Health

Health
3:01 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

KanCare Payments To Rural Hospital Smooth Out

With 60 employees and a $3 million annual budget, Hanover Hospital was owed $140,000 by the three insurance companies Kansas contracted with to administer Medicaid.
Credit Andy Marso / KHI News Service

 

A small rural hospital in Hanover, Kan., is on more stable financial footing after one of the private insurance companies administering the state's Medicaid system paid its outstanding claims.

Roger Warren, a physician who runs Hanover Hospital, said last month that $140,000 in outstanding claims from the managed care organizations operating the state' Medicaid program, KanCare, were hampering his ability to pay bills. The $140,000 represented more than half of the facility's monthly operating budget.

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:52 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Medical PACs Boost Candidates With Health Care Ties

Brian Caswell is a Democrat running against a Republican incumbent for a seat in the Kansas House — a tall order in most of the state's 125 districts.

But according to Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission filings, Caswell, of Baxter Springs, raised more money than his primary opponent, Rep. Michael Houser of Columbus, before the primary races this year. And by the July 24 reporting deadline, Caswell's campaign was nearly as well-funded as Houser's, despite the incumbent's cash-on-hand head start.

Caswell's secret?

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Heartland Health Monitor
1:11 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Kansas Medical PACs Concentrate Spending On Incumbents

Political action committees for medically related groups in Kansas tended to throw their money behind incumbent House members before this year’s primary — even if those members did not support all of the groups’ political initiatives.

Fifteen medically related PACs raised about $253,000 and spent about $125,000 this year in the reporting period that ended July 24. Updated reports are due to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on Oct. 23, before the upcoming general election.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:00 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Kansas Seeks To Address Prison Guard ‘Correctional Fatigue’

John Bates has spent more than a decade working as a correctional officer in one of Kansas’ major prisons.
Credit Julie Denesha

    

A new program in Kansas aims to improve conditions in prisons, but it’s not for inmates. The state Department of Corrections is one of many prison and jail systems around the country working to overcome “correctional fatigue” — the mental and physical stress that lead to corrections workers burning out.

From Orange Is The New Black to Shawshank Redemption to Cool Hand Luke, prison guards often have gotten a bad rap as some of the worst bullies featured on television and in the movies.

And that rankles John Bates.

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:37 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Governor's Office Declines To Support Early Childhood Grant

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is not ready to support the Kansas Children’s Cabinet’s attempt to win a federal grant aimed at bolstering early childhood education.

The governor’s decision to withhold support for the grant application was explained to members of Children's Cabinet in a memo last week from Janice Smith, the group’s executive director.

Smith wrote that on Sept. 11, Brownback administration officials let her know that it would be “unwise to move forward” in applying for a Preschool Development Grant without first conferring with the Kansas Legislature.

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:39 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Praeger Favors Democrat Anderson To Succeed Her As Insurance Commissioner

Dennis Anderson, the Democratic candidate for Kansas insurance commissioner, on Tuesday received a campaign endorsement from incumbent Sandy Praeger, a Republican.
Credit Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

The trend of Kansas Republicans crossing party lines to support Democrats running against GOP conservatives has now reached the insurance commissioner’s race.

Republican incumbent Sandy Praeger, who’s not running for re-election after three terms, endorsed Democrat Dennis Anderson on Tuesday at a campaign event staged at Brewster Place, a Topeka, Kan., retirement community.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:10 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Debate On Health Care Compact Article Heats Up

Tension built Monday as legislators who supported a health care compact bill that would free Kansas from federal health care regulations made a last ditch-effort to pressure a Johnson County advisory board not to publish an article critical of the compact in a county newsletter.

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Heartland Health Monitor
3:11 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Praeger To Cross Party Lines And Endorse Anderson For Kansas Insurance Commissioner

Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican, will endorse Democrat Dennis Anderson on Tuesday, according to a news release issued by Anderson’s campaign.

