Andy Marso

Reporter, Kansas News Service

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.

Andy previously covered state government for the Topeka Capital-Journal where he shared the Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award and received the Great Plains Journalism Award for investigative/project reporting.

He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas. He previously wrote for The Olathe News, the St. Cloud Times and the Washington Post. His memoir, “Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me – Then Changed My Life for the Better,” was named a 2014 Kansas Notable Book.

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Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The head of an advocacy group for Kansas providers of disability support services said this week that the Brownback administration is trying to combine Medicaid waivers through a state contract after the Legislature blocked the administration from doing it by statute.

Tim Wood, executive director of Topeka-based Interhab, said the request for bids released Feb. 22 would lead to a major change for Kansans with disabilities and was done quietly without their input.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas public colleges will have to allow firearms on their campuses starting in July. But they’re still battling with the gun lobby over how people should be allowed to carry their guns.

In preparation for the law mandating concealed carry on campuses, the colleges have proposed some restrictions. For example, people carrying a semi-automatic weapon on campuses would not be allowed to keep a round in the chamber.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

For years Kansas Sen. David Haley has introduced bills to stiffen penalties for hate crimes and they’ve gone nowhere.

But Haley and others think his bill might have more urgency this year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on Senate Bill 128 Wednesday, just weeks after a man opened fire on two Indian immigrants in an Olathe bar, wounding one and killing the other.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

An adult stem cell center established by the Kansas Legislature in 2013 is almost ready for its first clinical trial.

Buddhadeb Dawn, executive director of the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, told legislators Tuesday that the trial will focus on treating graft-versus-host disease and will begin after final approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators heard testimony against physician-assisted suicide Monday from a former state representative.

“This is a direction we don’t want to go,” said Steve Brunk, a Republican who represented a Wichita-area district for 12 years. “We value life, and we don’t want to take the step of looking down this corridor where we negate the value of life and we assist people in dying.”

It’s already a felony for physicians to help patients end their lives in Kansas.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas continues to rank among the worst states when it comes to sedating nursing home residents with powerful antipsychotic drugs.

Janell Wohler and Kate Rieth of the Linn Community Nursing Home told their colleagues Tuesday that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Wohler is the administrator and Rieth is the director of nursing at the facility, which has eliminated off-label use of antipsychotics for residents over the last five years.

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When the Kansas Senate comes back after this week’s midsession break, it may consider legislation to form a comprehensive state plan to fight diabetes.

House Bill 2219 would instruct the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to conduct an analysis of state costs from diabetes, identify best practices to prevent and control the condition, and develop a budget to implement those practices.

It also would require the agency to report on the plan’s progress every two years.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Dr. Saeedeh Salmanzadeh became a U.S. citizen at a naturalization ceremony in October 2015.

When the presiding official asked if any of the new citizens wanted to speak, she was one of the first to raise her hand.

By then Salmanzadeh had spent 15 years in America, after leaving her home in Iran where she was a doctor.

She had spent two years with no pay, studying for exams so she could practice in the United States.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The five-year fight over Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to remake Kansas income tax code came to a head Wednesday, and 16 senators voted to let it continue.

With the governor’s signature fiscal accomplishment hanging by a thread, the Kansas Senate fell three votes short in an effort to override a Brownback veto hours after the House did so.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

KanCare is a $3 billion program that provides health insurance to more than 425,000 Kansans — complex and bureaucratic by its nature.

And lately it seems the privatized Medicaid program has drawn more than its share of complaints from Kansas medical providers, beneficiaries and applicants.

Some are the result of a switch in 2013 to management not by the state but instead by three private insurance companies, while others stem from court rulings or policymaker decisions.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

All that Michael Sykes has to show for his months-long quest to get his mother’s nursing home bed covered by Medicaid is a pile of paperwork.

Kansans like Sykes have been facing long waits to find out if they qualify for health coverage under KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. The state has cleared up much of the backlog over the past year, but thousands of applications for long-term care coverage remain hung up.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas House members on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have increased the amount they could get from campaign donors.

House Bill 2011 would have doubled the amount that individuals, political parties and political action committees could donate to candidates in races for everything from the House and Senate to the governor. But the House voted it down 22-101.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators heard concerns from law enforcement groups Wednesday about two immigration bills promoted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The bills seek to enlist state and local officers in efforts to enforce federal immigration law. But the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association said they don’t have the resources to do that and they don’t want to be exposed to costly lawsuits if they wrongfully detain someone under the complex federal regulations.

Both groups said they weren’t consulted before the bills were introduced.

The Kansas Department of Revenue wants legislators to clarify how to tax vaping products. A bill passed to close the 2015 session included a tax on e-cigarettes that has yet to be enforced.
Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Two years after the Kansas Legislature enacted its first special tax on e-cigarettes, the state is still trying to figure out how to enforce it and retailers are still saying they’ll be put out of business if it’s enforced.

