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.

Executive Office of the President of the United States

Advocates of government-sponsored health care gathered Thursday at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, to mark the anniversary of legislation that’s both a local story and a milestone for medical care in the United States.

Fifty years ago, on the same stage where speakers sat, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law establishing Medicare and Medicaid, vastly expanding insurance protections for the elderly and for low-income Americans.

Publik15 / Flickr-CC

Kansas officials have decided against participating in the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a federal initiative that could have generated millions of dollars for behavioral health programs throughout the state.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Cerner Corp. on Wednesday landed what’s thought to be one of the biggest health information technology contracts ever awarded.

The Washington Post reported that the 10-year contract for the U.S. Defense Department’s Military Health System was worth $4.3 billion. Bloomberg Business said the contract was valued at as much as $9 billion through 2033.

Cerner beat out archrival Epic Systems for the contract, which calls for Cerner and its partners to upgrade health records for 9.5 million people at more than 50 hospitals and hundreds of clinics in the United States and abroad.

REACH Healthcare Foundation and Mid-America Regional Council

When it comes to health outcomes in the 11-county Kansas City metropolitan area, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

That’s the takeaway from a regional health assessment released Tuesday by the REACH Healthcare Foundation in Merriam, Kansas, which aims to improve health care for the poor and medically underserved.

The good news: Except for obesity and diabetes, health outcome trends in the metro area are improving.

File photo

A children’s psychiatric facility in Kansas City, Kansas, has agreed to set aside 12 inpatient beds for adults who have been referred to Osawatomie State Hospital but haven’t been admitted due to overcrowding there.

  “This will definitely help with the situation at Osawatomie,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director with the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

The additional beds at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital will be available Monday, Kessler said.

Thousands of Kansans soon will be receiving letters notifying them that their electronic health records may have been compromised.

The letters are from a Fort Wayne, Ind., company that provides an online patient portal called NoMoreClipboard used by 18 Kansas hospitals and at least half a dozen clinics. Most are small-town hospitals in western and southeastern Kansas. The largest is in Hutchinson.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Former employees of two Kansas City-area hospitals who claimed they weren’t paid promised separation benefits after the hospitals were sold to Prime Healthcare Services have agreed to settle their class action lawsuit.

The proposed $550,000 settlement, if approved by the court, would end a case brought by 49 former workers of Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas.

U.S. House of Representatives

Kansas 4th District Congressman Mike Pompeo has agreed to co-sponsor a joint resolution that would allow states to form a health care compact and, potentially, circumvent parts of the Affordable Care Act.

“Mike has agreed to be a part of the health care compact because he views it as one of the last remaining opportunities to protect Kansans from the disaster that is the Affordable Care Act,” Heather Denker, a spokesperson for Pompeo’s office, said in an email.

Pompeo, she said, believes the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will “drive up costs for the poorest people in Kansas and diminish access, especially in the rural areas of Kansas.”

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

The switch from county oversight to management by a Wichita-based nonprofit is under way for the four safety net clinics in Shawnee County.

Together, the four clinics provide health services to about 8,000 patients a year, regardless of their ability to pay.

That sounds like a lot. But for a county with 20,500 uninsured children and adults, health officials say it’s not enough.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday he’s unconvinced Medicaid expansion is an answer to the financial woes of rural Kansas hospitals and suggested they should innovate instead.

During a news conference Friday, Brownback was asked about a Reuters story on the improving financial fortunes of public hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act versus the stagnation of hospitals in states that did not.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A new partnership in southwest Kansas aims to build mental health services and help strengthen a couple of rural hospitals at the same time.

The nonprofit United Methodist Health Ministry Fund is leading an effort to make the health system work better for people in rural Kansas. The fund’s president, Kim Moore, says the current structure based on small, low-volume hospitals isn’t likely to survive long-term.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor's note: This is the second of two stories looking at Medicaid expansion in Missouri and Kansas. Today's story looks at the failure to expand Medicaid in Kansas. Wednesdays story looked at the failure to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Tonight, Thursday, at 7:25 p.m., KCPT Channel 19 will air a video tied to the stories. 

  The Kansas Hospital Association and other groups urging Kansas lawmakers and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to expand Medicaid coverage to more poor adults have little to show for their three years of lobbying on the issue.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that the department is still investigating complaints about Medicaid waiting lists for disability services in Kansas.

The services are daily living supports in home and community-based settings that people with disabilities would normally receive Medicaid coverage for if they were in assisted living facilities.