Anderson is seeking to succeed Praeger as the state’s insurance regulator. He’s running against Republican Ken Selzer, who emerged from a crowded field to capture the GOP nomination in the August primary.

The release issued Monday says that Anderson will “announce the newest endorsement of his campaign,” and goes on to say that both he and Praeger will be available to answer questions.

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:09 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Specialists In South Dakota Use Telehealth System To Give ER Care In Kansas

Michelle Peak, a registered nurse, and other staff at Phillips County Hospital watch their new video link with Avera eEmergency.
Credit Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio

 

A new nurse was on duty a few weeks ago in the emergency room at the Phillips County Hospital in Phillipsburg, Kan., when paramedics arrived with a critically injured patient.

She immediately pushed the red button on some newly installed equipment. Seconds later, a seasoned ER nurse and board-certified doctor sitting at a bank of monitors 380 miles away in Sioux Falls, S.D., were using a high-definition camera and other diagnostic equipment to monitor the patient, give advice and document everything the on-site nurse was doing to save the patient’s life.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:57 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Missouri’s E-Cigarette Veto Override May Lead To Showdown With FDA

Early last Thursday, Missouri legislators overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto of a bill governing electronic cigarettes and the nicotine-infused mixtures they deliver.
Credit Bigstock

Call them e-cigarettes, vapes, e-juices or e-liquids. Just don’t call them tobacco.

Early last Thursday, Missouri legislators overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto of a bill governing electronic cigarettes and the nicotine-infused mixtures they deliver. While the new law bans sales to minors, it also prevents e-cigarettes from being classified as "tobacco products."

“It was operating under the guise of protecting youth, but really it just created a special carve-out for a special interest,” says Traci Kennedy, executive director of Tobacco-Free Missouri.

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Heartland Health Monitor
12:15 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Missouri, Kansas Health Clinics Get $9.6M For Primary Care Services

The Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center has been awarded nearly $270,00 in federal funds to expand primary care services.
Credit Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center

 

Twenty-five health centers in Missouri and 16 in Kansas have been awarded $9.6 million in federal funds to expand primary care services.

The funding is part of $295 million awarded to 1,195 health centers nationwide under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The money is to be used to hire new staff, help the clinics stay open longer and provide services such as oral health, mental and behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:23 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Kansas Lawmakers Upset With Article In Newsletter Opposing Health Care Compact

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, is questioning the Johnson County Commission's intention to publish an article critical of the health care compact supported by the Brownback administration.
Credit File photo

 

A newsletter for Johnson County seniors has become a source of consternation to some legislators, who say an upcoming article critical of the health care compact passed this year unfairly portrays the legislation as a threat to Medicare.

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:17 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Missouri Lawmakers Approve Sales Tax Exemption For Farmers Markets

Vegetables and other products sold at farmer's markets in Missouri will be exempt from sales tax, after a bill veto was overridden by the House and Senate.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Products sold at Missouri farmers markets will be exempt from sales taxes following a veto override by the Republican-led Legislature.

The bill was among a slew of last-minute tax-exemption measures that Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, had vetoed earlier this year as fiscally irresponsible. Republicans said some merely clarified state policy and others helped the state remain economically competitive.

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:30 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Early Signs Show Promise For Rainbow Mental Health Facility, Officials Say

Mattresses lined the walls of the sobering unit shortly after the Rainbow Mental Health Facility reopened in Kansas City, Kan., in April.
Credit Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

 

A reconstituted mental health facility in Kansas City, Kan., has been a financial and therapeutic success in its first five months of operation, officials involved in the transition said Wednesday.

“It’s great news so far,” said Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), “and I think it’s only going to get better.”

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:22 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Fresh Food Tax Exemption On The Table For Missouri Lawmakers

Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday will attempt to override more than 30 bills vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon over the summer.
Credit Danielle Kellogg / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

Missouri lawmakers might sweeten the pot for consumers who want to eat healthy and for the growers who provide the food.

