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

Found in most parts of the body, adult stem cells have the potential to grow into any of the body's more than 200 cell types, offering potential therapies for a number of diseases.

With scientists throughout Kansas working with adult stem cells, state lawmakers created the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center two years ago to serve as a hub for the stem cell research and treatment in Kansas.

The center is housed at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and it’s headed by Dr. Buddhadeb Dawn.

File photo

The reported rape of an employee at Osawatomie State Hospital in October exposed security concerns that federal officials cited when they decided last week to stop sending Medicare payments to the facility after Monday.

Osawatomie had submitted a correction plan for the security issues to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but federal inspectors who visited the hospital Dec. 15 and Friday to follow up decided to proceed with cutting payments, said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

NIAID / Creative Commons-Flickr

A Johnson County resident is the latest person to fall ill with an E. coli infection that may be linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill.  

The resident reported having eaten at a Chipotle on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Shawnee, Kansas, in the week before becoming ill.

“The big thing for people to know is this was around Nov. 23 that they ate at that location,” said Sara Belfry, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Tammy Worth / Heartland Health Monitor

One of the first graders in Lori Williams’ classroom is clearly restless during the students’ morning community circle.

As the children discuss their weekly goals, how to be a good citizen and what integrity means, the young girl is distracted. She wriggles and shifts, pulls both arms through a shirt sleeve and eventually checks out, turning her back to the group and walking her hands up the chalkboard.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

When Barbara Walker heard that the University of Kansas Medical Center was looking for people to participate in clinical trials for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease, she was quick to sign up.

Walker, 72, lost her husband to the illness in 2001. He was just 56 years old when he was diagnosed and had no known family history of Alzheimer’s. Walker and her three kids were shocked.

NIAID in collaboration with Colorado State University

Kansas is one of seven states that rank in the bottom tier in a newly released report measuring states’ readiness to deal with infectious disease outbreaks.

KHI News Service

The chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents says he doesn’t anticipate substantial changes in state gun laws ahead of a deadline for allowing the concealed carry of handguns on university campuses.

Shane Bangerter, a Dodge City attorney appointed to the board in 2013 by Gov. Sam Brownback, said the Kansas law allowing concealed carry in public places passed by large majorities in 2013. He doesn’t expect lawmakers to revisit the issue in the upcoming session despite growing calls for them to do so in the wake of a recent spate of mass shootings in Colorado, Oregon and California.

Bigstock

The government has extended until Thursday the deadline to sign up for health coverage starting Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

Government officials said a surge of people selecting plans over the two days before the original Tuesday deadline led to the extension. One million people left contact information after encountering delays logging onto the healthcare.gov website or reaching call centers, the officials said.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Today is the deadline to sign up on the federal marketplace for health insurance coverage that will start Jan. 1, 2016.

Officials with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are urging Americans to get signed up in order to avoid tax penalties for not carrying insurance.

“This deadline is important because we know most people want their new policy to start on January 1,” Julie Brookhart, a regional spokeswoman for CMS, said in an email. “During last year’s open enrollment, we saw the biggest surge of sign-ups in the days before the deadline.”

Creative Commons-Pixabay

A study showing that communities that spend less on Medicare don’t necessarily spend less on health care overall is throwing cold water on some long-cherished assumptions about how to reduce the cost of health care.

Esther Honig / KCUR 89.3

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said it changed the location of its conference Monday to the Intercontinental Hotel from the The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation amid safety concerns.

The organization cited the recent mass shootings in San Bernadino, California, and at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs as the reason for the change of venue.   

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of the local chapter, said that the 80-year-0ld organization was determined to carry on its mission even as it has become embroiled in political controversy. 

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Legislature’s auditors say that the rollout of the computer system the state now uses to process Medicaid applications was long delayed in part because the contractor’s software required numerous modifications.

State officials say the system is improving and ultimately will make applying for Medicaid and social services a much more efficient process.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James met with health care counselors and members of the public at Samuel Rodgers Health Center Saturday to promote enrollment on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Pixabay--Creative Commons

Four Kansas City area hospitals are among 758 nationwide being penalized by Medicare for hospital-acquired infections and other complications that Medicare considers avoidable.

The hospitals are:

  • Blue Valley Hospital
  • Menorah Medical Center 
  • The University of Kansas Hospital
  • Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill

Under Medicare’s Hospital-Acquired Conditions Reduction Program, the four will see their 2016 Medicare payments lowered by 1 percent.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Legislative Post Audit Committee voted Thursday to delay considering an audit into allegations of bias at the Kansas Department for Children and Families against adoptions by same-sex couples.

The panel of legislators instead voted to create a subcommittee that will develop a proposal for a broader investigation of the state’s foster care and adoption system that will be ready for an up-or-down vote in January.

“When we do it, we have to do it right,” said Rep. Peggy Mast, a Republican from Emporia. “It should be comprehensive."

Courtesy HCA Midwest Health

This story was updated at 8:41 p.m. to include HCA's response.

A Jackson County judge has awarded nearly $434 million to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City in its long-running lawsuit against HCA Midwest Health over whether HCA fulfilled the pledges it made when it bought several local hospitals in 2003 for more than $1 billion.

