Health

A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Stormont Vail Health of Topeka is closing two regional clinics because of financial pressures created by recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursements and the decision by state leaders not to expand the health care program.

Stormont will close Cotton O’Neil clinics in Lyndon and Alma, according to a news release issued Thursday. The Lyndon clinic will close Dec. 31. The clinic in Alma will close Jan. 31, 2017.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says members of Congress should set aside partisan differences and fix problems with the Affordable Care Act.

Failing to do so, she warns, could hasten consideration of a single-payer system.

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.

Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop.

But they’re declining faster in states that have expanded Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.

New data out Tuesday from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Kansas’ uninsured rate dropped to 9.1 percent in 2015, down from 10.2 percent the year before and 12.3 percent in 2013.

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.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Mat Smith and Ben Stickler are in training.

The two twenty-somethings from the Kansas City area are working to improve their rankings in the online game League of Legends. Stickler says the strategy and competition remind him of the sports he played growing up.

“You can see yourself getting better,” Stickler says. “You can challenge yourself as you get better. And just play with people that are as well as you and really bond over that.”

Zach Klamann / Heartland Health Monitor

Planned Parenthood Great Plains says it has joined forces with three Planned Parenthood facilities in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, giving it a total of 12 health centers in four states.

Formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, the organization earlier this year expanded into central Oklahoma and took on its current name to reflect its greater geographical reach.

The University of Kansas Hospital and Hays Medical Center announced Wednesday that they have signed a letter of intent to join forces, bringing together the state’s only academic hospital and one of its leading rural hospitals.

The partnership, which was announced at simultaneous news conferences at both hospitals, builds on a relationship established nearly three years ago when the two institutions, along with more than a dozen critical care hospitals, partnered to treat heart and stroke patients in western Kansas.

Trust For America's Health / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

One of every three adult Kansans was obese in 2015, ranking the state seventh in the country in an annual report. Kansas also was one of only two states where obesity rates increased from the previous year.

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.

Donna Ginther / University of Kansas

University of Kansas economist Donna Ginther made waves in 2011 with her studies showing racial disparities in research grant awards, which led the National Institutes of Health to start an initiative to address the issue. She says the problem isn’t necessarily bias on the part of those who award grants but lack of mentors and training for diverse communities.

Ginther recently sat down with KCUR’s Alex Smith to talk about her latest work on the issue, which factors in gender. She and her colleagues looked at NIH R01 grants awarded between 2000 and 2006.

user Mrd7b2 / Wikipedia

Medical information for hundreds of patients has been stolen from an area hospital.

Children’s Mercy Hospital, based in Kansas City, released a statement Wednesday reporting that information for 238 patients was stolen from the locked trunk of an employee’s care.

“We are very sensitive to these families’ concerns and have apologized to them,” the statement read.

The hospital said that the information does not include patients’ addresses, social security numbers or financial information.

McKinnon Motorsports

For anyone who knows Elyse McKinnon, it’s hard to imagine her not tearing down a race track on a motorcycle.

But life without racing is just what the 30-year-old had to consider after a tragic crash in the summer of 2015 left her with a broken back.  

McKinnon and her husband, Chris McKinnon, of Lawrence, Kansas, have been avid motorcyclists since moving to the Midwest from Florida shortly after Elyse graduated from college.

Elyse says her competitive drive prompted her transition from weekend rider to competitive drag racer.

Stefani Fontana / KCUR 89.3

Former KCUR intern Stefani Fontana, now a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, spent last summer doing a clinical rotation in western Kansas. We asked her to keep a journal of her experiences. We’ve edited out actual names of people and places to protect privacy, but otherwise present these condensed journals largely as she wrote them. 

Part 1 of 4: Go west, young doctor

Getting The Hang Of Treating Patients In Rural Kansas

Aug 30, 2016
Stefani Fontana / for KCUR 89.3

Former KCUR intern Stefani Fontana, now a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, spent last summer doing a clinical rotation in western Kansas. We asked her to keep a journal of her experiences. We’ve edited out actual names of people and places to protect privacy, but otherwise present her journals as she wrote them. 

Part 2 of 4: From nerves to needles

Skipper Plowman / for KCUR 89.3

Former KCUR intern Stefani Fontana, now a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, spent last summer doing a clinical rotation in western Kansas. We asked her to keep a journal of her experiences. We’ve edited out actual names of people and places to protect privacy, but otherwise present her journals largely as she wrote them.  

Part 3 of 4: Thank goodness for nurses

Stafani Fontana

Former KCUR intern Stefani Fontana, now a fourth-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, spent last summer doing a clinical rotation in western Kansas. We asked her to keep a journal of her experiences. We’ve edited out actual names of people and places to protect privacy, but otherwise present her journals largely as she wrote them.   

Part 4 of 4: Lessons learned

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.

U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

A new analysis from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says headlines about anticipated premium increases on the Obamacare health insurance marketplace overlook an important point: Most Americans, including two-thirds of Kansans and three-quarters of Missourians, still will be able to find a plan for $75 a month or less.

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

The director of one of the state’s largest community mental health centers says the head of the agency that oversees the behavioral health system appears to be making an effort to repair damaged relations with providers.

But he says Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck has his work cut out for him.

Corbis-Creative Commons

An inmate serving life without parole in a Missouri prison is suing to receive therapy for gender dysphoria disorder.

Jessica Hicklin, a 37-year-old transgender woman, has been diagnosed by multiple doctors with the disorder but has been denied access to hormone therapy to treat the condition, according to Lambda Legal, an LBGT legal organization based in New York. The organization filed the lawsuit Monday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division.

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.   

File photo

Facing increasing criticism from health care providers about recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates, Gov. Sam Brownback said that he will attempt to restore the cuts by increasing a tax that hospitals pay.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Brownback said he was forced to order a 4 percent cut in provider reimbursement rates in May after efforts to negotiate an increase in the surcharge failed.

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.

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.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

The trial of 23 people who protested Missouri’s failure to expand Medicaid began today in Jefferson City with jury selection.

The so-called Medicaid 23 defendants include many notable Kansas City clergy members, among them Sam Mann, Wallace Hartsfield and Vernon P. Howard Jr. They are accused of trespassing and obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors.

The unusual mass trial stems from protests the defendants staged in May 2014. They were arrested after refusing to leave the Senate gallery, where they were chanting and singing.

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.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, Wyandotte County has seen the number of its uninsured fall from 26 percent to 18 percent, one of the biggest drops in the country.

But it’s one thing to boast of boosting the ranks of the insured, another to steer them through a complicated and, at times, bewildering health care system.

With a $1.9 million grant from the United Health Foundation, announced today by county officials at the offices of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, the county is now in a better position to do that.

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.

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