Bryan Thompson

Bryan Thompson reports for the Heartland Health Monitor team, a reporting collaboration among KCUR Public Media, KCPT Public Television, Kansas Public Radio and KHI News Service. He is based at KPR in Lawrence, Kan.

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Health
7:57 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Wyandotte County At Bottom, Johnson At Top In New Health Rankings

The fifth annual County Health Rankings are out, and the parts of Kansas that have struggled in prior years are still at the bottom of the list.

The rankings provide a clear picture of just how much health depends on social factors like poverty and education.

Johnson County tops the list again this year as the healthiest county in Kansas. Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, of the Kansas Health Institute, says it’s more than just coincidence that the Kansas City suburb is also the state’s wealthiest county.

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Kansas Statehouse
7:47 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Kansas House Passes Bill To Join Effort To Take Control Of ACA Money

The Kansas House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow Kansas to join several other states in an effort to wrest control of health care programs from the federal government.

The Interstate Health Care Compact is in large part a reaction to the Affordable Care Act. The main sponsor of the legislation in the House is Republican Rep. Brett Hildabrand.

“Many of our constituents are looking for any way possible to get out from under the Affordable Care Act, and this is one method for doing that," said Hildabrand.

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Health
9:32 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Atchison Nursing Home Tops State List

The non-profit Kansas Advocates for Better Care is out with its annual list of nursing homes cited by state inspectors for the fewest deficiencies.  The facility at the top of the list is in Atchison, Kan.

The Dooley Center, in Atchison, has not been cited for a single violation the past three years. Mitzi McFatrich, who heads Kansas Advocates for Better Care (KABC), says 20 nursing homes in the state have had five or fewer deficiencies in the last three years.

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Health
7:49 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Kansas Study Links Fitness And Academic Performance

Seaman Middle School students in Topeka, Kan., demonstrate fitness routines in the gymnasium.
Credit Jim McLean / KHI News

A new study show that kids who are physically fit tend to also outperform their more sedentary peers in the classroom. The findings are from the first year of a new program called K-FIT.

The study involved more than 13,000 fourth through ninth graders, at more than 150 schools across Kansas during the 2011-2012 school year.

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Health
8:10 am
Wed January 29, 2014

KU Med Device Could Help People With Traumatic Brain Injury

Randolph Nudo holds the experimental microdevice.
Credit Elissa Monroe / University of Kansas Medical Center

A device invented by scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University may one day restore movement in people with traumatic brain injuries. It works in rats, and researchers are hopeful that the promise won't stop there.

The device is a battery-powered microprocessor designed to record electrical impulses in one part of the brain, and relay them to another part of the brain.

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Health
8:06 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Green Light Expected Soon On Second Phase Of KanCare

People with developmental disabilities gather along with advocates and caretakers at a pre-implementation meeting in Wichita in June 2012.
Credit Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio

A federal Medicaid official says Kansas is making "substantial progress" toward a major expansion of the Medicaid privatization program known as KanCare.

During a statewide teleconference Wednesday, Kansas officials said the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is on the verge of approving the state’s plan to move residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities to the program. It would put residential, employment, and independent living services under the control of the private insurance companies that run KanCare.

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Health
8:28 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Moran Worries ACA Will Cut Care In Rural Kansas

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran says his biggest worry about the Affordable Care Act is that it may ultimately lead to medical care being less available in rural communities.

Moran made the comment during a town hall meeting Thursday in Salina.

Moran was responding to a question about the requirement that women’s reproductive services, including contraceptives, be included in all health insurance plans sold on the exchanges.

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Health
8:13 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Norovirus Confirmed In Kansas Vomiting, Diarrhea Outbreak

A pre-Christmas outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea that sickened almost 300 people in southwest Kansas was caused by norovirus, according to state health officials.

The outbreak has been linked to a Jimmy John's sandwich restaurant in Garden City.

As of Jan. 3, 282 people who ate at the restaurant between Dec. 10 and Dec. 24 reported becoming ill—most of them within 72 hours of eating at Jimmy John’s.

The restaurant voluntarily closed from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 for a thorough cleaning and disinfection.

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Health
6:58 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Obamacare Enrollment Slow In Kansas

To date, about 4000 people in Missouri, and nearly 2000 in Kansas have completed enrollment and selected a healthcare plan through healthcare.gov.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported the numbers Wednesday. Overall, about 365,000 Americans had picked a health insurance plan through the federal website as of Nov. 30.

There was a rocky rollout in October. But, site access has reportedly improved and enrollments have  increased. 

