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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.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

As he fights to retain control of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, Jorge Perez’s woes continue to pile up at other rural hospitals where he was once hailed as a hero.

Last month, in the second of a three-part series, CBS News aired a piece about Empower, a Perez-run company whose affiliates have been involved in many of the rural hospital takeovers orchestrated by Perez and his associates.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A battle royale has erupted in tiny Unionville, Missouri, over the town’s endangered community hospital.

Trustees of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in the north central community are trying to get rid of the company that took over the ailing institution in 2016 and then ran more than $90 million in questionable lab billings through the hospital.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Kansas officials have received a court order Friday to expedite their takeover of 15 financially troubled nursing homes. State regulators say they need to move quickly to protect hundreds of elderly and disabled Kansans who reside in the facilities.

Normally, the state would need orders from 15 separate judges to take control of the facilities, which are scattered across the state. But the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was granted an order from the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday  consolidating all the cases under a single Johnson County District Court judge.

Michael Goodyear / Wikimedia Commons

Two dozen companies recently settled accusations by the federal government that they paid kickbacks in return for referrals. Two of those companies have ties to an Overland Park radiation oncology clinic.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89.3

The firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin means uncertainty for the VA’s pending $10 billion contract with Cerner Corp. to modernize the sprawling agency’s electronic health records system.

Health Data Management, an industry publication, reports that Shulkin’s ouster came as the VA was finalizing negotiations with Cerner.

Creative Commons

Missouri will have to cough up more than $300,000 in attorney's fees after losing a case over a state law barring insurance navigators from giving advice about health plans.

Although he sliced about $128,000 from the bill, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith ruled that Missouri must pay the legal fees of the victorious plaintiffs.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas officials are moving to protect more than 800 vulnerable residents of 15 financially troubled nursing homes across the state.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is seeking court orders to put the facilities — currently operated by a New Jersey company — into receivership.

Alissa Eckert / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Update as of March 28: Three additional cases of measles have been reported in Johnson County, Kansas, in the last week, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

The KDHE has also added the following to the list of locations where people may have been exposed to the virus:

Wikimedia - Creative Commons

Missouri has an unusually high number of hospitals with medical and employer practices that accommodate the needs of LGBTQ individuals, according to a new report from a national advocacy organization.

The Healthcare Equality Index, released Tuesday by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, names 14 Missouri hospitals as “LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders.” That puts Missouri 8th in the nation for the number of such hospitals.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Lawmakers in the Kansas House rejected an effort Monday to allow medical marijuana in the state.

But they advanced a plan to allow the sale of some products made from cannabis — if the high-producing compounds have been removed.

The discussion over legalizing cannabis for medical purposes came as lawmakers considered regular updates to the state’s drug laws.

File photo

This story was updated at 5:26 p.m. to include the comments of Planned Parenthood Great Plains' regional director of public policy. 

The state of Kansas wants the United States Supreme Court to review a decision preventing it from terminating its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood.

In a petition filed on Thursday, it argues that a federal appeals court was wrong when it decided that Medicaid patients have a right to challenge a state’s termination of their Medicaid provider.

In a major boost to downtown Kansas City, Kan., the long-vacant former EPA office building will be converted to a mental and behavioral health facility employing 400 people.

The University of Kansas Health System plans to invest $61 million converting the unique 220,000 square-foot office building, vacant since 2011, into what’s being described as a “state-of-the-art” healthcare facility.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Kansas Lawmakers moved Tuesday to make a bill to release information about the deaths of children in state custody more transparent.

In response to several high-profile cases where a child had been brought to the attention of the Department for Children and Families and later died, the bill requires the agency to release information about kids who die as a result of abuse or neglect.

Veterans Health

This story was updated at 1:47 p.m. to include the response of a spokesman for the VA region in question.  

Almost 1,000 veterans in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois were denied care at non-VA facilities because their wait times were incorrectly reported, an audit released last week concludes. 

file photo / Wikimedia Commons

A Kansas House committee on Thursday recommended the legalization of medicinal supplements containing cannabidiol, CBD, a marijuana extract used by some to control seizures and pain.

It also moved to keep an herbal stimulant, kratom, legal in Kansas.

Heartland Community Health Center

This story was updated at 3:22 p.m. on March 15 to include Jon Stewart's statement.   

The CEO of a safety net clinic in Lawrence, Kansas, has been suspended pending completion of a review of the organization's finances.

