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.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The state’s Medicaid application backlog is making work more stressful for Angela Moore, executive director of Sharon Lane Health Services in Shawnee.

Moore’s nursing home has 110 employees caring for about 70 elderly and disabled residents, and she has cash flow worries because of persistent problems with the state’s Medicaid eligibility system.

At one point recently she was waiting on Medicaid coverage approval for 17 residents — which means Sharon Lane was providing free care for almost one-fourth of its clients.

Food and Drug Administration

Tippin’s Gourmet Pies LLC has voluntarily recalled several lots of its key lime pies because they may contain flour with peanut residue, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Tippin’s said it conducted the recall of the popular product after its supplier, the Kellogg Company, recalled graham cracker crumbs used in the pies’ crusts because they may contain peanut residue.

No illnesses or allergic reactions to the pies have been reported, but Tippin’s said it was taking the action “out of an abundance of caution.”

Julie Jordan Scott Flickr -- CC

  A decades-old grocery store in northeast Kansas City, Kansas, is closing, delivering a blow to a part of town that’s already short on healthy food options.

The Price Chopper at 43rd and State Avenue, which has operated under different names for more than 30 years, will shutter on Sunday.

The closing came as a surprise to city officials.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Tim DeWeese highlighted Johnson County’s neediest residents Monday while briefing an audience about what the county is losing because Kansas policymakers have declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

DeWeese, executive director of the county’s mental health agency, said there are people living under bridges or “surfing” from couch to couch in the state’s most prosperous county — and they didn’t come in from elsewhere.

“There is a homeless population, here in Johnson County,” he said.

What appears at first blush to be little more than a contract dispute between a state agency and a University of Kansas research center is actually much more than that.

The state’s failure to renew a contract with the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation is another assault on the state's mental health system, according to the directors of several community mental health centers.

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.

Heartland Health Monitor

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas is seeking more information from the state about its backlog of Medicaid applications to determine whether Kansas is breaking federal rules.

Rocky Nichols, the center’s executive director, said the organization has filed an open records request to examine whether the state is doing what the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires for Medicaid applicants stuck in the backlog.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural Americans are gaining health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act at rates outpacing their urban counterparts, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mark Andes is among those in rural Kansas who have benefited. Andes was living and working in McPherson last year when he began having some scary health symptoms.

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.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

The four Republican candidates for Missouri governor kicked off their debate Wednesday night with a variety of statements about the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. KCUR fact-checked some of those statements. Here’s what we found:

Catherine Hanaway:

“Obamacare has failed in every regard. We were told it was going to reduce premiums. On average, premiums went up for the exchange in Missouri over 23 percent last year.”

File photo

Kansas community mental health centers are sending a distress signal to state policymakers.

The association that represents the state’s 26 community mental health centers issued a statement Wednesday expressing “strong concerns” about the $30 million in funding cuts that it says its members have suffered in the past 12 months.

“The community mental health centers have taken one devastating hit after another over the last year,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.

Missouri Department of Insurance

Starting in 2018, Missouri will no longer be the only state in the country barred from collecting information on health insurance rates.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday signed legislation requiring health insurers to file proposed rates with the Missouri Department of Insurance and the department to determine if they’re reasonable or not.

If the department finds them to be unreasonable because they’re excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory, the law authorizes it to disclose that to the public, which can then comment on the proposed rates.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about the University of Kansas Medical Center: For almost 40 years KU doctors have been flying around the state to bring their expertise to small towns.

But in another unintended consequence, budget cuts in Kansas have drastically cut back this service.

About 6:45 a.m. on an already steamy June morning, seven KU Med staffers pile on a twin-engine King Air at the Downtown Kansas City Airport.

Cramped but certainly comfortable, they're about to take off on a 40 minute flight to Hutchinson.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

A federal judge blocked Kansas’ effort to cut off two regional Planned Parenthood affiliates’ Medicaid funding, ruling the move likely violates federal law.

In a 54-page decision handed down late Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson granted a preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (now known as Planned Parenthood Great Plains) and by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

University of Kansas Hospital

This story was updated at 5:24 p.m. to include KU Hospital's statement. 