Legislators return to Jefferson City today to reconsider nearly three dozen measures that Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed in this year’s regular session. The veto session could extend to Friday.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:04 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Rare Respiratory Ailment Afflicting Children Appears To Be Waning

Enterovirus D68, a virus causing sickness in children, seems to be waning.
Credit Cynthia Page / Flickr--CC

A respiratory ailment that sent some 500 children to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City appears to be tapering off.

The enterovirus D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. At its peak several weeks ago, Children’s Mercy was seeing 30 patients a day. That number has now fallen to about 15 a day, says hospital spokesman Jake Jacobson.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:39 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

MCOs Continue To Lose Money In KanCare's Second Year

The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013.

Rep. Jim Ward, a member of a KanCare oversight committee who requested the fiscal information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, on Tuesday questioned how long the three companies can sustain such losses.

"These companies can’t keep subsidizing Medicaid to the tune of $100 or $150 million per year, and that’s what’s happening,” said Ward, a Wichita Democrat.

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Heartland Health Monitor
7:00 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Doctor Running For Kansas Office Swears By 'Direct Primary Care' Model

Josh Umbehr has operated a direct medical care practice in Wichita since 2010. Rather than bill insurance companies for his services, he charges a monthly membership fee of $10 for kids and $50 for adults for unlimited visits, texts, phone calls, discounted prescription medications and in-office services.
Credit Kevin Brown

 

Wichita physician Josh Umbehr has never understood the traditional model of health care reimbursement — the one in which doctors and hospitals fill out pages of forms to bill a patient's insurance company for everything from a $3 test to a $30,000 surgery.

“You don’t have car insurance for gasoline," Umbehr said in a recent phone interview. "Why would you have health insurance for family practice?”

With that philosophy in mind, Umbehr has operated on a kind of service plan for the human body since he opened his practice in 2010.

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Heartland Health Monitor
6:14 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Kansas, Missouri Groups Get Grants To Help With ACA Sign-ups

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved will get a $468,000 federal grant to lead the state's efforts again to get residents signed up for health insurance on the online insurance exchanges.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced $60 million in "navigator" grants to 90 organizations nationwide, including KAMU.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:14 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Breastfeeding Advocates To Meet In Wichita

Later this month, breastfeeding advocates from across Kansas will gather in Wichita for a daylong summit on how best to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least six months.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 15 percent of Kansas infants are breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months,” says Katie Ross, program officer with the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (UMHMF). “That’s pretty low compared to a lot of other states.”

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Heartland Health Monitor
4:55 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Unseasonal Virus Afflicting Children May Be Waning

The rare Enterovirus D68, which has afflicted hundreds of children since the start of August, may have peaked.

Children’s Mercy Hospital is currently seeing about 20 patients per day with the breathing difficulties, coughing and fever common to the virus, according to hospital spokesperson Jake Jacobson.

That’s compared with about 30 cases per day a week and a half ago.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the virus in 19 specimens from Kansas City and 11 specimens from Chicago in late August.

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Heartland Health Monitor
3:22 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Health Insurance Marketplace Seeks Citizenship Confirmation From 1,800 Kansans

Federal officials are sending notices to more than 300,000 people — including about 1,800 Kansans — warning them that the health insurance plans they bought on the federal online marketplace will be revoked unless they provide documents that resolve "data inconsistencies" with their citizenship or immigration status.

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Heartland Health Monitor
2:18 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Ottawa Shooting Points Up Need For Police Training To Handle The Mentally Ill

James Green, a second cousin of Joseph Jennings, lights a candle that’s part of a curbside memorial created by Jennings’ friends and family members near the Orscheln Farm & Home store in Ottawa, Kan.
Credit Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

 

Out of the 8,000 full- and part-time law enforcement officers in Kansas, only 1 in 4 have been trained to handle crisis calls involving the mentally ill.