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Health
8:09 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Kansas Child Deaths Lowest On Record

A new report shows the number of child fatalities in Kansas in 2011 was the lowest on record. Those records date back to 1992, when the Child Death Review Board was established.

The annual report from the review board says 391 children died in Kansas in 2011. Of those deaths, 230 were due to natural causes. Almost two-thirds involved babies who died in their first month of life, most of those deaths were due to premature birth and congenital conditions.

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Health
8:01 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Few In Kansas And Missouri Have Bought Insurance On The Exchange

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released the first official tally of how many Americans signed up for health insurance through the new exchanges during their first month of operation.

Enough Kansans have purchased a plan through the website, to fill an entire Kansas town—specifically, the town of Hartford, population 371. That figure led Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts to declare the health law a failure.

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Health
8:00 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Tuberculosis Confirmed In Johnson County

State and local health officials have confirmed a case of tuberculosis in Johnson County, Kan. A patient who was treated at Overland Park Regional Medical Center last September has an active case of the airborne disease.

Officials say spread of the disease requires very close contact with an infected person, so it’s highly unlikely that it has spread to anyone else. Health officials have identified about 100 people who need to be tested for TB, as a precaution.

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Health
7:53 am
Tue November 5, 2013

KU Researchers Use Cellphones To Improve Parenting

A study by researchers at the Universities of Kansas and Notre Dame shows cell phones can be a powerful tool to help reinforce home-based parenting training.

The study focused on parents who experience higher levels of depression, stress and family violence. KU’s Judith Carta says these families need better parenting strategies, yet they’re most at-risk of dropping out of the very programs meant to help them.

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Government
6:59 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Food Assistance Reduced For 316,000 Kansans

The end of October brings an end to a boost in the amount of federal food assistance that's been helping to feed 316,000 Kansans for the past four years. The extra benefits were part of the stimulus bill Congress passed in 2009 to help people recover from the recession.

Barb LaClair, who studies hunger issues at the non-profit Kansas Health Institute, says caseloads suggest low-income Kansans still aren’t seeing a recovery. She says they’re going to have no choice but to rely even more on food banks and food pantries—which are already overextended.

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Health
9:47 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Kansas Seniors Warned About Medicare Scams

The open enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans got underway Monday.  The Kansas Insurance Department says people need to be alert for potential scams.

The concern is heightened this year because the Medicare signup period coincides with the opening of the insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

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Health
8:10 am
Tue October 15, 2013

As Medicare Enrollment Opens, Health Exchanges Confusing Some Seniors

The annual enrollment period for Medicare's prescription drug coverage and privatized Medicare Advantage plans is now open. It's the one time of year when people can make changes to their coverage without being penalized.

This year, many senior citizens have been confused. The enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act started just two weeks ago. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they need to sign up for coverage on the exchange, even though they have Medicare. 

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Health
8:06 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Kansas WIC Checks In Jeopardy Due To Federal Shutdown

If the federal government shutdown continues longer than two more weeks, 70,000 young mothers, babies and preschoolers in Kansas stand to lose access to some of the food they rely on.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has ordered local WIC offices to withhold checks for November and December until federal funding is assured. WIC checks are normally issued for three months at a time. 

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Health
1:54 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

West Nile Virus On the Rise In Kansas

Kansas health officials say the number of residents infected with West Nile virus is on the rise. There have been 32 cases so far this year.

Twelve new cases were reported last week, according to KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow.

"Cases are most common in late summer and early fall months, and until we have that first really hard freeze, you know, mosquitoes are still out there," says Rosenow. "So it’s really important for Kansans to take precautions against mosquito bites."

Education
2:42 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Kansas Supreme Court Hears School Finance Arguments

A lower court's order saying Kansas must add at least $440 million a year to funding for public schools is now in the hands of the Kansas Supreme Court. Attorneys for both sides spent more than three hours Tuesday making their arguments.

Solicitor General Stephen McAllister told the court the judicial system can declare laws unconstitutional, but it doesn’t have the authority to tell the legislature how much they must budget for education.

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Health
9:29 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Obamacare Sign-up Starts, But Questions Linger

The wait for one of the biggest pieces of Obamacare is over. Starting Tuesday, Americans who don't have access to affordable health insurance through their employers can shop for coverage in new online marketplaces, also known as exchanges. The Kansas Insurance Department has been holding meetings across the state to answer questions about the exchange.

Linda Sheppard is the Kansas Insurance Department’s Director of Health Care Policy. She says the state is ready as it can be.

