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.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

A federal judge says that Obamacare navigators may dispense advice to those looking for insurance under the federal health reform law.

U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith on Wednesday struck down provisions of a Missouri law that bars insurance navigators from giving advice about health plans. He ruled that the law is preempted by the federal Affordable Care Act.

New county health rankings tell the same old story in Kansas.

The southeastern corner of Kansas remains the state’s least healthy region, according to the rankings released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

However, the Kansas county at the bottom of the list — Wyandotte — is next door to Johnson County, the state’s top performer.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

A simmering dispute over spending from a multimillion dollar health fund is scheduled to come to a head next Thursday as the Kansas City Council considers the city budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget would reallocate the $31 million in health levy funding that supports indigent care at six hospitals and clinics, including Truman Medical Center, Swope Health Services and Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

In the exam rooms at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center in Kansas City, nurse practitioner Greg Nurrenbern sees a lot of health problems other health providers don’t.

“I will say, like, ‘How did you get this injury?’” Nurrenbern says. “And it’s like, ‘I fell off a camel,’ or ‘I got bit by a lion.’”

Nurrenbern specializes in refugee health care, and he gives many patients their first health checkup in the United States.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

If he had a magic wand, Bill Persinger would turn back the clock to May 2009.

Failing that, however, he would increase resources for crisis care and substance abuse treatment, said Persinger, who is CEO of Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka.

University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

Health is deteriorating in many rural counties while improving in many urban ones in Kansas and Missouri. But Kansas City’s innermost urban counties – Jackson and Wyandotte – continue to struggle, according to new annual county health rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Alex Smith spoke with University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Kate Konkle, who was one of the report’s researchers.

Truthsec Anons via Flickr

Eighty percent of Americans live in urban areas. Yet when it comes to tracking health, most data is collected at the county, not the city level. That means city leaders looking to improve residents’ health lack a baseline of information to work from.

City-level health data can be critical when it comes to measures like restricting smoking, incentivizing grocery chains to move to particular neighborhoods and deciding where to build new parks and health clinics. A new project aims to create a data dashboard that almost any city can use to get a handle on the health of its citizens.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Federal officials found fault with the way Kansas had screened people for admission to psychiatric hospitals, but left the door open for the state to divert patients if it reforms its screening procedure.

File photo

Federal officials are concerned about a growing backlog of Kansas Medicaid applications and have asked state leaders to provide regular updates about what they're doing to fix the problem.

James Scott, associate regional administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a letter to Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials Feb 17, citing concerns about “recent reports" of the Medicaid application backlog in the state of Kansas.”

Scott asked KDHE to submit within 14 days a plan to correct the backlog.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A leading child advocate has obtained a document that she says confirms state officials are considering a deal to securitize the state’s tobacco settlement payments.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Kansas Action for Children, raised concerns about a possible securitization deal earlier in the week in testimony to a Senate committee. At the time, she said a reliable source had told her that officials in Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration had discussed bonding future settlement payments in exchange for a one-time cash payment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State health officials announced Friday that a southwest Kansas resident contracted the Zika virus after the resident traveled to an unspecified country where the pathogen has spread.

It’s the first confirmed case of Zika virus disease in Kansas.

Though a few cases of the virus in the United States have been spread through sexual contact, the vast majority of cases worldwide have been spread by mosquitos. So far, no transmission of the disease by mosquitos has been identified in the continental U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

With overdose deaths from painkillers, or opioids, on the rise, the federal government is giving $3.8 million to health centers in Missouri and Kansas to combat the epidemic.

The grants are among $94 million the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding to 271 health centers nationwide to address the abuse of opioids.

“Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States,” Stephene Moore, regional director of HHS, told reporters Friday in a conference call. “That’s even more than deaths from car crashes.”  

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Sarah Lockridge thinks hospitals are where you go when you’re sick, not where mothers-to-be should go to bring their babies into the world.

That’s why she decided to have her first baby at a birth center in Kansas City, Kansas, under the care of a certified midwife.

At first, Lockridge says, her family questioned her decision.

“When you say I’m using a midwife, I’m not going to a hospital the first thing that comes into their brain is that you’re going to be in a mud hut in the woods somewhere,” she says.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas House passed a bill Thursday that would ban people younger than 18 from using tanning salons.

The 77-44 vote came one day after legislators engaged in a familiar debate, weighing House Bill 2369’s public health benefits against its infringement on personal liberties. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common of all sexually transmitted infections, with more than 100 different types. It causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, and to a lesser extent is to blame for several other cancers, including mouth and throat.

A three-dose vaccine significantly reduces the chances of contracting an HPV-related cancer, especially when it’s given to adolescent boys and girls before they become sexually active.

