Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots in tracking the policies, issues and and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

Ways to Connect

Alex Smith / KCUR

Making the rounds at a public housing complex in Kansas City, Kan., community health worker Rinzin Wangmo is greeted by cheery voices and faces.

As she enters a home, the heavy aroma of chopped onions stings her nose, and she hurries up a short flight of stairs to escape the burn. After gently knocking on a door, she walks in to meet with a woman who’s bedridden with pain. 

The woman’s condition is not unusual among Bhutanese refugees, according to University of Kansas professor Dr. Joe LeMaster.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

 

As reformers work on making the U.S. health care system more efficient, they’re also looking to improve communication with consumers – whether it’s ensuring they understand the nuances of insurance or grasping instructions from a doctor.

The concept is known as “health literacy,” and the notion extends beyond the written or spoken word, Dan Reus, a St. Louis business consultant, argued Friday at a health literacy summit in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

People also need to understand the ever-increasing electronic data that make up their medical records, he said.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

 

About 6 percent of eligible adults took advantage of new dental coverage offered under KanCare in the first year of the managed care Medicaid program.

The switch to managed care Medicaid administered by three private companies extended basic dental cleanings to more than 130,000 adults ages 19 to 64.

According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics, about 7,600 adults had a cleaning paid for by one of the managed care companies in 2013.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

A talented athlete, Kylee Bliss might have been a scholarship basketball player at a small college.

As a sophomore point guard at Blue Valley High School in Stilwell, Kan., she practiced hard and had a real feel for the game. That changed after she sustained two concussions on the court in the span of eight weeks nearly three years ago.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

     

Which of the following is true?

  • The Affordable Care Act has provided thousands of low-income Kansas with greater access to affordable health insurance.
  • A looming ACA mandate has caused some Kansas employers to hire fewer full-time workers and instead fill positions with part-time employees.
  • The combination of reductions in Medicare rates and the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid eligibility has put Kansas hospitals in a financial bind.

The correct answer is “all of the above.”

The Kansas Health Care Association and Kansas Advocates for Better Care don’t usually see eye to eye on much.

KHCA, which represents the state’s for-profit nursing homes, is quick to argue against passing laws that might increase their costs or add to their regulatory burden.

KABC typically says the state doesn’t do enough to improve conditions in poor-performing nursing homes and advocates for tighter regulation.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

At one point when he was in college at Kansas State University, Jon Smith would jog as many as 20 miles a day.

“If I wasn’t in the library and not in class,” he says, “I was running.”

But Smith was far from healthy.

His over-the-top regimen was a manifestation of an eating disorder known as purge-type anorexia, hints of which first surfaced when weight gain from migraine medication made Smith a pudgy fifth-grader. His training obsession began two years later during preparations for the Junior Olympics.

The business day was ticking away as Sarah Wilcher waited on the phone.

She was an hour into a desperate protest of an insurance decision about her seriously ill daughter, Piper. By around 5:10 p.m., she realized everybody was gone.

“They just left me on hold,” Wilcher recalled recently of that day four years ago.

RELATED STORY: As Sufferers Battle Eating Disorders, Efforts Underway To Reopen Clinic

The disorder is so powerful that, even though the body is wasting away, patients in intensive-care sometimes rip out feeding lines or hide the peanut butter provided by staff in their armpits.

Known as anorexia nervosa, the condition is a process of self-starvation – and, researchers say, the deadliest of all psychiatric disorders. Some estimates put the mortality rate at 20 percent.

KHI News Service file photo

Medicaid expansion is more likely to be considered in the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature if Rep. Susan Concannon is appointed to chair the House Health and Human Services Committee.

The panel is now chaired by Rep. David Crum, an Augusta Republican who has declined to hold hearings on the expansion issue for the past two sessions. But Crum is not running for a fifth term.

The Midwest Cancer Alliance on Tuesday announced the formal opening of a clinic designed especially for adult survivors of childhood cancer.

“This program helps give pediatric cancer survivors access to long-term care tailored to their unique needs," Dr. Becky Lowry, the new clinic’s medical director, said in a prepared statement.

Survivors of childhood cancer, she said, often are prone to secondary cancers, fertility issues, cardiovascular disease, weakened immune systems and endocrine problems.

The percentage of Kansas students entering kindergarten in 2012 who had been immunized on the medically recommended schedule tumbled to 61 percent from about 72 percent the previous year.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

 

 

Parents of adult children with developmental disabilities say state officials are breaking a pledge made during negotiations last year that led legislators to include Medicaid-funded home- and community-based services for the developmentally disabled in the state's KanCare program.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

 

Even as local health officials prepare for the unlikely event of an Ebola outbreak in Kansas, some have had their hands full trying to convince people in their communities to take basic measures to contain the spread of more prevalent, contagious and preventable diseases like measles and pertussis.

Kansas has seen spikes in both illnesses this year, leading some health officials to issue orders of quarantine and others to ask people to voluntarily stay home.

Those requests were not always well-received.

