Meg Wingerter

Reporter, Kansas News Service

Meg Wingerter is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.

Previously, she was a business reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal where she covered the state economy, agriculture and healthcare.

Before moving to Topeka, Meg was a reporter for The Muskegon Chronicle and The State News in Michigan. Meg has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Chinese from Michigan State University.

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Photo by Kansas Action for Children

Babies in midsize Kansas counties were more likely to die before their first birthdays than those in counties with larger or smaller populations, according to the 2016 Kids Count report.

The annual report, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compares states and counties on a variety of measures related to children’s health, financial well-being and educational prospects. In some cases, the most recent data was from 2015, while in others it was from 2014.

Kansas families who buy health insurance through the online marketplace for 2017 could pay $20,000 or more if they have serious medical problems, according to federal data.

Most families likely won’t pay that much because they qualify for subsidies, but the information shows that even low-premium plans can become costly.

File photo

Nine months after Osawatomie State Hospital lost its federal payments, all rooms are back online after renovations and the state is looking at partnerships to address some of its long-term struggles.

The state hospital — one of two in Kansas for patients with severe mental health issues — has shown progress on several problems that led to the loss of Medicare payments, though it isn’t clear when it could receive federal payments again. 

American Hospital Association/Health Research and Educational Trust

As part of a federal quality improvement effort, Kansas hospitals are reducing the odds that patients will get certain types of infections.

And while that effort provides information on hospital quality throughout the state, finding information about the quality of care at individual hospitals remains a challenge.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Two community mental health centers in Kansas hope a new program will help young people recently diagnosed with schizophrenia avoid its possible complications — a higher risk of unemployment, homelessness and incarceration and lower life expectancy — and achieve goals for school, work and their personal lives. 

Brad Nading

After a series of hits to their budgets, community mental health centers in Kansas are adjusting through cutbacks, changes in services or a combination of the two.

In Topeka, Valeo Behavioral Health Care plans to limit sessions for uninsured patients. Valeo provided about $2 million in charitable care last year but can’t offer that much this year because of cuts to Medicaid and other revenue streams, CEO Bill Persinger says.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fellman says a chance passerby — or, perhaps, divine intervention — kept him alive when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder became overwhelming.

Fellman, a combat veteran of the Iraq War who spoke Friday at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs summit in Topeka about mental health care, said he had planned to die on July 31, 2015.

Megan Hart

A Saline County, Kansas mom has a message for state officials wrestling with a difficult budget: Leave an autism diagnosis program alone.

Allison, who wanted to be identified only by her first name to protect her family’s privacy, said a telemedicine program — funded in part by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet —made it easier to find out if autism was behind her 9-year-old son’s behavioral symptoms.

File photo

The waiting list for Medicaid services for Kansans with physical disabilities has dropped by more than 1,700 since last year but hasn’t budged for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

In July, 3,450 Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities were waiting for home and community-based services provided through Medicaid, as were 10 Kansans with physical disabilities.

Heartland Health Monitor

Nine Kansas medical practices and collaborative groups will participate in an experiment to find out if doctors could do a better job preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The leaders of some Kansas community mental health centers say they are having trouble getting paid for some Medicaid services they believe their clients need.

Brenda Mills, CEO of Family Service and Guidance Center, a Topeka-based community mental health center that serves children, spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

Heartland Health Monitor file photo

Gov. Sam Brownback intends to take the “interim” off Tim Keck’s title.

Keck has served as interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services since January. He previously had worked as deputy chief counsel for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Courtesy Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted a months-long investigation into what led federal officials to deem Osawatomie State Hospital as a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the fifth and final story of the series.

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Years of problems at Osawatomie State Hospital reached a crisis point in the fall of 2015, when the sexual assault of a hospital employee by a patient triggered two failed inspections and the loss of federal funding.

Kansas had relied more on OSH after it reduced the number of state hospital beds in the 1990s. The idea was to put more money into community mental health services, but that hadn’t happened since the early 2000s — and those services actually lost money during the Great Recession. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A top Kansas official said he hesitates to propose renovating all of Osawatomie State Hospital until he knows federal inspectors will give the state a “fair shake.”

Federal officials cut Medicare payments to OSH in December after inspectors found safety issues, including patients assaulting one another and the sexual assault of an employee. Losing the payments has cost the state about $1 million per month.