Heartland Health Monitor

No one speaking Tuesday to the Senate Ways and Means Committee argued the Legislature could be trusted to direct funds to their intended purpose.

The only question was what arrangement would make it least likely that lawmakers would use funds for children’s programs, highways and other designated purpose instead to plug holes in the state general fund budget.

Public Opinion Strategies

Poll results released Monday by the Kansas Hospital Association show a majority of Kansans continue to favor expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

The statewide poll conducted in mid-February found that 62 percent of Kansas voters supported expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to cover approximately 150,000 non-disabled adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $16,243 for an individual and $33,465 for a family of four in 2015.

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories examining the costs of early scheduled births in Kansas and efforts to reduce them. 

A statewide efficiency report estimates Kansas could save nearly $20 million over five years by reducing early elective Medicaid births — a number that might require the state to prevent 800 more of those births than actually happened in the most recent year.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers another major abortion case, Planned Parenthood remains in the line of fire in Kansas. The Brownback administration has accused the organization of selling fetal parts for profit and has sought to cut off its Medicaid funding. 

 

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Judy Kregar is not a member of the Rotary Club in nearby Greensburg, but she decided to go when she heard Gov. Sam Brownback would be at the club’s recent meeting.

Kregar, the administrator of a small nursing home in nearby Bucklin, wanted to tell Brownback in person about the struggles some of her residents are having getting their Medicaid applications and annual renewals processed.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

JJ Krentz turned away from his iPad and looked up as a blond woman walked into his classroom at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center.

With help from his teacher, he stood from his chair and greeted his mother, Tiffanie Krentz.

He knew she was coming and so he parroted the two-word phrase he’d been hearing all day from others when he asked them about “mama.”

“Gotta wait,” JJ said, grinning.

Tiffanie took each of his hands in hers and leaned down so their faces were almost touching.

“Well you don’t gotta wait now,” she said. “I’m here.”

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Proponents of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas need to change tactics and prepare for a long process, a health policy researcher told them Wednesday.

Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University in northern Virginia, said Kansans who currently oppose expanding Medicaid aren’t likely to be persuaded by statistics from “eggheads” like himself.

Courtesy Bonyen Lee-Gilmore

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about a controversial Texas law that imposes strict requirements on health clinics that provide abortions. The law requires doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and meet ambulatory surgical standards.

The case is hugely consequential for abortion providers in Kansas and Missouri because both states have similarly restrictive laws.

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories examining the costs of early scheduled births in Kansas and efforts to reduce them. 

The practice of delivering babies a few days early for the convenience of mothers and doctors has been a common one for years at hospitals across the country and in Kansas.

But when research established that deliveries done even a little ahead of schedule can threaten the health of newborns, Kansas health care providers decided it was time to end the practice.

NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

A new poll from NPR, Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation explores Americans’ experiences with the health care system in the two years since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented.

Kansas was one of seven states singled out for closer scrutiny. And while much of what Sunflower State residents said followed national trends, there were some notable exceptions.

Creative Commons

The early spring weather Kansas City is expected to enjoy this weekend can be a mixed blessing for allergy sufferers.

Doctors at Children Mercy Hospital in Kansas City report surges in pollen and mold have accompanied the blips of early warm weather the area has experienced so far in 2016 and that an intense allergy season is likely ahead.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback made his case Thursday for why Kansas food stamp reforms should be a national welfare-to-work model, even though the study he used to support his claim showed almost 80 percent of Kansans affected remained in poverty.

Esther Honig / KCUR

Editor’s note: This story was revised to include information about services available at federally qualified health clinics in Kansas.

At a small domestic violence shelter in Hays, Kansas, director Tiffany Kershner sits with a client in a small meeting room. Leyila, 35, who asks that only her first name be used to protect her privacy, recently left an abusive marriage. Today she’s hoping she can get an appointment with an ob-gyn, but Kershner knows that’s no easy task in Hays.

Rob Jefferson

Rob Jefferson started losing his hearing when he was in his late teens. Sensorineural hearing loss, a progressive degenerative condition, runs in his family. His hearing gradually declined over a few decades, and though he was able to use conventional hearing aids for a few years, Jefferson, who's now 56, had lost all his natural hearing ability by his late 40s.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The plaudits for Sen. Greg Smith came from points across the political spectrum this week as he shepherded a juvenile justice overhaul bill through the Kansas Senate.

Smith, a Republican from Olathe, Kansas who chairs the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, devoted a full week of hearings to Senate Bill 367, which seeks to refocus the juvenile justice system on rehabilitation rather than confinement.

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