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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.

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Already facing highly restrictive abortion laws in Missouri and Kansas, Planned Parenthood Great Plains now confronts the prospect of losing its federal family planning funds if a proposed Trump administration rule goes into effect.

The administration unveiled a proposal Friday that would make clinics that provide abortion services or referrals ineligible to participate in Title X, which helps fund birth control, cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Joe Watson has lived a troubled life. He had a traumatic childhood, spent years addicted to cocaine and meth and is now serving a 20 year sentence in the Jefferson City Correction Center for second degree murder.

But the 47-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, native was shaken to his core by the death of his friend and fellow inmate Stevie Jimerson from hepatitis C early last year. 

file / bigstock.com

The Trump administration has nixed Kansas’ idea of a three-year lifetime cap on Medicaid benefits.

Gov. Jeff Colyer had wanted to include the limit in a remake of the state’s privatized Medicaid system, KanCare. He also wants work requirements for non-disabled KanCare beneficiaries.

Late last month, he walked back his stance on pursuing a lifetime cap, while sticking by the work proposal. Both ideas had faced criticism from health care advocates who fear they would reduce poor people’s access to doctors and medication.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A day-long event Sunday at Kansas City’s Union Station helped launch “All of Us,” a new nationwide research initiative from the National Institutes of Health.

The program’s goal is to collect genetic data from one million people from a wide variety of races, ethnicities and backgrounds.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have struck a deal to end their session-long battle over Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer's plan to tighten eligibility for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The compromise, detailed in the final budget bill of the 2018 session, blocks Colyer from implementing a work requirement and lifetime benefit cap as part of his planned “KanCare 2.0” makeover of the program. 

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers gave the go-ahead Monday to expand telemedicine services after reaching agreement on abortion language that had threatened to scuttle the move.

The bill cleared the state Senate and House by large margins, but only after eleventh-hour brinksmanship that gave anti-abortion forces the assurances they demanded.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, fought for weeks to maintain a clause in the legislation designed to discourage a court challenge over its ban on drug-induced abortions.

file photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

A high-stakes gambit initiated by Kansas lawmakers Thursday could prove to be the checkmate move that blocks Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer from imposing new Medicaid eligibility restrictions.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated on April 28 to reflect that the hospital leased space from Research Hospital. 

Select Specialty Hospital-Western Missouri, a long-term acute care facility that leases space from Research Hospital on East Meyer Boulevard in Kansas City, is closing its doors and laying off 105 employees.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A behind-the-scenes struggle over proposed changes to Kansas’ Medicaid program is coming down to the wire.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer has offered concessions. But he appears determined to stick with his proposal to make some non-disabled recipients work, or undergo job training, for their health care coverage.

Jon Hamdorf, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment official who oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the governor believes “very strongly that work is a pathway to independence.”

Blue Valley Hospital opened in 2010 and provides weight-loss surgery and other medical services.

An Overland Park hospital that specializes in weight-loss surgery is suing government health officials after they cut off its participation in Medicare.

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The owner and operator of 15 Kansas nursing homes has consented to be placed in receivership after defaulting on payments to vendors and failing to meet payroll.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck has been appointed receiver and will oversee operations of the homes, which are scattered across the state.

The owner, Skyline Health Care LLC of Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, previously acknowledged that it had insufficient funds to pay basic utilities and food service vendors.

Alissa Eckert / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Update, April 19: This story includes newly identified cases and exposure sites (previously identified exposure sites and dates that are now past the time for symptoms to develop have been removed).

Eighteen measles cases have now been identified in Johnson, Linn and Miami counties since March 8, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The same lab billing arrangement put in place at a small, rural hospital in Unionville, Missouri, is the subject of a federal lawsuit in Georgia that calls it a fraudulent scheme designed to enrich its architects.

The lawsuit, filed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, alleges that since August 2016, a 49-bed hospital in rural north Georgia has billed it more than $174 million for lab tests Blue Cross did not agree to pay for.

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.

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.

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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.


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