Health | KCUR

Health

KCUR's health team focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas. Working with journalists at other public media stations and news outlets, reporters Dan Margolies and Alex Smith strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Costs to secure four state-run hospitals under Kansas’ concealed carry law could run close to $12 million annually, with an additional $1 million needed in the first months, according to a new “action plan” from state officials.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The monarch butterfly migration is one of the most beautiful phenomena in nature. Today, we speak with an Overland Park native who is following the migration on her bike, a 10,000-mile trip. Then, we shine a spotlight on Angel Flight Central, a Kansas City charity staffed by volunteer pilots who fly patients in need to essential medical care.

A proposal to finally create a prescription drug monitoring program was revived in the Missouri House on Tuesday, while the Senate came to terms with a 12-year-old federal ID law.

Friday is the end of the 2017 legislative session. Here’s a more detailed look at the action Tuesday (and very early Wednesday), as well as a count of how many bills were sent to Gov. Eric Greitens:

Guttmacher Institute

Along with Texas, Kansas leads the nation when it comes to imposing abortion restrictions not supported by scientific evidence, according to a report by a leading abortion rights organization.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Another poll has found strong majorities of Kansans support expanding Medicaid, but some political experts say it isn’t likely to make a difference this legislative session.

The latest Medicaid expansion poll found about 68 percent of Kansans surveyed said they supported expanding the program to non-disabled adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or annual income of about $16,600 for an individual and $33,400 for a family of four. About 60 percent of Republicans polled said they also supported expansion.

Something for Missourians and Kansans to consider when they consider the effects of the measure approved by the House to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act:

Both states are among the 11 with the highest levels of adults under age 65 with pre-existing medical conditions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Thirty percent of people living in both Kansas and Missouri have a pre-existing condition.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the American Health Care Act, the GOP-backed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 

House Republicans approved the plan by a narrow margin, 217 - 213. The measure goes next to the Senate.

In the waning hours before the vote, Indivisible Kansas City, a local branch of the national movement, organized a protest outside Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder's office in downtown Overland Park, Kansas. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The University of Kansas Health System and a Tennessee-based for-profit hospital chain have agreed to rescue a troubled Topeka hospital despite possible changes in federal health policy that could hurt Kansas providers.

Officials from the KU Health System and Ardent Health Services, the nation’s second-largest privately owned for-profit hospital chain, announced Thursday that they had signed a letter of intent to acquire St. Francis Health.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

Doctors and nurses are obviously essential to any primary care medical team. But when it comes to managing a chronic health condition, a social worker could be the most valuable player from the patient’s perspective.

That’s what some Medicare patients in and around the small northwest Kansas town of Plainville have been discovering since January of last year.

House Republicans approved their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

Here's a rundown of key provisions in the American Health Care Act and what would happen if the Senate approves them and the bill becomes law.

Buying insurance

Joseph Morris / Wikimedia Commons

This post was updated at 1:38 p.m. on Thursday.

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve the American Health Care Act, touted by the GOP and President Donald Trump as a better alternative to President Obama's signature health care effort, the Affordable Care Act. The final vote, 217 - 213. All 193 Democrats in the House, joined by 20 Republicans, opposed the bill. 

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

Planned Parenthood Great Plains plans to move quickly to offer abortion services in Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri, now that a judge has blocked two Missouri abortion restrictions that had prevented it from doing so.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

A bill to increase oversight of the Kansas foster care system hit a snag after state officials said its wording could jeopardize millions in federal funding.

The bill would create an interim oversight committee that would study problems in the state’s foster care system and submit a corrective action plan to the Kansas Legislature. The House Committee on Children and Seniors approved the bill in March, but it still must pass the full House and Senate.

This week, Missouri transferred the state-run health coverage of about 240,000 low-income adults and children to managed care plans run by three companies: WellCare, Centene Corporation and United Health Group.

The move is part of an increasing privatization of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Legislators call it a cost-saving measure that improves efficiency in health care. Critics say the transfer happened too quickly, putting patient health at risk.

www.mccaskill.senate.gov

President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are promising to take another vote this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. But Sen. Claire McCaskill says rural hospitals in the state could be forced to close if the health reform measure is repealed.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

Republican leaders in the Kansas House say it is unlikely they will schedule another vote on Medicaid expansion in the final weeks of the legislative session.