An explosive lawsuit filed by a University of Kansas Hospital pathologist charges that the head of the hospital’s pathology department wrongly diagnosed a patient with cancer and then covered up the mistake after an organ of the patient was removed.

File photo

The Kansas Hospital Association is urging federal officials to stop Gov. Sam Brownback from implementing $56.4 million in Medicaid cuts set to take effect today.

Brownback ordered the cuts in May to cover shortfalls in the fiscal year 2017 budget approved by the Legislature. The hospital association is asking the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to immediately intervene to stop the cuts, which include a 4 percent reduction in provider payments.

Natural Resources Defense Council

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 public water systems — including 68 in Kansas — are in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to protect people from lead in the water they drink.

File photo

The troubled Larned State Hospital has a new superintendent.

Veteran state attorney Bill Rein has been named to head the facility, which provides inpatient treatment for people from the western two-thirds of Kansas suffering from severe or persistent mental illness.

Drug And Device Makers Find Receptive Audience At For-Profit, Southern Hospitals

Jun 29, 2016

Where a hospital is located and who owns it make a big difference in how many of its doctors take meals, consulting and promotional payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies, a new ProPublica analysis shows.

A higher percentage of doctors affiliated with hospitals in the South have received such payments than doctors in other regions of the country, our analysis found. And a greater share of doctors at for-profit hospitals have taken them than at nonprofit and government facilities.

How We Compiled The Dollars For Docs Hospital Data

Jun 29, 2016

Our goal was to compare U.S. hospitals based on the percentage of their affiliated physicians who receive payments of various sizes from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

To do this, we used several databases.

The data we used

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

Kansas City-area hospitals vary greatly when it comes to the percentage of their doctors who accept money from drug and medical device companies.

The hospital with the highest percentage is Providence Medical Center, where nearly 89 percent of its doctors took such payments in 2014, the last year for which data are available. The hospital with the lowest percentage is Truman Medical Center Lakewood, where only 43.8 percent of its physicians took payments from those industries in 2014.

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.

Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

Public health officials in Wyandotte County and Johnson County say they are seeking funds to continue comprehensive sexual education programs into 2018 after the state declined to renew a federal grant.

Hiku2 / Wikimedia--CC

Updated: 11:58 a.m.

Missouri’s highly restrictive abortion laws are certain to face a court challenge now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down similar restrictions in Texas.

The high court on Monday, by a 5-3 vote, ruled that a 2013 Texas law placed an undue burden on women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion under the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Susie Fagan / KHI

Supporters of Medicaid expansion are kicking off a campaign to mobilize Kansas voters on the issue. Federal tax rules prohibit the nonprofit Alliance for a Healthy Kansas from engaging in direct political activity, so the group is mounting a vigorous educational campaign through a series of community meetings across the state. 

KIDS COUNT/aecf.org

Both Kansas and Missouri stayed in the middle tier of states in the new KIDS COUNT survey released Tuesday, but Kansas had the third-largest drop in child well-being ratings in the nation.

Overall, Kansas fell from 15th place last year to 19th.  Missouri slipped from 26th to 28th. 

Health scores improved for Missouri kids but slid 11 places for Kansas. 

Missouri came up three positions on economic well-being, Kansas held steady at No. 9.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

News of a mistake that dropped several thousand Kansans from state Medicaid backlog reports has advocates and Democratic lawmakers questioning the state’s oversight of the contractor blamed for the error.

Alex Smith / KCUR

In recent years, the once-lowly food truck has entered the big leagues of cuisine.

Once peddlers of quick snacks like hot dogs and falafel, food trucks now sell items like crème brulee, roast duck and Spanish tapas.

Some Kansas City entrepreneurs think these trucks have the potential to do something else – tackle food inequity.

Standing outside a big, white trailer parked at the Guinotte Manor public housing complex northeast of downtown Kansas City, Megan Mulvihill invites curious neighbors to step inside.

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.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals are struggling to stay open as the communities around them shrink and average patient counts drop as well. A study released earlier this year said one in three rural U.S. hospitals is at risk of closing.

But one small hospital in southwest Kansas — Kearny County Hospital — is drawing patients from as far as 90 miles away and expanding its services.

Benjamin Anderson, the hospital’s administrator, last year analyzed statistics dating back to 2005 for the hospital in Lakin.

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