Health

KCUR's health team focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas. Working with journalists at other public media stations and news outlets, reporters Dan Margolies and Alex Smith strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Officials with the UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday announced they would bring 500 jobs to Kansas.

Around 150 of the positions will be at OptumRx's Overland Park facility at 6860 West 115th Street, where renovations have opened up a floor full of cubicles waiting to be filled.

"We're very, very deeply committed to Kansas," said John Mahrt, OptumRx's chief operating officer. "Kansas is a fantastic place for our people to live and work."

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The federal agency that oversees Medicaid has agreed to a one-year extension of Kansas’ $3.2 billion KanCare program, which provides managed care services to the state’s Medicaid population.

In a letter dated Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the temporary extension would allow Kansas to continue the privately managed program, which was set to expire on Dec. 31.

Planned Parenthood clinic
File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Just two weeks before new regulations on Missouri abortion providers would take effect, the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates are challenging the provisions in state court.

University of Kansas

A University of Kansas scientist who won a prestigious award last year for her work on antibiotic resistance has chalked up another major achievement. 

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Kansas officials say there is little chance that more than 400,000 Kansans who depend on the state’s Medicaid program will see their services interrupted.

They say they are confident federal officials will approve a critical waiver request before an end-of-the-year deadline.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Geneva Wilson has struggled her entire life with health problems, including a blood disorder, depression and a painful misalignment of the hip joint called hip dysplasia. But she’s found peace living in a small cabin in the woods of western Missouri.

Wilson keeps chickens, raises rabbits and has a garden. She says her long-term goal is to live off her land by selling what she raises at farmers’ markets.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89.3

The same day a federal appeals court overruled itself and voted to block two Missouri abortion restrictions, the state advised Missouri abortion providers that they will have to abide by a new restriction.

A memo dated Oct. 2 from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) says the agency will file emergency rules on Oct. 24 establishing standards for “complication plans” for medication-induced abortions.

Sarah Scantling's daughter, Abilene, was born in Dryersburg, Tennessee, 30 miles from their home in Pemiscot County, Missouri.
Bram Sable-Smith / Side Effects Public Media

When Sarah Scantling went into labor this summer, she had to drive 30 miles and across state lines.

Three years earlier, the only maternity ward where she lives in Pemiscot County, Missouri closed down. Scantling had to choose between a handful of other hospitals in the region between 20 and 70 miles away. She chose to give birth in the hospital in Dyersburg, Tennessee.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A rural hospital administrator in southwest Kansas has taken on the role of go-between for Kansans and immigrants from war-ravaged countries on the other side of the world.

Editor's note: This story was produced in collaboration with UMKC students covering the people and issues in Wyandotte County.

Wyandotte County is one step closer to housing the first dental school in Kansas.

The Kansas Board of Regents last week approved $2.5 million for the project’s architectural plans and construction drawings. The next steps include securing $6.9 million in annual funding from the state Legislature and raising $40 million in a capital campaign.

www.mccaskill.senate.gov

EmCare Holdings, one of the biggest emergency room staffing companies in the country, is facing scrutiny by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has asked it to justify its billing rates.

McCaskill sent a letter last week to the president and CEO of EmCare’s parent company, Envision Healthcare, detailing her concerns, saying that its billing practices “may have contributed to a decline in health care quality and access for patients.”

A prescription drug monitoring program in Kansas will receive a federal grant worth more than $178,000 to help fight the opioid crisis.

The Kansas Board of Pharmacy oversees K-TRACS, a system for monitoring prescriptions for controlled substances.

Board Executive Secretary Alexandra Blasi says doctors, dentists and pharmacists who participate in the program report their prescription activity to the state to verify a patient’s history.

Webber
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

The Missouri Democratic Party announced an ambitious set of health care proposals Tuesday, including expansion of Medicaid and policy changes focused on veterans, women’s health and opioid abuse.

Republicans control the House, Senate and Governor’s office in Missouri, making it unlikely the proposals will be adopted. But Stephen Webber, the party chair, said Democrats still want to present a “positive proactive vision.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Although Steve Foutch likes to joke he started demolition 10 minutes after he got the keys to Kemper Arena from the city, his company held a formal groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19.

Residents of Allen County in Kansas are getting some national recognition for their health-improvement efforts.

