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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Lindsborg Police Department

A man involved in a racist incident at a rural Kansas college has been trying to gain a foothold in state politics.

The chalk outlines of bodies and messages including, “Make Lindsborg White Again," scrawled on Bethany College sidewalks earlier this month rattled the campus and surrounding community

A police report of the chalkings from Sept. 3 names Gabriel James Wilson as a suspect.

Courtesy John Fales

The president of the Kansas Dental Association said he has stopped taking patients from two of the state’s three KanCare insurance companies because of a 4 percent Medicaid reimbursement cut initiated by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration.

John Fales, a pediatric dentist from Olathe, said Scion — the dental benefits manager for United HealthCare and Amerigroup — has told him it will implement the cut before it is approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislative auditors said Wednesday they can’t confirm that the Medicaid application backlog numbers state officials have reported are correct.

Applications have been backlogged for about a year following the rocky rollout of a new computer system, an administrative decision that funneled all applications through a single state agency and a larger-than-expected influx of applications during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

University of Kansas researchers plan to use a $1.5 million federal grant to help Kansans with disabilities catch up to their non-disabled peers in several health categories.

Jean Hall, director of KU’s Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies, will lead a team of partners from nonprofit organizations and government agencies to improve physical activity, nutrition and oral health for Kansans with disabilities.

Kansas is one of 19 states to get the grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Like most moms, Judy Talbot has photos and videos of her daughter on her smartphone.

But some of the images Talbot keeps on her phone show her daughter smacking herself in the face repeatedly or strapped to a bed, writhing against restraints with bruises up and down both legs.

“From her kicking,” Talbot explained.

Talbot’s daughter, Jill, is 32 and has autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

 

Familiar sounds filled the air at Blue Valley Northwest High School’s first football practice of the year.

Rock music playing over the sound system. Whistles blaring. Coaches yelling instructions.

But one sound wasn’t present: helmets colliding.

That’s because the Kansas State High School Activities Association, or KSHSAA, approved new rules last year limiting full-contact football practice.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Experts from a variety of fields gathered Wednesday at the Kansas Statehouse for a mental health symposium spurred by an Emporia hospital’s struggle last year to find a psychiatric care bed for a suicidal patient.

House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, a Republican from Emporia, said she was inspired to convene the symposium after hearing from officials at Newman Regional Health.

That hospital nearly lost federal certification after a botched transfer of a patient who was having chest pains and thoughts of suicide.   

Hewlett Packard Enterprises

Computer giant Hewlett Packard Enterprises has entered into a $215 million contract with the state of Kansas to upgrade a Medicaid computer system that tracks patient claims payments to providers.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

John Fasbinder’s dental office was busy on a recent Tuesday.

Three employees helped in the reception area, answering phones and clicking away at computers. Hygienists tended to patients in three dental chairs in the main clinic. Fasbinder and his associate, Seth Cohen, flitted among those patients and others in private rooms set up for more intensive work.

Most days are like this for Fasbinder. At his Prairie Village office, he takes patients on Medicaid — no matter how old they are, what part of Kansas they come from or how difficult they are to treat.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

Primary losses by a Senate Republican leader and a slew of Johnson County conservatives Tuesday night will swing the Kansas Legislature back toward the center. Moderate Republicans won eight state Senate races against more conservative opponents, ousting six incumbents.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a conservative Republican from Hutchinson, had aspirations of being the next Senate president. But former community college president Ed Berger defeated him handily in what was perhaps the most surprising result of the night.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore brushed off two Democrats’ calls for her resignation and defended her agency Wednesday following an audit critical of its oversight of the state’s foster care system.

Gilmore acknowledged that the audit was “negative,” but disputed some of it and said the agency already had started correcting most of the deficiencies cited.

Courtesy Mission Village Living Center

Kansas has not made any advance payments under a program that promised financial help for nursing homes while they wait for residents’ Medicaid applications to process.

Nursing homes were told in March that they could apply for half-payments for their Medicaid-pending residents until the state resolves a backlog of thousands of applications.  

But the state instead has used requests for advance payments to prioritize which Medicaid applications are moved to the front of the processing queue.  

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The state’s Medicaid application backlog is making work more stressful for Angela Moore, executive director of Sharon Lane Health Services in Shawnee.

Moore’s nursing home has 110 employees caring for about 70 elderly and disabled residents, and she has cash flow worries because of persistent problems with the state’s Medicaid eligibility system.

At one point recently she was waiting on Medicaid coverage approval for 17 residents — which means Sharon Lane was providing free care for almost one-fourth of its clients.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

As the 2016 legislative session was winding down in May, Sen. Jake LaTurner sat for an interview on a bench just outside the Old Supreme Courtroom.

The first-term Republican from Pittsburg was still about a half-year away from facing his first reelection challenge. But he could already anticipate one issue that would be big for his campaign.

