Dan Margolies

Editor, Heartland Health Monitor

Dan Margolies is editor of Heartland Health Monitor, a reporting collaboration among KCUR, KHI News Service in Topeka, KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, Kan. Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.

Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long…

Ways To Connect

Bigstock

The proportion of Missourians without health insurance fell by 4.3 percentage points from 2013 to the first half of 2015, according to Gallup survey results published Monday.

The rate of uninsured Missourians now stands at 11.4 percent, compared with 15.2 percent in 2013.

The decrease occurred even though Missouri neither expanded Medicaid nor set up its own state-based marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

While health trends in metropolitan Kansas City are generally headed in a positive direction, two exceptions are obesity and diabetes. 

Every county from 2004 to 2011 saw growth in the rates of those conditions. There's a glimmer of good news, however. Measured across shorter time frames, 2004-2007 and 2008-2011, the rates for those conditions have slowed in some counties. 

The leading causes of death in the metropolitan Kansas City area remain heart disease and cancer. Death rates for both, however, declined over the 10 years from 2003 to 2013 — as did the rates for most of the leading causes of death.

One notable exception: Rates of death from Alzheimer's disease rose slightly. Another notable exception: Suicides jumped nearly 30 percent. 

Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI)

One in nine workers in Greater Kansas City works in the health care industry, according to a report compiled by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and released last week. 

It's the area's fastest growing industry, averaging more than 3,000 jobs per year over the last decade. 

And demand over the next five years is only expected to increase — in some cases significantly.

Listed below are the top 25 health-related occupations, along with projected changes over the next five years, annual openings and median hourly earnings. 

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Cerner Corp. on Wednesday landed what’s thought to be one of the biggest health information technology contracts ever awarded.

The Washington Post reported that the 10-year contract for the U.S. Defense Department’s Military Health System was worth $4.3 billion. Bloomberg Business said the contract was valued at as much as $9 billion through 2033.

Cerner beat out archrival Epic Systems for the contract, which calls for Cerner and its partners to upgrade health records for 9.5 million people at more than 50 hospitals and hundreds of clinics in the United States and abroad.

REACH Healthcare Foundation and Mid-America Regional Council

When it comes to health outcomes in the 11-county Kansas City metropolitan area, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

That’s the takeaway from a regional health assessment released Tuesday by the REACH Healthcare Foundation in Merriam, Kansas, which aims to improve health care for the poor and medically underserved.

The good news: Except for obesity and diabetes, health outcome trends in the metro area are improving.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Former employees of two Kansas City-area hospitals who claimed they weren’t paid promised separation benefits after the hospitals were sold to Prime Healthcare Services have agreed to settle their class action lawsuit.

The proposed $550,000 settlement, if approved by the court, would end a case brought by 49 former workers of Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Truman Medical Centers

Editor's note: This is the first of two stories looking at Medicaid expansion in Missouri and Kansas. Today's story looks at the failure to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Tomorrow's story will look at the failure to expand Medicaid in Kansas. On Thursday at 7:25 p.m., KCPT Channel 19 will air a video tied to the stories. 

It’s a sweltering Monday afternoon, and in the emergency room of Truman Medical Centers near downtown Kansas City, a patient complains of excruciating abdominal pain.

The attending physician advises her there’s only so much he can do.

A federal whistleblower lawsuit alleging that one of the companies running KanCare ordered employees to shift KanCare members away from high-cost health care providers has been dismissed.

A one-sentence document filed Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, said that the plaintiff, Jacqueline Leary, and the defendants, Sunflower State Health Plan Inc., its parent company Centene Corp. and three other parties, had stipulated to the dismissal. Each party was to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

BigStock

Missouri must disclose the names of the pharmacy from which it buys lethal injection drugs, a circuit court judge has ruled in yet another case challenging the Department of Corrections’ refusal to provide such information.

Creative Commons-Wikipedia

This story was updated at 2:06 p.m.

Two Kansas City area businessmen accused of bilking consumers out of millions of dollars in a payday lending scheme will be banned from the consumer lending industry under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

According to the FTC, the businessmen, Timothy A. Coppinger and Frampton T. Rowland III, and companies they controlled made fraudulent loans to unwitting payday loan applicants and then used the loans as pretexts to withdraw “finance” charges from the applicants’ bank accounts.

A controversial tax enacted five years ago by Mission, Kansas, has been ruled illegal by the Kansas Court of Appeals.

The so-called transportation utility fee, derided by critics as a “driveway tax,” pays for street and infrastructure maintenance and is imposed on all improved real estate in the city.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court on Thursday ruled that the fee is in fact an excise tax that Kansas law, with certain exceptions, prohibits cities from imposing.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has withdrawn his challenge to same-sex marriage in the state, dismissing his lawsuit against a Johnson County judge who directed clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Schmidt’s move follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Schmidt on Tuesday filed a notice of dismissal of his lawsuit with the Kansas Supreme Court. The two-page document, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v.Hodges, said the action was now moot.

wikimedia commons

Up to Date's Steve Kraske and KCUR Health Editor Dan Margolies analyze the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision supporting the Affordable Care Act.  Hear President Obama's remarks on the decision as well as an account from attorney Madeleine McDonough who was present in the Court to hear the pronouncement.

Reactions to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act – the federal tax subsidies made available through the federal insurance marketplace:

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.): “The Supreme Court has said it again and again: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Today’s decision saves lives. The ACA is helping millions of Americans focus on their families, jobs, and quality of life, instead of worrying about what will happen if they and their family members get hurt or sick. Now I am no lawyer—I am simply a United Methodist preacher. 

