Health

Heartland Health Monitor
2:51 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Budget Crisis Makes Kansas Medicaid Expansion Even Tougher Sell

Kansas’ worsening budget problems are making it harder to generate a legislative discussion about expanding Medicaid.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:08 am
Mon February 2, 2015

Kansas Bill Would Allow Chiropractors To Clear Concussed Athletes For Play

Testimony this week on a bill that would expand who could clear middle school and high school athletes to return to the playing field after a head injury revealed a split between medical doctors and chiropractors.

Currently, the state’s school sports statutes only allow medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine to sign a written clearance following a concussion.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:59 am
Mon February 2, 2015

Nursing Practice Bill Back Before Kansas Senate Committee

Dr. Mary Beth Miller, head of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians Board, told a Kansas Senate committee that advanced practice registered nurses don't have sufficient training to practice on their own.
Credit Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Groups representing nurses and doctors met several times over the summer and fall but couldn’t reach a compromise on legislation to allow nurses with advanced training to practice on their own.

The failed negotiations threw the dispute back into the laps of Kansas lawmakers, who don’t appear eager to settle it.

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Heartland Health Monitor
6:25 am
Mon February 2, 2015

Cerner Completes Purchase Of Siemens Health IT Division

Cerner's North Kansas City headquarters.
Credit Elana Gordon / KCUR

Health information technology giant Cerner has just gotten bigger.

The Kansas City-based company finalized its purchase of Siemens’ Health Services, a health information technology division, on Monday.

With the $1.3 billion all-cash purchase, Cerner increased its payroll by about a third to more than 21,000.

Cerner says the deal, which was announced in August, will boost annual revenues to between $4.8 billion and $5 billion in 2015, up from $3 billion in 2013, the last year for which figures are available.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:35 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Olathe Medical Center Unveils $100 Million Expansion Project

A four-story obstetrics and neonatal intensive care unit is one of several components of an expansion announced Friday by Olathe Medical Center.
Credit HMN Architects and Pixel Foundry

 

Olathe Medical Center on Friday announced the largest expansion in the hospital’s six-decade history, a cradle-to-grave project that calls for new buildings for obstetrics and patients with dementia.

With an estimated price tag of more than $100 million, including buildings and equipment, the project also calls for construction of a new cancer center and expansion of the hospital’s cardiovascular center.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:05 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Kansas Legislators Consider Allowing Access To Drugs In Early Testing Phase

Legislators heard emotional testimony Thursday from an Emporia woman about a bill to allow access to drugs in preliminary federal testing.

They also heard questions about whether the “Right to Try” legislation is sound policy or an ideological quest that will give terminal patients false hope.

Versions of “Right to Try” have passed in Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, Michigan and Louisiana.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:45 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Yoder, Advocates Push For Savings Accounts For Kansas Children With Disabilities

Olathe resident Rachel Mast, 15, spoke Thursday to a House committee. She and Rep. Kevin Yoder, at far right, spoke in favor of a bill to allow tax-exempt savings accounts for Kansas children with disabilities.
Credit Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

 

On a day when Congressman Kevin Yoder testified before a Kansas House committee, it was a 15-year-old Olathe South High School freshman who stole the show.

Rachel Mast, who has Down syndrome, ebulliently encouraged the Children and Seniors Committee to approve a bill to allow tax-exempt savings accounts for Kansas children with disabilities that would not jeopardize their Medicaid benefits.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:30 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Kansas Mental Health Providers Wary Of Effort To Regulate Use Of Drugs

Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, met Wednesday with mental health advocates to discuss potential changes to state regulation of prescription mental health drugs.
Credit Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

 

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is attempting to head off opposition to a bill being crafted to allow the state to regulate the use of prescription mental health drugs.

Kari Bruffett, secretary of KDADS, met Wednesday with the Kansas Mental Health Coalition to ask its members to drop their opposition and instead help her draft a workable bill.