St. Joseph Medical Center

The operator of two local Catholic hospitals has finalized their sale to a for-profit company based in Ontario, Calif.

Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic health system, said in a statement Tuesday that it had reached a definitive agreement to sell St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs to Prime Healthcare Services. The two hospitals operate through Kansas City-based Carondelet Health.

Terms of the deal, which was first announced in July, were not disclosed, and the deal remains subject to regulatory approval.

File photo

A man who was admitted Monday to The University of Kansas Hospital suffering from diarrhea and who worked recently near Africa's west coast does not have Ebola, the hospital said Tuesday afternoon. 

Results of blood tests showed the patient has not contracted the virus, which has killed more than 4,000 people in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. 

At a news conference, KU Hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Lee Norman,  said preliminary tests on the patient were negative. 

File photo

The University of Kansas Hospital says a patient who recently worked as a medic on a ship off the coast of West Africa came to the hospital early Monday morning feeling sick and is being tested for Ebola.

The hospital said the patient was at "low to moderate risk" of Ebola but the hospital was taking no chances.

In a statement, it said the patient was met by staff wearing personal protection equipment and following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kevin Brown

 

One of Kansas’ largest early childhood development programs has decided not to reapply for nearly $1 million in Early Head Start funding because of difficulties dealing with a state agency.

“This wasn’t something we wanted to do,” says Teresa Rupp, longtime executive director at Child Start, a Wichita-based program that provides Head Start and Early Head Start services for 981 low-income children in Butler, Cowley, Sedgwick and Sumner counties.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

The Kansas City of the future would be a place where people have affordable medical care, policymakers work with the community on health issues and residents suffer less from chronic diseases and violence.

That, at any rate, is the consensus that emerged Saturday at a forum in Kansas City, Mo.

And it was just the start of what participants said a vigorous metropolitan area should look like in the next decade.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Meridith Berry and her team learned a valuable lesson at an event where they were encouraging Hispanics to purchase coverage through the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act: don’t use green card stock.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.

Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland on Thursday unveiled an initiative to ensure that all residents can use a proposed new community center regardless of their financial circumstances.

Holland announced the initiative as part of a community forum for a “healthy campus” proposed for an urban site just west of downtown Kansas City, Kan.

A proposal championed by Holland, the healthy campus is a proposed mixed-use development that would revolve around Big Eleven Lake, which is bounded by 10th and 11th streets between State Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

Wikimedia Commons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis says if elected, he will reverse Gov. Sam Brownback’s controversial decision to put the private companies managing the state’s Medicaid program in charge of delivering support services to Kansans with developmental disabilities.

Brownback, a conservative Republican seeking a second term, privatized the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program in 2013 and renamed it KanCare to achieve two — and some say conflicting — goals of improving care and reducing costs.

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease — these health issues aren’t really the problem in America, according to Mark Fenton, who spoke Wednesday at the third annual Kansas Obesity Summit. Rather, he said, the real culprits are poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday granted a six-month delay in enforcement of a new rule applying federal minimum wage and overtime provisions to home care workers employed by so-called “self-directed” Medicaid consumers.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

An international aid organization based in Lenexa, Kan., on Tuesday announced plans to operate a medical facility in Liberia to treat Ebola victims.

Heart to Heart International CEO Jim Mitchum says running the 70-bed Ebola treatment unit will be the largest and most challenging humanitarian effort the organization has ever undertaken. It will cost approximately $6 million to operate the facility, which should open in November, for six months.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

State officials are intensifying their efforts to help Kansans with disabilities get jobs.

But advocates in the disability community are skeptical that an initiative announced Monday will be enough to reverse a recent trend that has seen a steady decline in the number of Kansans with disabilities placed in jobs.

The initiative, dubbed “End-Dependence Kansas,” will provide $25 million in mostly federal funds over the next five years to organizations that operate programs that help people with disabilities find employment.

Contrary to rumors on the Internet over the last few days, health providers and officials say there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Kansas City.

A spokesperson with HCA Midwest says that a man rushed to Research Medical Center’s Brookside campus over the weekend did not have the disease.

Hospital officials declined to disclose his diagnosis but say he is responding well to treatment.

The University of Kansas Medical Center will receive $10 million in federal funding to compare the effectiveness of obesity treatment models in rural communities.

The money is from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which was created through the Affordable Care Act. Professor Christie Befort's study will track approximately 1,400 patients in rural Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Kaiser Health News

 

Twenty hospitals in the Kansas City area will be penalized by Medicare starting Oct. 1 for excessive readmissions, although eight of them will be hit with lower fines than in Medicare’s previous round of penalties.

Saint Luke’s East Hospital in Lee’s Summit will get hit with the biggest fine, 2.08 percent of its Medicare reimbursements, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News of data released this week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

File photo

Former Sen. Bob Dole is campaigning for Pat Roberts in his Senate re-election effort, but on the issue Dole has been most vocal about lately — the U.S. signing on to a United Nations agreement solidifying the rights of people with disabilities — Roberts’ opponent seems more in line with Dole's views.

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