Attorneys general in 10 states, including Kansas, have asked a congressional committee to investigate efforts by the Obama administration to “coerce” states to expand their Medicaid programs by withholding unrelated healthcare funds.

Richard Fahey / Flickr--CC

  This story was updated on June 24 at 11:02 a.m. to include the comments of Clark's attorney. 

A Missouri lottery winner who borrowed money from a bank, gave the bank a security interest in the lottery proceeds, defaulted on the loan and then sued the bank on the grounds Missouri’s lottery law prohibits the assignment of lottery prizes has found an unsympathetic ear in the Missouri Court of Appeals.  

Bigstock

It’s shaping up as a make-or-break moment for the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule in a week or two on a challenge to Obamacare subsidies that could affect 6.4 million Americans. That’s roughly how many people obtained tax credits through health insurance exchanges operated by the federal government.

Thirty-four states chose not to set up their own marketplaces, or exchanges, and the lawsuit before the court contends the Affordable Care Act only provides for subsidies through state-operated exchanges.  

A whistleblower lawsuit alleging a Kansas oncologist provided medically unnecessary services is the second suit to question his practices, according to The Wichita Eagle.

The newspaper reported on Sunday that Viran Roger Holden, the former chair of the Mercy Clinic oncology department in Springfield, Missouri, claims he was fired after raising questions about Greg Nanney, a cancer doctor who now works for Central Care Cancer Center in Newton and Great Bend, Kansas, and in Bolivar, Missouri.

Johnson County health officials confirmed that a 19-year-old University of Kansas student who died this weekend had come down with bacterial meningitis.

Leawood resident Haley Drown, who graduated from Blue Valley North High School last year, was pronounced dead on Sunday.

This story was updated at 5:14 p.m. to include comments from a spokeswoman for Cox Medical Center.

Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri, is the latest hospital to come under scrutiny for billing Medicare for a rare form of malnutrition usually seen in third-world countries.

In a report released Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) said not one of the hospital’s 59 claims for the treatment of Kwashiorkor that the OIG reviewed was legitimate.

Story updated at 12:26 p.m.

Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City overbilled Medicare $581,000 over a two-year period, a federal report concludes.

The report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) says the hospital failed to comply with Medicare requirements for 80 of 294 inpatient and outpatient claims reviewed by OIG.

America's Health Rankings Senior Report

Kansas dropped seven places in a report assessing which states are the healthiest for seniors while Missouri moved up one spot.

The third edition of the United Health Foundation’s “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report” rated Kansas 24th in overall health for seniors and Missouri 38th.

The report looked at 35 measures of senior health in categories including behavior, community and environment, policy, clinical care and health outcomes.

Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that Missouri had levied its largest fine ever for insurance law violations against two Aetna companies.

Nixon said Aetna Life Insurance Co. and Aetna Health Insurance Co. had agreed to pay $4.5 million for violating a 2010 state law that requires insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

If Aetna complies with the settlement agreement, $1.5 million of the fine will be suspended, a news release from Nixon’s office said.

A state audit of Jackson County Circuit Court finds continuing weaknesses in its accounting controls and gives it only a “fair” rating.

The report by the office of Missouri State Auditor Nicole R. Galloway comes three years after the court’s administrator was found to have bought nearly $78,000 worth of personal items with a court purchasing card. The administrator, Teresa York, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Although the new court administrator has set up additional internal controls, the audit found persistent problems. It pointed to unbalanced ledgers and $6 million in investments that didn’t comply with state law and the court’s own investment guidelines.

A Johnson County jury rejected the claim that the Kansas City area’s biggest radiology practice violated state antitrust laws but ordered it to pay $718,500 to a prominent radiologist whom it terminated.

The jury deliberated for more than 10 hours before reaching its verdict Friday night after a trial that lasted two weeks.

The University of Kansas Hospital

Dr. William Reed and his wife Mary have donated $1 million toward completion of an addition to The University of Kansas Hospital, KU announced on Friday.  

Reed is chairman of the hospital’s cardiovascular diseases department and helped re-establish its heart transplant program in 2012 with a $1.5 million donation. The addition, the Cambridge North Tower, is under construction just northeast of the hospital complex in Kansas City, Kan.

Chris Potter / Flickr--CC

A Jackson County jury has ordered a debt collection agency to cough up nearly $83 million to a woman it mistakenly pursued to collect a credit card debt of little more than $1,000.

The jury found that Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC, one of the biggest debt buyers in the country, had acted maliciously in suing the woman, Maria Guadalupe Mejia, when the actual holder of the debt was a man with a similar-sounding name.

Rachel a.k. / Flickr--CC

A Missouri inmate who says he was denied parole because, as an atheist, he refused to participate in faith-based substance abuse programs has lost Round 2 of his fight against prison authorities.

Randall Jackson, who was convicted of offenses related to driving while intoxicated, claims prison officials unlawfully conditioned his parole on his attendance in Alcoholics Anonymous, which requires participants to recognize and rely on a “higher power.”

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Health authorities say another nine people have tested positive for tuberculosis after 218 individuals were tested for the infection at Olathe Northwest High School on May 5.

All 218 had been tested previously but were retested due to their potential exposure during the second semester, the authorities said. No additional rounds of testing are planned.

A student came down with the disease in March. More than 300 people were tested shortly afterward and 27 tested positive. Another four tested positive in April.

Pages