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.

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.

Joe Loong / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas health centers will receive about $2.2 million in grants and Missouri health centers, including three in Kansas City, will receive about $7.5 million to improve access to oral health care.

The grants are part of $156 million in federal funding announced Thursday by the Health Resources and Services Administration for health centers in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Kansas officials continue to whittle away at a backlog of Medicaid applications that developed over the past year.

But as they do so, people with expertise in Medicaid eligibility say they’re seeing an increase in incorrect denials.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas has “reconsidered” its decision to terminate the participation of 11 Planned Parenthood physicians and other medical providers in the state’s Medicaid program, although it’s still trying to cut off Planned Parenthood itself.

Rebecca Lyn Phillips, of Topeka, has schizophrenia and writes a blog about the challenges of living with the disorder. She says the prospect of step therapy is 'terrifying' to many people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Although every state has now adopted some form of “step therapy” to control prescription drug costs, patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain deeply distrustful of the policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Also known as “fail first,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

Alex Smith / KCUR

As the nation grapples with the weekend mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, one of the country’s leading advocates for gun control offered some advice to the state of Kansas.

Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, spoke to health care providers, educators and medical students at the University of Kansas Medical Center on Monday, laying out a proposal to create temporary gun restrictions as a way to reduce gun violence.

He said special considerations are needed when someone is experiencing a crisis and may be at risk for dangerous behavior.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

In 2014, opioid abuse accounted for more than 28,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Missourians accounted for more than 1,000 of those deaths, according to Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, and last week a bill negotiated by Blunt and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee hiked federal funding to combat opioid abuse to $261 million, a 93 percent increase over last year’s amount.  

Rotary Club of Nagpur / Flickr-CC

Starting tonight and for an entire week, the Glenwood Arts theater is screening the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” which was withdrawn from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year amid an uproar over its thesis: that there’s a link between the mandatory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, and that health authorities have conspired to cover it up.

Ozarks Community Hospital

A new study by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute finds stark differences between states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and those — like Kansas and Missouri — that haven’t.

Matt Kleinmann / Community Health Council of Wyandotte County

Standing at the meeting point of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, you can still get a glimpse of what Lewis and Clark might have seen when they camped here 212 years ago: vast skies, tall trees, wide, shimmering rivers, even the occasional eagle.

Rick Behrens, pastor of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kansas, says the rivers are hidden gems.

“It’s really a unique slice of nature in the middle of our cities that’s pretty amazing and a great opportunity for people to get away from the city, in a sense, right in the middle of the city,” Behrens says.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

A federal judge on Tuesday promised to rule before July 7 on Planned Parenthood’s request to block the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from cutting off its Medicaid funding.

That’s the date when the agency has said it will terminate Planned Parenthood’s participation in the Medicaid program.

The original cutoff date was May 10, but KDHE has extended that deadline twice, in part because it has had trouble finding counsel to represent it.

Health officials say about 30 children in Saline County have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Jason Tiller, director of the Saline County Health Department, says more cases could be discovered as public awareness of the health threat grows.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Eleven agencies that provide support to help Kansas seniors stay in their homes are starting to put some on waiting lists following state budget cuts.

The $2.1 million reduction to the state’s Senior Care Act programs was part of a package of cuts Gov. Sam Brownback made last month after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Brownback and the Legislature have faced several budget crises since enacting large income tax cuts in 2012.

Courtesy Coffeyville USD 445

Children’s programs across the state are scrambling to deal with grant cuts that take effect at the start of July.

The cuts come from a $3.3 million reduction in funding for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, which uses the state’s share of the 1998 master settlement agreement with large tobacco companies to provide grants through the Children’s Initiatives Fund for programs for children and families.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals nationwide are facing a host of financial challenges, but states can still take action to keep them open, the head of a rural health group told the Governor’s Rural Health Working Group on Wednesday in Topeka.

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, said people in urban areas have a few explanations for why rural hospitals are struggling: irreversible population decline in rural areas, low-quality care and bad management practices.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

At Truman Medical Center’s nursing home facility in eastern Jackson County, Missouri, Dr. John Dedon drops by to chat with one of his patients, a spritely 82-year-old woman who’s lived there for the last four years.

“I’m just stopping by to say hi and see how you’re doing today,” he says, taking a seat next to her in the facility’s bustling hallway. “How are you feeling? Are people treating you O.K.?”