“We are open to having that discussion,” Bruffett said.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:01 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Surgeon General Visits Kansas City, Addresses Immunization, Violence

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was in the Kansas City area Thursday for a "listening tour" and met with reporters.
Credit Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was in town Thursday as part of a “listening tour,” meeting with community leaders, physicians and others to discuss public health concerns. Among the topics they addressed were childhood obesity, violence, prescription drug abuse and access to health care. Murthy, a Harvard-trained physician, was confirmed as the nation’s top public health official in December after the position had been vacant for more than a year. He met with reporters this morning. Here are excerpts from his remarks:

Immunization

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:57 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Children’s Mercy Hospital Dealing With Mysterious Neurologic Condition

13-year-old Billy Sticklen undergoes rehab at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., for a neurological condition.
Credit Mark McDonald / Children's Mercy Hospital

 

 

Children’s Mercy Hospital has a medical mystery on its hands.

Doctors there are trying to figure out what caused a severe neurologic condition between mid-September and early October in three patients, including a 13-year-old from Joplin, Mo.

And like other researchers around the country, they’re trying to figure out if the condition – which the medical community has termed acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) – is related to the recent nationwide outbreak of a polio-like virus called enterovirus D68, or EV-D68.

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:24 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Kansas Hospitals Say Feds Willing To Negotiate On Medicaid Expansion

Jeff Korsmo, chief executive of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, spoke about Medicaid expansion this week before a Kansas legislative committee.
Credit Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A group of Kansas hospital leaders is doing what Gov. Sam Brownback has so far declined to do: negotiate with federal officials on Medicaid expansion.

A delegation of hospital executives recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and outline an expansion proposal they are developing for Brownback and Kansas lawmakers to consider this session. 

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:36 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Kansas City Program Focuses On ‘Healthy Women, Healthy Babies’

Erica Hardin holds her 3-month-old son, Marcus, at home.
Credit Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

 

Faced with a surprise pregnancy – and then feeling the pressure of transitioning from an independent woman to a new mom – Erica Hardin struggled mentally and financially after the birth of her daughter.

Much to her relief, Kansas City had a program aimed at reducing disparities in infant mortality and post-birth complications between minorities and the general population.

Known as Healthy Start, home visits through the program provided Hardin with everything from moral support to diapers and instructions on applying for food stamps.

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Heartland Health Monitor
6:00 am
Wed January 28, 2015

When Is Genomic Sequencing Worth The Cost?

Earl McWilliams hugs his daughter Millie, who has a rare genetic disorder.
Credit Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Millie McWilliams comes to life when she listens to the party music of Jason Aldean. The 9-year-old discovered the country-pop superstar at a family friend’s house, and her love of the genre came as a bit of a surprise to her parents.

“I’ve actually gotten into it because of her!” Earl McWilliams says. “You know, that’s how it is with your kids. You find yourself interested in whatever they’re interested in, just to stay connected to them.”

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Heartland Health Monitor
12:17 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Fight Looms Over Kansas Renewable Energy Standards

Environmental activists and wind industry representatives in Kansas are girding for another fight over the state's renewable energy standards.
Credit Westar Energy

 

Rep. John Whitmer says he didn’t follow the ongoing debate on whether to repeal the state’s renewable energy standards before he arrived in the Legislature this month.

But as a new member of the House Energy and Environment Committee, Whitmer said he anticipates being immersed in the debate soon. 

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll hear about it,” he said with a laugh. “I’m sure it will come up.”

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:46 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Kansas Geological Survey Suspects Quakes Caused By Oil, Gas Practices

Officials with the Kansas Geological Survey told legislators Monday they suspect recent earthquakes were caused by oil and gas production practices.

Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey, said a byproduct of the drilling process that is disposed of in wells could be increasing seismic activity in the state.

