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.

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St. Joseph Medical Center

 

Prime Healthcare Services, the for-profit California health care company that has agreed to acquire two nonprofit Kansas City area hospitals, is no stranger to controversy.

Among other things, it has faced fierce opposition from the nation’s largest health care labor organization, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and has been accused of billing fraud.

submitted photo

In early July, Robyn Zwolinski and her husband, Gene, decided it was time to put down their 13-year-old West Highland terrier, Blaire. The past few years had been hard for Blaire: she had lost her sight and had begun to develop cognitive canine dysfunction — a dog’s version of dementia.

The Zwolinskis contacted their vet, Vern Otte of Stateline Animal Hospital. Otte had seen them through the euthanization of several pets, and Robyn says they trusted him implicitly. Before coming into the hospital for the procedure, Otte called to ask Robyn a question that took her by surprise.

Bigstock

Missourians on Medicare have saved more than $26 million so far this year on prescription drugs and Kansans more than $10 million, thanks to one of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says.

Aid for Women, a Kansas City, Kan., clinic that provided abortion services, closed Saturday, leaving only three clinics in the state that provide abortions.

Aid for Women, at 720 Central Ave., was incorporated in 2004. It said on its website that it closed its doors on July 26 and was referring patients to the state’s remaining abortion clinics — two in suburban Kansas City and one in Wichita. The website said the clinic manager and physician had both decided to retire.

St. Joseph Medical Center

 

 

A West Coast hospital company has agreed to acquire two hospitals and other related facilities as part of a deal with Kansas City, Mo.-based Carondelet Health, the parties announced Monday.

The buyer is Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare Services, which has signed a letter of intent that includes the acquisition of St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs.

Kansas welfare officials said Friday that they have suspended placing foster children with TFI Family Services, pending investigation of the death Thursday of an infant left in a hot car in Wichita.

TFI formerly contracted with the Kansas Department for Children and Families to provide foster services and continues to have foster homes as a subcontractor to the state's current lead foster care contractors, KVC Behavioral Healthcare of Olathe and St. Francis Community Services of Salina.

Alex Smith / KCUR

After announcing this season’s schedule of peanut allergy-friendly events, the Kansas City Royals saw several sell out, and the team soon added another to keep up with demand.

The announcement came after a campaign from some local fans, and it followed a growing trend of baseball teams working to be more accommodating to fans with allergies.

Health insurance policyholders in Missouri will receive $14.6 million in rebates from health insurers under a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as the Medical Loss Ratio rule. Kansas policyholders will receive $3.6 million.

The Medical Loss Ratio rule requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement, as opposed to administrative costs like salaries and marketing.

Insurers that don't meet that benchmark have to refund the difference to customers.

Same-Sex Unions Pose Challenge To Hospitals

Jul 23, 2014

The absence of legal protections for same-sex couples made the news last year when a Kansas City hospital denied a man the right to stay by his male partner’s bedside.

Now many area hospitals are trying to make themselves more accommodating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families.  

Nearly two years ago, Kris Saim received some harrowing news.  He was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. But the diagnosis wasn’t the only thing he was worried about.

A Jackson County judge heard arguments Wednesday on whether the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph should pay a $1.1 million arbitration award for breach of contract in its ongoing litigation over clergy sex abuse.

The diocese contends the arbitrator, Kansas City lawyer Hollis Hanover, exceeded his authority when he made the award after finding the diocese had violated the terms of a $10 million settlement it reached with 47 sex abuse victims in 2008.

Under the terms of the settlement, the diocese pledged to adopt a variety of child safety measures.

Ian D. Keating / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy group, released its annual Kids Count report on Tuesday, and Kansas ranked 15th overall and Missouri 29th. The report assesses overall child well-being based on four broad categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Both Kansas and Missouri saw their indicators for education and health improve while their indicators for economic well-being and family and community mostly worsened.

David Goehring / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

Conflicting federal court rulings are raising questions about whether consumers in Kansas and Missouri will continue to be eligible for subsidies when purchasing private health insurance through the federal insurance exchange.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Tuesday that only consumers purchasing coverage through state-operated marketplaces are eligible for federal tax credits.

Juniper Hill Farms

The now well-established local food movement in and around the university community of Lawrence is in danger of stalling unless a concerted effort is made to expand its reach beyond an already committed group of consumers and build more demand for locally grown or produced fruits, vegetables and meats.

RELATED: Local Food Movement Thriving On The High Plains Of Kansas 

High Plains Food Coop

 

Thanks to early interest shown by chefs and small-scale area farmers, Douglas County, home of the University of Kansas, developed into one of the pioneer locations for the U.S. local food movement, which has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past 15 to 20 years.

Interest in local food is now so entrenched there that a recent consultant’s report concluded that the movement was at risk of stalling as it has become “relatively mature” with “well-established demand across a fairly broad spectrum of markets.”

University of Kansas Hospital

When Steve Jobs needed a liver transplant in 2009, the Apple CEO left California and went to Memphis, Tenn. While his home state has some of the longest waiting lists in the country for donated livers, Tennessee has some of the shortest.

Many health advocates point to Jobs’ story as an example of the harsh disparities faced by those who need new livers in different parts of the country.

Plans are in the works to fix those disparities, but some Kansas City doctors worry about what a shake-up would mean for local hospitals and patients.

Firing Up Urban Teens About Med School

Jul 21, 2014
Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Shannon North can preach her heart out that her students' aspirations are achievable and that advanced education is attainable.

