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

Discrepancies in immigration status data will cause about 700 Kansans who enrolled in health insurance plans through the online federal marketplace to lose their coverage at the end of the month.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said earlier this month they were attempting to contact some 1,800 Kansans whose immigration status was in question because of data differences in their online applications.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment has received a federal grant of almost $1 million to help the CDC develop strategies to reduce the number of violent deaths, and the state will share homicide and suicide data with the National Violent Death Reporting System for five years.

The system delves into not just how these deaths happen, but why. It collects data on homicides such as the relationship between the victim and the suspect. In cases of suicide, it gathers details on depression, financial stress, and relationship problems.

Brian Caswell is a Democrat running against a Republican incumbent for a seat in the Kansas House — a tall order in most of the state's 125 districts.

But according to Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission filings, Caswell, of Baxter Springs, raised more money than his primary opponent, Rep. Michael Houser of Columbus, before the primary races this year. And by the July 24 reporting deadline, Caswell's campaign was nearly as well-funded as Houser's, despite the incumbent's cash-on-hand head start.

Caswell's secret?

Political action committees for medically related groups in Kansas tended to throw their money behind incumbent House members before this year’s primary — even if those members did not support all of the groups’ political initiatives.

Fifteen medically related PACs raised about $253,000 and spent about $125,000 this year in the reporting period that ended July 24. Updated reports are due to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on Oct. 23, before the upcoming general election.

Julie Denesha

    

A new program in Kansas aims to improve conditions in prisons, but it’s not for inmates. The state Department of Corrections is one of many prison and jail systems around the country working to overcome “correctional fatigue” — the mental and physical stress that lead to corrections workers burning out.

From Orange Is The New Black to Shawshank Redemption to Cool Hand Luke, prison guards often have gotten a bad rap as some of the worst bullies featured on television and in the movies.

And that rankles John Bates.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is not ready to support the Kansas Children’s Cabinet’s attempt to win a federal grant aimed at bolstering early childhood education.

The governor’s decision to withhold support for the grant application was explained to members of Children's Cabinet in a memo last week from Janice Smith, the group’s executive director.

Smith wrote that on Sept. 11, Brownback administration officials let her know that it would be “unwise to move forward” in applying for a Preschool Development Grant without first conferring with the Kansas Legislature.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

The trend of Kansas Republicans crossing party lines to support Democrats running against GOP conservatives has now reached the insurance commissioner’s race.

Republican incumbent Sandy Praeger, who’s not running for re-election after three terms, endorsed Democrat Dennis Anderson on Tuesday at a campaign event staged at Brewster Place, a Topeka, Kan., retirement community.

Tension built Monday as legislators who supported a health care compact bill that would free Kansas from federal health care regulations made a last ditch-effort to pressure a Johnson County advisory board not to publish an article critical of the compact in a county newsletter.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican, will endorse Democrat Dennis Anderson on Tuesday, according to a news release issued by Anderson’s campaign.

Anderson is seeking to succeed Praeger as the state’s insurance regulator. He’s running against Republican Ken Selzer, who emerged from a crowded field to capture the GOP nomination in the August primary.

The release issued Monday says that Anderson will “announce the newest endorsement of his campaign,” and goes on to say that both he and Praeger will be available to answer questions.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio

 

A new nurse was on duty a few weeks ago in the emergency room at the Phillips County Hospital in Phillipsburg, Kan., when paramedics arrived with a critically injured patient.

She immediately pushed the red button on some newly installed equipment. Seconds later, a seasoned ER nurse and board-certified doctor sitting at a bank of monitors 380 miles away in Sioux Falls, S.D., were using a high-definition camera and other diagnostic equipment to monitor the patient, give advice and document everything the on-site nurse was doing to save the patient’s life.

Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center

 

Twenty-five health centers in Missouri and 16 in Kansas have been awarded $9.6 million in federal funds to expand primary care services.

The funding is part of $295 million awarded to 1,195 health centers nationwide under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The money is to be used to hire new staff, help the clinics stay open longer and provide services such as oral health, mental and behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services.

File photo

 

A newsletter for Johnson County seniors has become a source of consternation to some legislators, who say an upcoming article critical of the health care compact passed this year unfairly portrays the legislation as a threat to Medicare.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

 

A reconstituted mental health facility in Kansas City, Kan., has been a financial and therapeutic success in its first five months of operation, officials involved in the transition said Wednesday.

“It’s great news so far,” said Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), “and I think it’s only going to get better.”

Cynthia Page / Flickr--CC

A respiratory ailment that sent some 500 children to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City appears to be tapering off.

The enterovirus D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. At its peak several weeks ago, Children’s Mercy was seeing 30 patients a day. That number has now fallen to about 15 a day, says hospital spokesman Jake Jacobson.

The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013.

Rep. Jim Ward, a member of a KanCare oversight committee who requested the fiscal information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, on Tuesday questioned how long the three companies can sustain such losses.

"These companies can’t keep subsidizing Medicaid to the tune of $100 or $150 million per year, and that’s what’s happening,” said Ward, a Wichita Democrat.