Truman Medical Centers

Editor's note: This is the first of two stories looking at Medicaid expansion in Missouri and Kansas. Today's story looks at the failure to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Tomorrow's story will look at the failure to expand Medicaid in Kansas. On Thursday at 7:25 p.m., KCPT Channel 19 will air a video tied to the stories. 

It’s a sweltering Monday afternoon, and in the emergency room of Truman Medical Centers near downtown Kansas City, a patient complains of excruciating abdominal pain.

The attending physician advises her there’s only so much he can do.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Yellow umbrellas dotted a field outside Farley Elementary School in Topeka on Tuesday, even though there was no rain.

About 50 people standing in a roped-off area held the umbrellas, which read “Don’t Block the Sun,” as they rallied before a Kansas Corporation Commission hearing at the school.

The solar energy fans were concerned about a proposed $152 million rate hike by Westar Energy that also would set apart customers who decide to install rooftop solar and make them pay a higher flat monthly fee.

A federal whistleblower lawsuit alleging that one of the companies running KanCare ordered employees to shift KanCare members away from high-cost health care providers has been dismissed.

A one-sentence document filed Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, said that the plaintiff, Jacqueline Leary, and the defendants, Sunflower State Health Plan Inc., its parent company Centene Corp. and three other parties, had stipulated to the dismissal. Each party was to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

Ian D. Keating / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas improved its ranking in child health but dropped in child poverty in the latest data released by a national nonprofit that advocates for children.

The state retained its No. 15 overall ranking from the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its 2015 Kids Count survey published Tuesday.

Kansas Bioscience Authority

Facing additional funding cuts from the state, the Kansas Bioscience Authority has laid off seven of its 13 full-time staff members and altered the primary focus of its mission – to invest in bioscience startups in the state.

The KBA also will stop making any new investments in its portfolio of companies.

The recent downsizing was unavoidable, KBA President and CEO Duane Cantrell told The Wichita Eagle

Steve Kraske / KCUR

When facial plastic surgeon Dr. David Kriet sits down to do a consultation with a patient in his Kansas City office, it isn’t unusual for his patient to show him a selfie.

Five years ago, the selfie would have been out of place, even foreign, in a doctor's office.

A federal appeals court has resurrected a St. Louis area legislator’s battle against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance cover birth control.

Last year, a lower court had tossed out state Sen. Paul Wieland’s suit against several federal agencies over the requirement. But the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, ruled Monday that Wieland’s suit can proceed.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A year ago there were almost 3,500 Kansans with physical disabilities awaiting Medicaid coverage for services to help them live in their homes and communities.

Much has changed in 12 months. The physical disability (PD) waiting list is down to fewer than 1,500 people, and Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told members of the National Council on Disability who visited Topeka earlier this month that more reductions are coming.

Veterans' homes across Missouri are about to get some much-needed upgrades.

Gov. Jay Nixon traveled to the veterans' home at St. James Friday where he told residents, staff and their families that their facility will soon be getting a $6.9 million upgrade.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A nonpartisan, nonprofit group of more than 500 retired generals and admirals see school nutrition as an important factor in military readiness.

The group, Mission: Readiness, on Wednesday released the Kansas version of a report drawing a connection between healthier school meals and the pool of potential recruits for America’s armed forces.

Dave Burkhardt / The Hale Center for Journalism

After Ashley Anderson gave birth to her daughter, Jade Marie, the nurses placed the little girl on her mom’s chest.

She says she remembers her newborn looking serene, with delicate lashes, her eyes gently closed.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

One of the leading advocates for Medicaid expansion in Kansas says it’s time to change tactics.

This week Alaska became the 30th state to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Kansas is one of the remaining states where Republican legislators and governors remain resistant.

BigStock

Missouri must disclose the names of the pharmacy from which it buys lethal injection drugs, a circuit court judge has ruled in yet another case challenging the Department of Corrections’ refusal to provide such information.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A new transplant center at Children’s Mercy will foster collaboration between heart, kidney and liver specialists.

Executive Medical Director Charlie Roberts says bringing the three transplant teams together will allow Children’s Mercy to offer patients an even higher level of care.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

A Kansas district court judge is raising concerns about reports that state officials are considering policy changes that would prohibit couples who aren’t married from being foster parents.

Courtesy photo / U.S. Department of Justice

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is urging members of Congress to ratify a controversial health compact that would give Kansas and eight other states control over Medicare and other federal health care programs within their borders.

Something as simple as schoolyard gates can play a role in improving the health of low-income communities.

At least that’s what activists in California’s San Joaquin Valley found, according to Genoveva Islas, director of Cultiva La Salud, a Fresno-based organization whose name means “cultivate health” in Spanish.

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