In a release Wednesday evening, the board of Heartland Community Health Center said it had suspended Jon Stewart and appointed the clinic’s chief operating officer as interim CEO.

Matt Kleinmann / Community Health Council of Wyandotte County

New county health rankings once again show Wyandotte County as one of the least healthy counties in Kansas. The good news: It’s no longer the worst.

On a Saturday afternoon at the downtown Columbus, Ohio courthouse, close to 20 men sat in a conference room; arms crossed, eyes staring blankly ahead, listening to a lecture. One white-haired man with glasses and hearing aids yelled for the presenter to speak up.


The mere threat of launching debate on Medicaid expansion in Kansas has caged up a measure to suspend, rather than terminate, coverage for people while they’re locked up.

So legislators have created a policy work-around that doles out some extra money with direction to the state healthy agency to keep that coverage waiting for people when they get free.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons-Flickr

Three infants in Johnson County are among the first reported cases of measles in the United States this year.

The Johnson County Health Department said Tuesday that the three infants, all under a year old, had been at the same day care center in Overland Park.

Donald and Laurie Draughon

After a seven-month deployment in 2004 in Iraq as a squad leader and gunner, Cpl. William P. Draughon received a citation for heroic service and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.

Several members of his squad were killed in Iraq, and when he returned stateside, the North Kansas City High School graduate began experiencing depression and nightmares and became withdrawn and moody. He also started drinking heavily.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Alan Carter didn’t start his recent research with any deep doubts about the insulin that people buy in pharmacies. He just wanted to find out how different kinds of insulin compared. 

“We thought, well, if we can figure out if there’s very subtle differences between the two manufacturing processes, then maybe we can help determine if there is a significant issue for patients who switch back and forth because of insurance formulary restrictions and costs,” Carter says.

Mike Sherry / KCUR 89.3

The proposed budget for Kansas City, Missouri, keeps overall funding for safety net health care providers steady at $31.9 million, but the majority of those programs would see budget cuts. 

Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center is facing the biggest cut. The city has proposed cutting their funding by just over half a million dollars for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The proposed reallocation of money from the city’s health levy would also reduce funding for Kansas City Health Clinic, Northland Health Care and Swope Parkway Health, which faces the second biggest cut of nearly $30,000.

www.ci.independence.mo.us

City Manager Zach Walker announced the news Wednesday and said the department’s functions would be transferred to other city departments.

Independence is facing a projected $3 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year. Walker said the move would save about $375,000 a year for the city’s general fund.

“This is certainly not a pleasant move, but it’s one that allows us to be innovative, to reduce our overhead associated with that operation, but still provide the core basic services associated with the health department,” Walker said.   

flickr

Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Thursday that a staff member improperly disclosed personal information for 11,000 people in an email sent to multiple addresses.

Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokeswoman, said the disclosure includes Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal details of Medicaid recipients and potential recipients of the health care program.

Such personal details, particularly the combination of a Social Security number with a date of birth, can be all a criminal might need for identity theft.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Missouri and Kansas have joined 18 other states in seeking to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional following Congress’ repeal last year of the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate.

In a lawsuit filed late Monday in federal court in Texas, the coalition of 20 mostly red states claimed that the elimination of the tax penalty for those who don’t buy health insurance renders the entire healthcare law unconstitutional.

When the hospital closed in rural Ellington, Missouri, a town of about 1,000, the community lost its only emergency room, too. 

That was 2016. That same year, a local farmer had a heart attack.


KCUR 89.3

This story was updated at 4:12 p.m. to include the comments of Planned Parenthood Great Plains' president and CEO.

Kansas improperly sought to end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, rejecting the state's claims that the organization illegally trafficked in fetal parts and committed other wrongdoing.

Missouri Legislature

Missouri’s general revenue spending on Medicaid has topped more than 2 billion dollars annually in recent years and its costs are rising.

That’s a problem for Republican State Sen. David Sater of Springfield. 

“It continues to be the biggest inflation that we have in state programs, and we have to do something,” Sater says.

The Springfield lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would require Missouri to seek permission from the federal government to get what’s called a global waiver, basically allowing the state to create its own rules for operating Medicaid.

www.mied.uscourts.gov

A pediatric rheumatologist who once worked at Children’s Mercy Hospital is facing new charges in Michigan after losing his license over sexual misconduct allegations.

Mark Franklin Hoeltzel, 46, was charged last month in a criminal complaint for receiving and possessing child pornography. He was arrested at Detroit Metro Airport last week after undergoing treatment for addiction at a clinic in Philadelphia.

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