“The scientific and regulatory community is focused on salt water from these disposal wells as a possible cause of the seismicity,” he said.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:55 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Health Care Foundation To Fund Computer Links for Safety Net Clinics

Money from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City will enable Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center to share patient data electronically with health care providers.
Credit Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center

 

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City will help three Kansas City safety net clinics share patient data electronically with providers throughout Missouri.

The foundation said in a news release Monday that it’s paying $375,000 to hook up Swope Health System, Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center and KC CARE Clinic to Missouri Health Connection (MHC).

The funding will also help another Kansas City nonprofit, Artists Helping the Homeless, make referrals to hospitals and clinics via encrypted emails.

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Heartland Health Monitor
3:14 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Missouri Medicaid Expansion For Veterans Gets Mixed Reviews

Republican Missouri State Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City announced Tuesday a plan that would expand Medicaid for veterans and their families.

At a press event at the Capitol, Silvey introduced the Veteran’s Family Healthcare Act, which would provide Medicaid coverage for veterans, their spouses and dependent children with incomes between 19 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

“If we can’t solve the whole problem, let’s solve a piece of it,” Silvey said.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:21 am
Thu January 22, 2015

ACA Enrollment Up In Kansas And Missouri, Though Pace Slow

Thousands of Kansans and Missourians signed up for insurance on the federal exchange last week, though the pace has slowed since the first several robust weeks of the second Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

New figures released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services show that during the week ending Jan. 16, 11,797 new or renewing enrollees in Missouri brought the state total to 209,336.

The total in Kansas reached 80,064 with the addition of 4,228 signing up.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:42 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Debate On Licensing Mid-Level Dental Providers in Kansas Resumes

Advocates for allowing dental hygienists with advanced training to perform a broader range of procedures in Kansas gathered Wednesday at the Statehouse.
Credit Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Advocates for allowing dental hygienists with advanced training to perform a broader range of procedures are now in their fifth year of trying to convince legislators to approve the necessary changes in state law.

Wearing bright yellow and black scarves, they rallied Wednesday morning and then headed for meetings with legislators to press their case for expanding access to services in a state where 95 of 105 counties have a shortage of dental providers .

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Heartland Health Monitor
3:41 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

New Kansas Insurance Commissioner Strives For A 'Robust' Market

After taking office as Kansas insurance commissioner, Ken Selzer said he'd like to bring more insurance companies to the state.
Credit Ashley Booker / KHI News Service

After taking his new role as Kansas insurance commissioner, Ken Selzer stressed that he will work toward providing Kansas consumers with a more robust insurance market.

Selzer said recruiting insurance companies to move to the state will give consumers more options.

“We are always going to find other ways to help the industry be more vibrant, more aggressive, more productive on behalf of consumers,” Selzer said last week while speaking to the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. “The end game is to always take care of the consumers.” 

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Health
6:18 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Rating of Kansas Nursing Homes Comes Up With 12 High Performers

Credit BigStock image

Twelve of the 345 nursing homes in Kansas meet Kansas Advocates for Better Care criteria for high-performing facilities, according to the organization’s annual evaluation. Another 66 were deemed low-performing.

“The nursing home industry is fond of saying that quality-of-care standards are too high and that they can’t be met,” said Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care. “But here are 12 facilities that clearly have done just that."

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:27 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Two Flu-Related Deaths Reported At Children’s Mercy Hospital

This winter’s flu epidemic appears to have peaked, but the virus remains highly dangerous.

At a news conference Friday, Children’s Mercy Hospital pediatrician Robyn Livingston said two young patients had died of complications related to the flu. She did not provide specific patient information, citing privacy reasons.

She said, however, that flu deaths among children tend to be complicated cases. 

“Most of the children that have bad outcomes have underlying medical conditions,” Livingston said.

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:57 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Brownback Budget Includes Medicaid Changes, Tobacco Tax Increase

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration outlined a sweeping budget plan Friday that includes changes to Medicaid and increases in the state’s tobacco and alcohol taxes.