The county is one of eight 2017 winners of the Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest public health philanthropy.  

Earl Bullington is an advisor for Focus Bank, which rescued the struggling Pemiscot County Hospital in 2013.
Bram Sable-Smith / for Harvest Public Media

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

Courtesy Kansas Health Institute

Low-income Kansans are less likely to have health insurance than their counterparts in other states, according to an analysis of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Stinson Dean, an entrepreneur from Independence, Missouri, is used to risks. He buys Canadian softwood framing lumber to sell to lumberyards in the US and says coping with the ups and downs of the market is an inevitable part of doing business.

But when he started the company about a year and a half ago, he laid down a firm rule.

“One of the things I wasn’t willing to risk was the health of my family,” Dean says.

U.S. Census Bureau

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop, but not as fast as those in states that have expanded their Medicaid programs.

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show the uninsured rate in Kansas dropped to 8.7 percent in 2016 from 9.1 percent the year before. That is not a statistically significant change.

Approximately 249,000 Kansans lacked health coverage in 2016, down from about 261,000 the previous year.

The uninsured rate in Missouri declined to 8.9 percent from 9.8 percent the previous year.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains plans to offer abortion services at two more clinics in Missouri, the organization announced Monday, bringing to three the number of abortion providers in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood’s midtown Kansas City clinic has received an abortion license and will now offer medication abortion services.

The organization anticipates its Columbia clinic will offer both medication and surgical abortion services in the coming days.

University of Kansas Hospital

The University of Kansas Hospital is denying allegations by a patient that it wrongly diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer and then covered it up.

In an answer filed this week, the hospital says that many of the allegations made by Wendy Ann Noon Berner “reference undisputable hearsay and speculation, and many would arguably constitute defamation” if they were not part of a lawsuit.

The hospital’s 18-page answer broadly disputes Berner’s allegations of malpractice and cover-up, and terms many of them “vague and ambiguous.”

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Emily Dumler, a 36-year-old mother of three, is petite, energetic and appears to be the very picture of health. To look at her, you’d never know that four years ago she was at death’s door.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The Affordable Care Act marketplace will be a mixed bag for Kansas consumers seeking health insurance for 2018.

Some will pay more for coverage, some less. And some will purchase new plans for which there is no price-point comparison.

In Missouri, insurers are proposing some hefty rate hikes.

Atchison County Detention Center

A former physician assistant was found guilty Wednesday of sexually abusing patients at the veterans hospital in Leavenworth.

A Leavenworth County jury convicted Horton, Kansas, resident Mark E. Wisner, 66, of one felony count each of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated criminal sodomy and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. The crimes occurred between 2012 and 2014.

Wisner is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 29.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3

Hungry kids need good food. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. According to a Huffington Post article from February, school lunch programs are one of the most regulated nutritional programs. 

In this encore presentation, we'll get to know a few local "lunch ladies" and check in on school lunch programs in our area.

Guests:

Wikimedia Commons

One of the top concerns for those with a newborn is sleep. Today, we talk with pediatric experts about strategies to help parents develop good sleep habits for their infant. We also discuss the science behind infant sleeping patterns and how to adjust your approach as the child grows older.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

In May, local Drug Enforcement Administration agents, along with Kansas City police, raided a house in Kansas City, Kansas.

What they found surprised them: 16 pounds of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

"We had no idea that it was 100 percent fentanyl," says DEA special agent Troy Derby.

But they were certainly aware of the risks of even a minute amount of the powerful opioid.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A brick building that was the only grocery store in St. John sits vacant, its glass doors covered with paper since it closed early last year.

St. John is the county seat of Stafford County in south-central Kansas — but it’s home to fewer than 1,300 people.

Now, the closest grocery store is 12 miles away, in Stafford.

St. John resident Amy Collins said that means meals and shopping require more effort.

“Now when we make a trip to the grocery store we are planning four, five … six days out in advance, so you have to be much more efficient,” she said.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

In the cooler section of any Whole Foods store or maybe the cup holder of your crunchy neighbor’s VW bus, you can find Kombucha, the yeast-fermented tea sold with some pretty over-the-top marketing claims.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89.3

A provider of electronic health records systems for the U.S. Department of Defense is challenging the contract awarded to Cerner Corp. to develop the next-generation electronic health records system (EHR) for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

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