But Democrats say they will attempt to force one.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said lawmakers facing tough votes on the budget, taxes and school finance don’t want to further complicate the final weeks of the session by adding Medicaid expansion to the mix.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

An audit of the Kansas foster care system found the state doesn’t ensure children are placed close to home or receive all services they need.

The Legislature’s independent auditing team presented the third part of its report on the Kansas foster care system Friday to the Legislative Post Audit Committee. The final part of the audit attempted to answer if the state’s two foster care contractors have sufficient resources to provide services and if privatization has improved children’s outcomes and lowered costs.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers signaled Thursday that they could exempt Kansas psychiatric hospitals from a law requiring them to allow concealed handguns.

Gov. Sam Brownback has requested an additional $24 million in spending over the next two budget years on upgrades needed to provide security at state mental health hospitals and facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt was in Kansas City Tuesday to promote MO ABLE, a new savings program for people with disabilities.

“Look, when my son was born, we opened up a college savings account. You have all those hopes and dreams,” says Schmitt. “Emotionally, psychologically, that’s tough for families.”

Schmitt's 12-year-old son is nonverbal on the autism spectrum.

The tax-advantaged accounts function similarly to Missouri’s 529 college savings plan and can be used to pay for assistive technology and long-term care.

Courtesy Summer Breeze

Lenexa drummer and philanthropist Billy Brimblecom says he’s put blood, sweat, and tears into trying to be an original musician.

“But seriously, one of the most fun and — dare I say — at least locally successful things I’ve done, is this.”

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A third of the way to an end-of-year deadline, Kansas officials still do not have federal approval to extend KanCare.

In January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied the state’s request for a one-year extension of the waiver that allowed it to privatize its Medicaid program. The denial letter said neither the Kansas Department of Health and Environment nor the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was doing enough to hold the three private companies that run the program responsible for providing services accountable to Medicaid rules.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

A youth master plan, a public health campaign and storefront community resource centers were among the recommendations unveiled Thursday by Mayor Sly James’ Citizens Task Force on Violence.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The head of the Kansas agency that oversees the state’s hospital system is working to jump-start the process of recertifying Osawatomie State Hospital.

Federal officials decertified the state’s largest psychiatric hospital in December 2015 due to concerns about patient safety and staffing.

The decertification order is costing the hospital approximately $1 million a month in federal funding.

Jennifer Morrow / Flickr — CC

This story was updated to include the comments of Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and the comments of Planned Parenthood. 

A federal judge has blocked Missouri’s restrictions requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges and abortion clinics to meet the specifications of ambulatory surgical centers.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Pretty Prairie, Kansas, population 680, had a moment in the spotlight during the confirmation hearings for new Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran mentioned Pretty Prairie as an example of a community that’s struggling because of EPA regulations that Pruitt could ease.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The owner of St. Francis Health left no doubt it won’t continue to run the Topeka hospital for more than a few months.

The lingering question is whether anyone else will step in to keep it from closing.

Mike Slubowski, president and CEO of SCL Health, said in a news release Tuesday that he hopes to have a clear answer about the hospital’s future by the first week of May. SCL, formerly known as the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, is based in Denver.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3 FM

Hungry kids need good food. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. According to a Huffington Post article from February, school lunch programs are one of the most regulated nutritional programs. 

We'll get to know a few local "lunch ladies" and check in on school lunch programs in our area.

Guests:

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several hundred people turned out Monday night to protest the possible closure of St. Francis Health in Topeka.

The financial struggles of the 378-bed hospital have taken center stage in the debate over whether to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Marshall Pledges To Fight For Federal Food Funding

Apr 17, 2017
Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

During a Friday visit to Junction City that included a stop at a food pantry site, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall said he would work to maintain funding for programs that feed the hungry.

Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District, which includes two counties — Geary and Riley — with the state’s highest rates of food insecurity. Residents of those counties also are more likely than most people across the country to lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Renewed attention to the financial struggles of several Kansas hospitals is giving supporters of Medicaid expansion a potentially powerful argument as they work to build a veto-proof majority for a new bill.

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