The award represents a sweeping victory for the foundation, which was created with proceeds from the sale of the hospitals and argued that HCA reneged on its commitments.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Financial problems at one of the world’s leading biofuels companies are causing ripples in the Kansas economy.

The Spanish company, Abengoa Bioenergy, opened a state-of-the-art ethanol plant in October 2014 near Hugoton. Gov. Sam Brownback greeted the grand opening as a shot in the arm for the Kansas economy.

“It does create jobs,” Brownback said at the time. “It creates opportunities, and right now we are seeing a rural renaissance in Kansas.”

Commonwealth Fund

Though both showed improvements, Kansas and Missouri continue to rank in the bottom half of states on measures of health care access, quality, costs and outcomes, according to a new report by the Commonwealth Fund

Overall, Kansas tied for 28th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia and Missouri ranked 36th. Kansas improved on 10 indicators and worsened on one while Missouri improved on nine and worsened on one. 

Kansas Hospital Association

Expanding Kansas’ Medicaid program would generate enough offsetting savings to more than cover the cost of insurance for another 150,000 low-income Kansans, according to an analysis released Tuesday by six health foundations.

The analysis done by Manatt Health Solutions, a national health care consulting firm, shows that expanding Medicaid would lower state costs in several areas by enough to cover the annual $53 million cost of expansion with money to spare.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles previewing health-related issues that the Kansas Legislature will face in its upcoming 2016 session.

The 2015 session of the Kansas Legislature began with a budget crisis and Gov. Sam Brownback proposing a large hike in the state tobacco tax to help solve it.

The 2016 session is set to begin in January with the budget again in need of patching. But the kind of tobacco tax increase anti-smoking advocates believe would spur Kansans to kick the habit is less likely.

Kansas Department for Children and Families

The man who oversees the foster care program in Kansas is retiring, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families has confirmed.

Michael Myers, a former Topeka construction executive who has worked in several positions in the child welfare agency under Gov. Sam Brownback, will retire at the end of December.

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore named Myers director of prevention and protection services in December 2014. He replaced Brian Dempsey, who abruptly left the agency along with Kathe Decker, former deputy director for family services.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Almost every day, Jay Mellies leaves his home in Clay Center and drives about 20 miles north to visit his wife at a nursing home in neighboring Washington County.

Some days when he comes in she tells staff, “I don’t know that guy.” Then she smiles. It’s a joke, but Mellies knows someday it may not be. His wife has Alzheimer’s disease.

If at some point she no longer remembers him, he will continue to come, nearly every day, to read to her and listen to her favorite music. They’ve been married 55 years, after all, and he believes others would do the same for their spouses.

Joe Gratz / Flickr -- Creative Commons

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City is looking at a potential windfall that could add hundreds of millions of dollars to its coffers, vastly expanding the pool of money it has to fund and promote community health programs.

Although legal appeals could delay its receipt of the money for several years, the foundation’s long-running lawsuit against local hospital giant HCA Midwest Health is coming to a head. And court documents show HCA is on the hook to the foundation for at least $319 million and possibly as much as $434 million.

A much talked-about study by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who won the Nobel Prize for economics last month, found a spike in the death rate for middle-aged white Americans between 1999 and 2013, specifically those with a high school education or less.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

As concerns circulate about the attitude of the Kansas Department for Children and Families toward adoptions by homosexual couples, a special legislative committee is mulling controversial research about the effects of gay parents on children.

At a meeting last week, the 2015 Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy heard concerns about the state’s foster care system, which has hit record levels of out-of-home placements in recent years.

A portion of the meeting was set aside to hear from Donald Paul Sullins, a priest and professor at Catholic University of America.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The arrest of a Topeka couple on child abuse charges has raised new questions about a custody battle that some say illustrates a pattern of discrimination against gay Kansans seeking to adopt children.

The 2014 custody case pitted a lesbian couple from Wichita, Lisa and Tesa Hines, against Jonathan and Allison Schumm of Topeka for custody of the Hineses’ foster child, Isabella, who had been in their care since she was 5 days old.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Two University of Kansas Medical Center researchers at the forefront of national efforts to treat Alzheimer’s disease said scientists are making strides toward reducing the prevalence of a condition that affects as many as 5.1 million Americans.

Key aims include early detection and halting the progression of the disease, said Dr. Jeffrey Burns, a leader of the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center (KUADC).

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback announced Monday that Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, will resign effective Dec. 31.

Bruffett has been a member of the Brownback administration since he took office in 2011.

Kansas Legislature

Two Kansas lawmakers who lost their health committee assignments because they support Medicaid expansion say the purge has given the issue more momentum.

Interviewed over the weekend for KCUR’s “Statehouse Blend” podcast, Republican House members Susan Concannon, from Beloit, and Don Hill, from Emporia, said Speaker Ray Merrick’s decision to remove them from the Health and Human Services Committee was a mistake if his goal was to shut down discussion on the expansion issue.

Add the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce to the list of Kansas organizations that support expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

Pushed by influential hospital members Via Christi Health and Wesley Medical Center, the chamber’s board voted Thursday to add expansion to its list of policy priorities for the 2016 legislative session, said Jason Watkins, the organization’s lobbyist.

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