Heartland Health Monitor

Administrators at Osawatomie State Hospital worked to maintain a delicate balance in 2011 as they struggled to cope with rising demand for care and funding that hadn’t kept up.

OSH superintendents had credited the facility’s experienced workforce for pulling it through lean times before, but that key source of stability soon would be diminished.

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted a months-long investigation into what led federal officials to deem Osawatomie State Hospital a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the second story in a series.

Kansas State Historical Society

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted dozens of interviews to chart how Osawatomie State Hospital went from a respected facility to one that federal officials deemed too unsafe for Medicare patients and how the hospital could rebuild for the future. This is the first story in a series resulting from that investigation.

The final federal inspections of Osawatomie State Hospital in 2015 painted a picture of a place where both employees and patients were in danger and low staffing levels compromised care.

Healthcare.gov

Almost nine out of every 10 Kansans and Missourians who selected health insurance on the federal online marketplace paid for at least the first month of their coverage this year, offering one bit of stability in the sometimes-turbulent marketplace.

Critics of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, questioned whether people who signed up for coverage actually would pay their premiums after the exchanges’ troubled rollout in late 2013 and early 2014.

Sarah Long / Joyful Photography

Funding cuts and changes for children’s programs across the state became a reality at the start of this month — and that means fewer Kansas families will receive some services.

An official with TARC, a Shawnee County organization that serves people with developmental disabilities, said the nonprofit was out of options for administrative cuts in the wake of state funding reductions.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Physicians associated with Kansas and Missouri hospitals received about $46 million in payments from drug and medical device companies in 2014, with about 9 percent going to providers in the Kansas City area.

Courtesy Topeka USD 501

Parents as Teachers is receiving the same amount of funding in Kansas as it did last year, but program administrators are concerned they will not be able to continue helping some families due to new rules.

The Legislature this year approved a switch in the funding source for Parents as Teachers from the Children’s Initiatives Fund, a state pool of money paid by tobacco companies, to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) , a federal fund best known for providing cash assistance for a limited time.

Joe Loong / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas health centers will receive about $2.2 million in grants and Missouri health centers, including three in Kansas City, will receive about $7.5 million to improve access to oral health care.

The grants are part of $156 million in federal funding announced Thursday by the Health Resources and Services Administration for health centers in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Coffeyville USD 445

Children’s programs across the state are scrambling to deal with grant cuts that take effect at the start of July.

The cuts come from a $3.3 million reduction in funding for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, which uses the state’s share of the 1998 master settlement agreement with large tobacco companies to provide grants through the Children’s Initiatives Fund for programs for children and families.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals nationwide are facing a host of financial challenges, but states can still take action to keep them open, the head of a rural health group told the Governor’s Rural Health Working Group on Wednesday in Topeka.

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, said people in urban areas have a few explanations for why rural hospitals are struggling: irreversible population decline in rural areas, low-quality care and bad management practices.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated at 8:30 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback trimmed more than $56 million from Medicaid in Kansas as part of larger budget cuts announced Wednesday, raising concerns that health care providers may decide not to take unprofitable patients.

About $38.2 million of the $56.4 million in budget cuts comes from reducing reimbursements by 4 percent for providers who treat patients covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program launched in 2013. The remaining $18.2 million comes from cuts in other areas of the Medicaid program.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

The legislative battle may be over, but the war of words continues about a bill that imposes new restrictions on Kansas welfare recipients.

Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 402 on Monday flanked by legislative supporters of the measure.

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The head of the legal department at Larned State Hospital will be transferred to Topeka later this month, a move that has some western Kansas attorneys concerned the distance could throw a wrench in the process of committing people who need mental health treatment.

America's Health Rankings

Kansas parents do a better-than-average job at getting vaccinations for their young children but don’t fare as well once those children reach their teen years.

That’s according to a report from the United Health Foundation showing about 77 percent of Kansas children had received their recommended sequence of shots by age 3, placing the state in the top 10 for on-time vaccinations. Nationwide, about 72 percent of kids had finished their early vaccines on time. 

File photo

This story was updated at 4:47 p.m.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, is stepping down after 19 years at the nonprofit advocacy organization.

Cotsoradis is leaving to assume “a leadership role” at the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, LLC, according to a KAC news release issued Monday morning. She has served in the top role at KAC for the last six years and recently has been one of the more vocal critics of Gov. Sam Brownback's social policies.

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