The tax — 20 cents per milliliter of vaping liquid — was tacked on to a larger bill at the end of the historically long and grinding 2015 session. There were no public hearings on the tax, which originally was supposed to go into effect in July 2016 but was pushed back to January 2017.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Senate is setting itself up for a wide-ranging floor debate this week on tax plans to end a series of annual budget deficits by raising more revenue.

Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine said the inability to privately rally 21 votes for a plan means it’s time to get ideas out in the open and see what rises to the top.

Rep. Debbie Deere, a Democrat from Lansing and Natalie Scott, a House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee staff member, look on.
Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Virginia Hoft spent Thursday driving from her office in Johnson County to Geary County to set up a youth advocate program — part of an ambitious slate of juvenile justice reforms passed last year.

As she drove back through Topeka, legislators on the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee were having a roundtable discussion about how much they want to change last year’s bill.

The general consensus: Hoft and others like her should keep doing what they’re doing.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says his office has the names of 115 non-citizens who illegally registered or tried to register to vote in Kansas, but he won’t be able to prosecute many of them.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators are weighing plans to restore cuts to Medicaid, but health care providers may not see the extra boost until 2018 or even 2019.

The Senate’s budget committee heard testimony Monday on Senate Bill 94, which would increase a fee on HMO insurance plans to draw down federal funds and replace the cuts made to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators concerned about health issues are doing something unusual in politics these days: getting bipartisan.

Veteran legislators from both parties who lead the House and Senate health committees have formed the Healthy Kansans Caucus.

The first meeting attracted about a dozen lawmakers Friday to a conference room at the Kansas Health Institute in Topeka.

Many of them were elected for the first time in November. One of the freshmen, Rep. Tom Cox, said the new crop of legislators are more interested in problem-solving than partisan wrangling.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is drafting bills to restrict illegal immigration in Kansas while he advises President Donald Trump on the same subject nationally.

Members of the Kansas House and Senate introduced two measures on Kobach’s behalf this week. One bars so-called “sanctuary cities” and the other would instruct the Kansas Highway Patrol to sign an agreement to help the federal Department of Homeland Security with immigration enforcement.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Federal officials are evaluating a state plan to fix problems with disability support services for Kansans in Medicaid.

State officials submitted the plan Tuesday after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified them in December about deficiencies uncovered during audits last year of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Dr. Damon Heybrock’s office doesn’t look like a traditional medical clinic.

Heybrock finished converting a two-story row house into a medical practice in September, putting exam tables in the bedrooms and a centrifuge for lab tests next to the kitchen sink.

Original pieces by Kansas City artists cover the walls of the clinic in Westwood, which Heybrock named Health Studio KC.

The look isn’t the only thing that’s different about his practice — so is the payment method. 

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Public health advocates pushing for Kansas to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products are running into the same opposing arguments they did two years ago.

University of Kansas Cancer Center Director Roy Jensen and others pushed for a $1.50-per-pack tax hike in 2015 and were disappointed when the Legislature ultimately settled on a 50-cent increase.

File Photo

An Oklahoma company said Thursday it has reached an agreement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and won’t have to suspend dental services to about 360 Kansans in nursing homes.

Leaders of Sterling Dental said earlier in the week that they would halt services to Kansans whose Medicaid applications are pending because of payment delays caused by a persistent backlog of applications.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: An update to this story was posted at 5 p.m. Jan. 26.

About 350 elderly and disabled Kansans are suddenly without dental care after an Oklahoma City company informed nursing homes that it was suspending services for Kansas residents whose Medicaid applications are pending.

The company, Sterling Dental, sends dentists to nursing homes in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas for on-site care.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23 with information from legislative hearings.

As Kansas lawmakers move forward with efforts to increase oversight of KanCare, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer says Brownback administration officials are addressing the issues that federal regulators cited in denying a one-year extension of the program last week.

Colyer still says he thinks politics played a role in the decision, which came in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach filed a ninth case of reported voter fraud this week, criminally charging a man who allegedly voted illegally in Kansas and Texas.

A criminal complaint filed in Shawnee County District Court charges Preston G. Christensen with three misdemeanor counts of improper voting between Oct. 19, 2012, to Nov. 6, 2012, in Shawnee County, Kansas.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators are seeking answers from the Brownback administration after federal officials denied a one-year extension of the state’s Medicaid program known as KanCare.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Geological Survey has spent years studying the groundwater levels of the Ogallala Aquifer to determine how long it can continue to support the western Kansas farm economy.

Now the leader of the agency says it’s time to start monitoring the aquifer that the Kansas River produces to see how long it can continue to provide drinking water to the growing population centers in the eastern part of the state.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The Brownback administration has increased advance payments to nursing homes while a backlog of Kansas Medicaid applications persists.

The administration instituted advance payments of 50 percent for nursing homes residents with pending applications last spring, when almost 11,000 applications backed up past the 45-day federal processing limit.

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