Kevin Brown

 

Wichita physician Josh Umbehr has never understood the traditional model of health care reimbursement — the one in which doctors and hospitals fill out pages of forms to bill a patient's insurance company for everything from a $3 test to a $30,000 surgery.

“You don’t have car insurance for gasoline," Umbehr said in a recent phone interview. "Why would you have health insurance for family practice?”

With that philosophy in mind, Umbehr has operated on a kind of service plan for the human body since he opened his practice in 2010.

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved will get a $468,000 federal grant to lead the state's efforts again to get residents signed up for health insurance on the online insurance exchanges.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced $60 million in "navigator" grants to 90 organizations nationwide, including KAMU.

Breastfeeding Advocates To Meet In Wichita

Sep 8, 2014

Later this month, breastfeeding advocates from across Kansas will gather in Wichita for a daylong summit on how best to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least six months.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 15 percent of Kansas infants are breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months,” says Katie Ross, program officer with the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (UMHMF). “That’s pretty low compared to a lot of other states.”

The rare Enterovirus D68, which has afflicted hundreds of children since the start of August, may have peaked.

Children’s Mercy Hospital is currently seeing about 20 patients per day with the breathing difficulties, coughing and fever common to the virus, according to hospital spokesperson Jake Jacobson.

That’s compared with about 30 cases per day a week and a half ago.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the virus in 19 specimens from Kansas City and 11 specimens from Chicago in late August.

Federal officials are sending notices to more than 300,000 people — including about 1,800 Kansans — warning them that the health insurance plans they bought on the federal online marketplace will be revoked unless they provide documents that resolve "data inconsistencies" with their citizenship or immigration status.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

 

Out of the 8,000 full- and part-time law enforcement officers in Kansas, only 1 in 4 have been trained to handle crisis calls involving the mentally ill.

Records show that 80 percent of the nearly 1,800 trained officers work in four high-population counties: Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte.

The other 20 percent — about 360 officers — are spread across police and sheriff’s departments in the remaining 101 counties.

Cookie M / Flickr--CC

Missouri is the 16th most obese state in the nation, according to a report released Thursday.

At No. 19, Kansas doesn’t fare much better.

The 11th annual report on state obesity rankings by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says adult obesity rates increased in six states over the past year, with Mississippi and West Virginia topping the scales. More than a third of adults in those two states – 35.1 percent – are obese, according to the report.

commons.wikipedia.org

 

An official with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said it will be difficult for the state to have a plan in place by the proposed deadline to meet President Obama's order to curb emissions linked to climate change.

Tom Gross, chief of the bureau's air monitoring and planning division, said the rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could leave the state with only one year between the time it becomes final in June 2015 and the time the state has to implement a plan in June 2016.

Tucked inside a new building in Sioux Falls, S.D., is a workspace that might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago. Doctors and nurses sit in front of banks of video cameras and electronic monitors, ready at a moment's notice to provide real-time care for patients hundreds of miles away. That care is now available in Kansas.

Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Tuesday that if elected he would order a "top-to-bottom" review of KanCare.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback spearheaded KanCare, which places the state's 400,000 Medicaid recipients under the administration of three private insurance companies, also known as managed care organizations (MCOs).

The governor has said the program is on track to meet its goal of saving the state $1 billion over five years through care coordination without cutting services, eligibility or provider payments.

Phil Cauthon

 

 

It’s early on a Saturday morning and about 100 people – most of them members of the Kickapoo tribe – are gathering for the dedication of a new walking trail on the reservation, situated on about 20,000 acres in the glacial hills of northeast Kansas near Horton.

On hand to help with the ceremony is an athlete whose name may have faded a bit from public memory, but who still qualifies as a living legend here.

Sean Winters / Flickr -- Creative Commons

If your child has been coughing or wheezing recently, it may have nothing to do with allergies or asthma.

In the past few weeks, Kansas City hospitals have seen an influx of children suffering from the symptoms of a rare respiratory virus during what is usually the low season for respiratory issues.

“Across the region, emergency rooms have been full, pediatric units have been near capacity across town,” says Dr. Mike Lewis, a University of Kansas Medical Center pediatrician.

The state’s privatization of Medicaid is complicating efforts to detect fraud and abuse, according to a recently released report from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office.

The 2014 annual report from the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division says the three private companies managing the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program — called KanCare — are not providing all the information needed for the state to conduct investigations.

Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Spritzing perfume is how Judy Johnson realized her eyesight had gone bad.

At one point, diabetes had worsened her vision so much that the 69-year-old Lansing, Kan., resident had to squirt out a puff of her favorite scent just to find the opening in the mister.

“I looked at it this morning,” Johnson said Wednesday, “and I could see the hole.”

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

Kari Bruffett, who was confirmed Thursday as secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said one of her first goals will be to continue the transition away from institutional care for people with disabilities in favor of home- and community-based services.

The Legislature's Confirmation Oversight Committee approved Bruffett unanimously after she told committee members that her agency's mission fits neatly with a personal mission statement she formulated while working as a government affairs liaison at the University of Kansas Hospital.

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