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said closing a $650 million budget gap will require new tax revenue and slowed expenses in the state’s “three major cost drivers”: public schools, public employee pensions and Medicaid.

“It is time to make additional changes to both better the care coordination of 400,000-plus members in Medicaid and, second, to further bend down the cost curve in Medicaid,” Sullivan said.

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:41 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Health Groups Declare Support For Kansas Cigarette Tax Increase

Credit Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

 

A coalition of health organizations is supporting Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s call for a big increase in the state’s cigarette tax.

Brownback is proposing to raise the tax by $1.50 per pack, increasing it from 79 cents to $2.29. The governor wants to use the approximately $81 million in additional revenue to close a gaping hole in the fiscal 2016 budget.

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:35 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Twin Births Peak At Saint Luke’s East Hospital

Jennifer Vaughn, of Lee's Summit, Mo., holds her newborn girls, Brooke (left) and Peyton Koehler, one of six sets of twins born at Saint Luke's East Hospital within the past month.
Credit Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

 

When Jennifer Vaughn delivered identical twin girls at Saint Luke’s East Hospital last week, she and her husband were not that surprised – and it wasn’t just because of the sonograms or because she had dreamt of having twins even before the ultrasounds.

“My husband and I have always been fascinated with twins,” Vaughn said Thursday at the Lee’s Summit, Mo., hospital, where she was holding Brooke and Peyton Koehler, both of whom weighed less than 5 pounds at birth. “I guess it was meant to be.”

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:24 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Medical Marijuana Supporters Rally In Topeka

A Kansas Senate committee will hold informational hearings on legalizing medical marijuana.
Credit Danny Danko / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

About 50 supporters of medical marijuana rallied Thursday at the Statehouse amid news that a Senate committee has scheduled informational hearings on the issue.

Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, and Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, have introduced bills that would allow marijuana use to treat a range of illnesses and symptoms. 

The last hearing on a medical marijuana bill in Kansas was in 2012. The briefings scheduled next week in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee are not formal bill hearings, but Finney remains encouraged.

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Heartland Health Monitor
11:06 am
Thu January 15, 2015

ACA Insurance Enrollment Nearly Doubles In Missouri And Kansas

The number of Missourians and Kansans signing up for private health insurance in the federal marketplace has surpassed last year’s numbers, and enrollment continues at a steady clip.

Figures released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that nearly 76,000 Kansans and nearly 198,000 Missourians chose a health plan or re-enrolled on HealthCare.gov between the start of open enrollment on Nov. 15 and Jan. 9.

Enrollment in both states has surged about 94 percent in the last month.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:54 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Judge Blocks Minimum Wage, Overtime Rule For Medicaid In-Home Caregivers

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked implementation of a U.S. Department of Labor regulation that would have required state Medicaid programs to pay in-home care workers minimum wage and overtime.

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:21 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Rural Kansas Hospitals Say They Face Uncertain Future Without Medicaid Expansion

Experts on rural Kansas hospitals made dire predictions about their fiscal futures in a legislative hearing Wednesday that laid the groundwork for a discussion of Medicaid expansion.

Rep. Tom Sloan, chairman of the Vision 2020 Committee, said that he’s trying to start a discussion about crafting an expansion plan that addresses the needs of stakeholders and the concerns of those wary of its connections to the Affordable Care Act.

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Heartland Health Monitor
12:59 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Kansas Wind Farms Demonstrate Potential

The Post Rock wind farm sits on about 9,500 acres in Ellsworth and Linn counties. It was one of three Kansas wind farm that ran at nearly 50 percent capacity in 2013.
Credit Westar Energy

 

A trio of wind farms in central Kansas ran at nearly 50 percent capacity in 2013, which one Kansas senator says is a positive sign for the state’s young wind industry.

Sen. Marci Francisco said the relatively high capacity-factor rates for the two Smoky Hills wind farms and neighboring Post Rock wind farm mean that the area just west of Salina where they were built has particularly good wind power potential.

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