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Health
5:24 am
Tue October 1, 2013

National Budget Battle Threatens Medical Research

Robyn and Maddie Major at AACR Cancer Progress Report, in Washington, D.C.
Credit courtesy of AACR

Maddie Major shouldn’t be alive today. The eight-year-old girl has been fighting a form of leukemia since she was three. Robyn Major, Maddie’s mother, says in spite of chemotherapy, radiation, and even a bone  marrow transplant, Maddie’s cancer kept coming back. 

“In August of 2012, she relapsed for the second time,” says Robyn Major. "It was at that time that we realized conventional therapies weren’t going to offer a cure for Maddie.”

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Health
8:45 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Kansas Hospitals Making Progress On Infections

The first-ever statewide report on infections in Kansas hospitals shows progress against two specific types of infections.

According to the CDC, Americans contract 1.7 million infections every year while being treated in hospitals and 99,000 people die from these infections, adding $30 billion to the nation’s healthcare costs. 

Joey Scaletta directs the Kansas healthcare-associated infections program. He says approximately five of every 100 patients admitted to a hospital contract an infection while there.

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Health
9:35 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Study Says Kansas City Hospital Prices 'Unusually High'

A new study shows that the prices private insurers pay to hospitals vary widely. Not only that, they're much higher than what Medicare pays — especially in Kansas City.

The study, done by the non-profit Center for Studying Health System Change, reviewed actual claims paid for more than $500,000 auto workers and their families in 13 Midwestern metropolitan areas.

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Environment
8:38 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Air Conditioning Failures Plague Kansas Nuclear Plant

Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station, near Burlington, Kan.
Credit NRCgov / Flickr--CC

The Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the only nuclear power plant in Kansas, remains shut down due to problems with an air conditioning compressor. The unit is needed to cool safety-related equipment.

Operators shut down the reactor late Wednesday afternoon, when they noticed abnormal vibration in the compressor while doing maintenance work. 

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Health
7:56 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Group Seeks To Increase Kan. Nursing Home Requirements

A nursing home watchdog group says Kansas nursing home residents would benefit from increased requirements for direct care from nurses and nurse-aides in nursing homes. Current regulations require adequate staffing to provide each resident a minimum of two hours of direct care daily.

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Environment
7:38 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Kan. Nuclear Plant Off 'Watch List', But New Problems Surface

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has taken the only nuclear power plant in Kansas off of its special "watch list" for plants with problems needing closer scrutiny, but some new issues have arisen.

The NRC has listed Wolf Creek in the “degraded performance” category for more than a year. That’s the next-to-the-lowest of four ratings. Those problems have been resolved, and the plant has been upgraded to normal status. 

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Environment
7:39 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Western Kansas Looks To Missouri River For Water

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 1982 proposed a 360-mile canal, with 16 pump stations to propel the water uphill to western Kansas.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Kansas Water Office is preparing to take a fresh look at the idea of transferring surplus Missouri River Water to Western Kansas, where the underground aquifer is being rapidly depleted. 

The study will update a 1982 feasibility study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their report proposed a 360-mile canal with 16 pump stations to propel the water uphill to western Kansas. They estimated the cost at around $8 billion in 1977. 

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Health
12:59 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

E-Cigarette Use Among Kids Doubles In One Year

A nationwide survey of kids in grades six through twelve shows that nearly 1.8 million of them have tried electronic cigarettes, more than double the rate reported the previous year.

The CDC says nearly seven percent of middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes, and more than two percent are current users. Erika Sward of the American Lung Association says the rapid growth is due in large part to an aggressive marketing campaign.

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Health
10:00 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Study: Predictions Of Health Care 'Rate Shock' Are Unfounded

A new study from a non-profit research group says predictions of huge premium increases when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in January are unfounded. 

Kansas is one of 10 states the Rand Corporation studied in detail. The study predicts that by 2016, only 6.6 percent of Kansans too young for Medicare will be uninsured. Without the new law, that figure would be more than 14 percent. 

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Health
9:18 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Infant Mortality Up Slightly In Kansas Last Year

A new research brief by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows a slight increase in the infant mortality rate last year.

Infant mortality refers to babies who die before their first birthday. Although the trend has been downward, Kansas has exceeded the national infant mortality rate every year since 2003. 

KDHE Secretary Robert Moser says last year’s rate was 6.3 deaths per thousand live births.

“That’s relatively low, but unfortunately it’s up slightly from 2011,” says Moser.

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