"Highway 69 is always an issue in the elections," LaTurner said. "If you're a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, whatever your party affiliation is, you better be a supporter of Highway 69."

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Tim DeWeese highlighted Johnson County’s neediest residents Monday while briefing an audience about what the county is losing because Kansas policymakers have declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

DeWeese, executive director of the county’s mental health agency, said there are people living under bridges or “surfing” from couch to couch in the state’s most prosperous county — and they didn’t come in from elsewhere.

“There is a homeless population, here in Johnson County,” he said.

Heartland Health Monitor

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas is seeking more information from the state about its backlog of Medicaid applications to determine whether Kansas is breaking federal rules.

Rocky Nichols, the center’s executive director, said the organization has filed an open records request to examine whether the state is doing what the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires for Medicaid applicants stuck in the backlog.

Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

Public health officials in Wyandotte County and Johnson County say they are seeking funds to continue comprehensive sexual education programs into 2018 after the state declined to renew a federal grant.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

News of a mistake that dropped several thousand Kansans from state Medicaid backlog reports has advocates and Democratic lawmakers questioning the state’s oversight of the contractor blamed for the error.

Kansas officials continue to whittle away at a backlog of Medicaid applications that developed over the past year.

But as they do so, people with expertise in Medicaid eligibility say they’re seeing an increase in incorrect denials.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Eleven agencies that provide support to help Kansas seniors stay in their homes are starting to put some on waiting lists following state budget cuts.

The $2.1 million reduction to the state’s Senior Care Act programs was part of a package of cuts Gov. Sam Brownback made last month after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Brownback and the Legislature have faced several budget crises since enacting large income tax cuts in 2012.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

A Kansas senator says a highway project in his district is back on schedule, drawing protests from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Sam Brownback picked that project over others to help a political ally in an election year.

The project to widen U.S. Highway 69 north of Pittsburg from two lanes to four was one of 25 delayed in April to help balance the state budget.

It sits in the district of Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, who sent an open letter to Brownback decrying the delay.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas tax collections for May fell short of projections by about $74 million, and legislators said Wednesday they fear that will mean more cuts to Medicaid.

The May shortfall comes despite the state’s revenue estimating group revising projections downward for the third consecutive time about six weeks ago.

It wipes out the meager savings Gov. Sam Brownback created when he made cuts two weeks ago after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A proposal to reimburse some KanCare providers at a higher level based on patient outcomes drew skepticism from a crowd of hundreds who gathered Tuesday afternoon in a Topeka hotel ballroom.

Tuesday’s public meeting was the first in a series that state officials are hosting as they prepare to renew their federal application for KanCare, the state’s $3 billion managed care program that privatized all Medicaid services under three insurance companies in 2013.

Similar gatherings are scheduled Wednesday in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita and Thursday in Pittsburg and Hays.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

Most school districts have moved to comply with stricter nutrition standards since the U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed them almost four years ago. 

But many still lack kitchen equipment necessary to make the healthier school breakfasts and lunches appealing.

Courtesy Innara Health

The beginning of May was a roller coaster of emotions for Innara Health CEO Michael Peck.

The results of a promising trial of his company’s NTrainer product, which helps premature babies learn to nurse, were unveiled April 30 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore.

File photo

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer announced Thursday that two companies have filed to sell health insurance plans in Kansas on the individual market, including the federal Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace.

UnitedHealthcare’s announcement that it would be pulling out of the marketplace in 2017 opened the possibility that Kansans who shop there would be left with only one choice of insurer.

State officials have scheduled five meetings to gather public comment on KanCare in advance of renewing contracts to administer the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The contracts currently held by UnitedHealthcare, Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan (a subsidiary of Centene) expire in 2018. Those private insurance companies serve as managed care organizations that operate KanCare.

Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said her agency wants to hear from the public on what to include in the next contracts.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

After another legislative session with no action on Medicaid expansion, advocates in Kansas are turning their attention to the upcoming state elections and urging voters to become more vocal on the issue.

A Monday rally in a Statehouse hearing room drew a standing-room-only crowd. It was better-attended than other similar rallies in the four years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have discretion over whether they expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.”

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration will not fight a legislative directive to postpone the integration of Medicaid waiver services for Kansans with disabilities, according to an email sent by an administration official.

The Legislature passed a budget early Monday that included a provision prohibiting spending in the next fiscal year on any waiver integration plan to be implemented before July 2018.

File photo

The Kansas Legislature added several patient protection measures to a bill allowing “step therapy” for Medicaid drugs before passing the legislation early Monday morning.

Advocates for Kansans with mental illness and other conditions were pleased with the changes but remain concerned about the possible effects of the underlying bill on vulnerable patients.

Step therapy requires Medicaid patients to try the least expensive medications for treating their ailments first. If those fail, they can then “step up” to a more expensive alternative.

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