And she does just that, as the college and career facilitator at Hogan Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Mo. The charter school, at 1221 E. Meyer Blvd., has a student population where virtually all the attendees come from families with incomes low enough to qualify them for a free or reduced-price lunch.

Council of Economic Advisors / Executive Office of the President of the United States

A study released earlier this month by the White House Council of Economic Advisers says the decision not to expand Medicaid is costing Kansas millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

According to the study, Kansas is passing up $820 million over the next three years by choosing not to expand Medicaid eligibility. The federal government would pay for nearly all of the cost of the expansion, which would add as many as 100,000 Kansans to the state’s Medicaid rolls.

Infant Mortality In Black Community Down But Still High

Jul 18, 2014
Anne Biswell / Mother & Child Health Coalition

Although the fetal and infant mortality rate in the Kansas City metropolitan area's black community is about double that of the white population, it has dropped dramatically since 2008.

That was the news delivered on Friday at a community forum on infant deaths in Kansas City hosted by the Mother & Child Health Coalition. The forum, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, was attended by dozens of nurses, doctors and public health workers.

Wikipedia, Accessible Icon Project

Merriam has become the first city in the Midwest to adopt a more contemporary version of the wheelchair-accessible icon. At a town hall meeting Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to replace the old icon, which has been in use since 1968.

“I have to give the city council credit for that because they believed in that and they wanted to welcome disabled people into the community," says Al Frisby, the councilman who proposed the change after a friend, Finn Bullers, called the new icon to his attention.

WIC Program Stresses Benefits Of Breastfeeding

Jul 15, 2014

Nearly half the babies born in Kansas are enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a long-standing federal initiative aimed at making sure low- and modest-income families have access to healthy foods.

“We serve about 49 percent of the babies born in the state,” says Martha Hagen, an administrator at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “But we also have pregnant women, women who are six months postpartum and children under age 5.”

In Kansas, no other hospital has done more to help and encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies than Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.

It’s the only hospital in the state that’s in the final phase of a four-phase process for being designated a Baby-Friendly Facility by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a project of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

RELATED: Advocates, Hospitals Unite To Raise Kansas Breastfeeding Rate

Good news for the University of Kansas Hospital: For the fifth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report has named it “The Best Hospital in Kansas City” and for the third year in a row “The Best Hospital in Kansas.”

Even better news for the hospital: For the first time, KU was listed in all 12 adult specialties pegged to mortality rates, reputation, safety and other factors.

“I’m not from Kansas, but I’m so proud to be here,” says KU Hospital President and CEO Bob Page. “I’m on cloud nine.”

Four More Cases of Measles Confirmed in Wichita Area

Jul 14, 2014
Zaldylmg / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Four more cases of measles in Sedgwick County, Kan., were reported over the weekend, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the area to six people: four adults, two of whom were not vaccinated, and two infants who were too young to be vaccinated.

The new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases in Kansas this year to nine. 

Susie Fagan / KHI News Service

Across Kansas, breastfeeding advocates are encouraging hospitals to revamp how they handle moms, babies and visitors after childbirth.

Dozens of studies have shown that breastfed babies grow up healthier than those reared on formula or cow’s milk. Breastfed babies’ immune systems are stronger. They have fewer allergies, fewer ear infections and less diarrhea. Their incidents of asthma, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome are significantly reduced.

State and local health officials are trying to contain a measles outbreak that started in May in the Kansas City area, and has since spread to Wichita.

Six of those are in the Wichita area. The four newest cases are all linked to Sal's Japanese Steakhouse, in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says an employee of the restaurant was connected to the outbreak in Kansas City. Two other employees also became infected later.

A Kansas state official insists there’s no backlog of Medicaid applications in the state, saying federal concerns have more to do with state and government computer systems not sharing information with each other.

Sara Belfry, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said all of the state’s Medicaid applications are being processed within the 45-day period that’s allowed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Alex Smith / KCUR

At the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center on Thursday afternoon, Eyvette Carter struggled to carry on a basic conversation with her husband, Warren.

She was distracted in no small part by Karl Chaney whispering in her ear.

“Don’t trust him. Is he looking at you? Why would he want to talk to you?” Chaney said.

The group was taking part in an auditory hallucination simulation, designed to demonstrate the experience of a psychotic episode.

Feds Demand Medicaid Backlog Fixes In Kansas

Jul 10, 2014

Kaiser Health News 

Tired of waiting for states to reduce their backlogs of Medicaid applications, the Obama administration has given Kansas and five other states until Monday to submit plans to resolve issues that have prevented more than 1 million low-income or disabled people from getting health coverage.

Besides Kansas, the targeted states are Alaska, California, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee.

Wikipedia -- CC

A national gun control group on Wednesday challenged the constitutionality of a Kansas law that nullifies federal gun laws in the state.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence alleges the law’s provisions are “unconstitutional on their face under long-standing, fundamental legal principles.”

“Neither the Kansas legislature, nor any state legislature, is empowered to declare federal law ‘invalid,’ or to criminalize the enforcement of federal law,” the complaint asserts.

Wikimedia -- CC

 

A pilot program in Kansas allowing veterans who live far from Veterans Affairs hospitals to get care from local doctors may end, threatening veterans like Hugh Steadman with the cutoff of needed medical care.

Steadman, who flew combat missions over Germany as a bombardier during World War II, lives in Great Bend. He used to have to drive two hours to the VA medical center in Wichita, a trip that was getting more difficult for him to make.

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