illnesses are asking legislators to adopt a proviso that would protect their budgets for at least another year.

“We are having those conversations now,” said Rick Cagan, executive director with the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The conversations, he said, are on behalf of NAMI and Keys for Networking, a program that counsels families with children with severe emotional disturbances.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

In the pediatric clinic at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, nurse Constance Grayson gives newborn-care instructions to a jittery-looking young couple.

Samuel U. Rodgers is one of Kansas City’s largest safety net health clinics, and the doctors and nurses here take pride in offering care to all. That means learning to expect the unexpected.

But cuts in funding are something else, according to CEO Hilda Fuentes, who  recently got a letter explaining that the money she gets from the city would be cut this fiscal year by more than 10 percent, or about $167,000.

Mark Lennihan / AP

A university researcher says his data suggests a proposed tax increase on cigarettes would provide a stable revenue stream for the state while also generating big saving on health care costs.

Frank Chaloupka, an economics professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the $1.50-per-pack increase would cause some Kansans to quit smoking, but not enough to offset the revenue gained from those who continue. The savings in health care costs from those who do quit could amount to $1 billion over five years.

Johnson County Emergency Medical Services System

Six area hospitals have signed on to become paying partners in a Johnson County program aimed at providing the high-quality care to patients in need of emergency services.

Under an inter-local agreement approved Thursday by the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, the hospitals will contribute nearly $130,000 annually to the Medical Director Program.

The program has an annual budget of about $350,000. The hospitals’ contributions will replace an operating subsidy from the county.

Kansas midwives who say they can safely help women deliver babies without formal physician partnerships made their case this week before a legislative committee.

In a presentation that noted that midwifery dates back to ancient times, Johnson County midwife Catherine Gordon told the House Health and Human Services Committee that more women nationwide are turning to midwives rather than hospitals to help them during childbirth.

“What you’re going to see is a huge change in the U.S.,” Gordon said. “It’s already happening.”

KHI News Service photo

News that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has softened his position on Medicaid expansion wasn’t exactly racing through the Statehouse on Thursday.

But it certainly had some legislators buzzing.

In remarks Wednesday to conservative lawmakers in Missouri, Brownback said if the Kansas Legislature presented him with a budget-neutral expansion bill, he would likely sign it, according to a report in the Missouri Times.

Bills that would further tighten eligibility for public assistance programs will be among the first that Kansas lawmakers consider this week when they return to the Capitol from a short mid-session break.

The bills — House Bill 2381 — and Senate Bill 256 ­— would write into state law several controversial administrative changes made in recent years as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to move people from welfare to work.

BigStock

A 14-year-old Washington boy died of leukemia in 2007 after a judge ruled the state could not compel him or his legal guardian to accept blood transfusions that ran counter to their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses .

An Olathe high school student has contracted tuberculosis and is being treated, state and local health officials said Wednesday.

The student, who was not identified, attends Olathe Northwest High School. Health officials said in a news release that the student was complying with isolation procedures.

More than 300,000 consumers in Kansas and Missouri have a stake in the case argued Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court over a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The vast majority of people who purchased Affordable Care Act coverage in both states qualified for federal tax credits. But they could lose those credits if the court rules that only consumers using state-based marketplaces are entitled to them.

Kansas Sen. Molly Baumgardner thought it’d be great if a dozen — maybe two dozen — people showed up for a town hall meeting she’d convened in Osawatomie to talk about conditions at the state mental health hospital.

“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety, I know,” she said. “People are afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they say anything.”

So it was “wonderful,” Baumgardner said, when nearly 100 people — current and former hospital employees, mostly — turned out for the 90-minute discussion Monday evening in Memorial Hall near the city’s historic John Brown Memorial Park.

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