Dedon is probing not just for physical symptoms but looking for changes in his patient’s mood and affect. 

Mark Baylor / Creative Commons-Flickr

Health advocates have a simple message for parents: Don’t share a bed with your baby.

Unfortunately, it’s a message many Kansas parents aren’t taking to heart.

In 2016, seven infants in Sedgwick County died sleeping in the same bed with their parents, a practice that can lead to suffocation. That’s equal to the bed sharing deaths in Wichita for all of 2015.

Three infants in Leavenworth County this year have also died sharing beds.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

A Kansas appeals court has upheld a jury award to the estate and parents of a 40-year-old man who took his life after a botched medical procedure left him with overwhelming spinal injuries.

The $2.88 million judgment in 2014 was the largest jury award in a Johnson County medical malpractice case in more than 25 years, according to local attorneys.  

File photo

Kansas health care providers will urge federal officials to reject Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed Medicaid cuts and may challenge them in court.

The recently announced cuts would reduce state expenditures for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, by $56.3 million and trigger a loss of approximately $72.3 million in federal funds. Combined, the managed care organizations that administer $3 billion KanCare program and the health care and service providers they have contracts with would be forced to absorb more than $128 million in cuts.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

State officials on Thursday wrapped up a series of public forums on the pending renewal of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Federal approval for the five-year demonstration project expires at the end of 2017, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment plans to apply for reauthorization by the end of this year.

Forum organizers were looking for ideas about coordination of care, value-based payment systems and waiver integration.

Pat Hook

NPR, Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered to survey Americans last year about their perceptions of health care.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri says it’s merging with its central Oklahoma counterpart and will be renamed Planned Parenthood Great Plains effective July 1.

The combined affiliates will operate nine clinics in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma and will be headquartered in Kansas City, according to a news release from PPKM.  

Jessica Hill / AP

Missouri became the first state to go on record opposing a proposed merger of insurance giants Humana and Aetna, saying the combination would create an anticompetitive market in the state for various lines of insurance.

A ruling late Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Insurance gives the two companies 30 days to address the department’s concerns. Otherwise, it said it would block them from offering individual, small-group and group Medicare Advantage plans in Missouri if the merger goes through.

Nicolas Rohner

Bob Caviar has seen his share of heavy eaters.

He’s the owner of Papa Bob’s Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas, and the creator of a sandwich he’s christened “The Ultimate Destroyer.”

“This wasn’t designed as a challenge,” Caviar says. “It was really designed to feed families.”

But the football-sized sandwich, which contains four and a half pounds of meat, has turned out to be irresistible to eaters with something to prove.

Though many heed the call, the years have shown it takes a rare breed to conquer the Ultimate Destroyer.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A proposal to reimburse some KanCare providers at a higher level based on patient outcomes drew skepticism from a crowd of hundreds who gathered Tuesday afternoon in a Topeka hotel ballroom.

Tuesday’s public meeting was the first in a series that state officials are hosting as they prepare to renew their federal application for KanCare, the state’s $3 billion managed care program that privatized all Medicaid services under three insurance companies in 2013.

Similar gatherings are scheduled Wednesday in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita and Thursday in Pittsburg and Hays.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated at 8:30 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback trimmed more than $56 million from Medicaid in Kansas as part of larger budget cuts announced Wednesday, raising concerns that health care providers may decide not to take unprofitable patients.

About $38.2 million of the $56.4 million in budget cuts comes from reducing reimbursements by 4 percent for providers who treat patients covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program launched in 2013. The remaining $18.2 million comes from cuts in other areas of the Medicaid program.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

Most school districts have moved to comply with stricter nutrition standards since the U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed them almost four years ago. 

But many still lack kitchen equipment necessary to make the healthier school breakfasts and lunches appealing.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

The Overland Park City Council on Monday set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products, meaning that a regional campaign has now upped the legal age in the metropolitan area’s five largest cities.

The council approved the ordinance Monday on a 9-3 vote, with council members Dave Janson, Fred Spears and Dan Stock voting against the measure.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

The legislative battle may be over, but the war of words continues about a bill that imposes new restrictions on Kansas welfare recipients.

Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 402 on Monday flanked by legislative supporters of the measure.

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