Records show that 80 percent of the nearly 1,800 trained officers work in four high-population counties: Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte.

The other 20 percent — about 360 officers — are spread across police and sheriff’s departments in the remaining 101 counties.

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Heartland Health Monitor
11:45 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Report: Missouri, Kansas Weigh In On The Obese Side

Kansas and Missouri rank among the top 20 most obese states in the nation.
Credit Cookie M / Flickr--CC

Missouri is the 16th most obese state in the nation, according to a report released Thursday.

At No. 19, Kansas doesn’t fare much better.

The 11th annual report on state obesity rankings by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says adult obesity rates increased in six states over the past year, with Mississippi and West Virginia topping the scales. More than a third of adults in those two states – 35.1 percent – are obese, according to the report.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:23 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Kansas Prepping To Push Back On EPA Carbon Reduction Deadline

Kansas may seek an extension of a federal deadline to curb emissions from power plants.
Credit commons.wikipedia.org

 

An official with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said it will be difficult for the state to have a plan in place by the proposed deadline to meet President Obama's order to curb emissions linked to climate change.

Tom Gross, chief of the bureau's air monitoring and planning division, said the rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could leave the state with only one year between the time it becomes final in June 2015 and the time the state has to implement a plan in June 2016.

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Heartland Health Monitor
12:12 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

In Rural Kansas, Doctors And Nurses Provide Care For Patients Hundreds Of Miles Away

Tucked inside a new building in Sioux Falls, S.D., is a workspace that might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago. Doctors and nurses sit in front of banks of video cameras and electronic monitors, ready at a moment's notice to provide real-time care for patients hundreds of miles away. That care is now available in Kansas.

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Heartland Health Monitor
11:17 am
Wed September 3, 2014

Paul Davis Advocates Thorough Exam Of KanCare

Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Tuesday that if elected he would order a "top-to-bottom" review of KanCare.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback spearheaded KanCare, which places the state's 400,000 Medicaid recipients under the administration of three private insurance companies, also known as managed care organizations (MCOs).

The governor has said the program is on track to meet its goal of saving the state $1 billion over five years through care coordination without cutting services, eligibility or provider payments.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:16 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Kickapoo In Race To Stem Tide Of Diabetes

Billy Mills, in white shirt and khaki pants, walks along the new Kickapoo Diabetes Walking Trail during a dedication event. Others participating in the walk included, front from left, Miss Kickapoo Daryl Hooper, Kickapoo Chairman Steve Cadue and fitness director Lucas Holmes.
Credit Phil Cauthon

 

 

It’s early on a Saturday morning and about 100 people – most of them members of the Kickapoo tribe – are gathering for the dedication of a new walking trail on the reservation, situated on about 20,000 acres in the glacial hills of northeast Kansas near Horton.

On hand to help with the ceremony is an athlete whose name may have faded a bit from public memory, but who still qualifies as a living legend here.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:49 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Unseasonal Virus Afflicting Kansas City Kids

Doctors advise thorough hand washing and cough etiquette to counter a rash of respiratory illnesses affecting Kansas City area children.
Credit Sean Winters / Flickr -- Creative Commons

If your child has been coughing or wheezing recently, it may have nothing to do with allergies or asthma.

In the past few weeks, Kansas City hospitals have seen an influx of children suffering from the symptoms of a rare respiratory virus during what is usually the low season for respiratory issues.

“Across the region, emergency rooms have been full, pediatric units have been near capacity across town,” says Dr. Mike Lewis, a University of Kansas Medical Center pediatrician.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:20 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Switch To KanCare Complicates Medicaid Fraud Detection

The state’s privatization of Medicaid is complicating efforts to detect fraud and abuse, according to a recently released report from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office.

The 2014 annual report from the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division says the three private companies managing the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program — called KanCare — are not providing all the information needed for the state to conduct investigations.

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