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

Mike Mozart / Flickr -- Creative Commons

As part of a growing trend linking traditional healthcare providers with retailers, HCA Midwest Health System announced Tuesday that it will offer coordinated care at select Walgreens stores.

HCA, the biggest health system in Kansas City, said the Walgreens Healthcare Clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners, who will provide care for minor illnesses and injuries, health testing and other non-emergency services.

Where KanCare Meets Obamacare

Jul 1, 2014
Mike Shields / KHI News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback once called Obamacare “an abomination,” and with the federal health reform law now four years on the books bad-mouthing it has become a conservative Republican ritual.

But this week, after more than a year of planning and preparation by Kansas and federal officials, the Affordable Care Act and Brownback’s own KanCare initiative begin coming together in ways that will make the two programs indistinguishable to as many as 72,000 Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries.

Kaiser Health News

In a 5-4 decision Monday, the Supreme Court allowed a key exemption to the health law’s contraception coverage requirements when it ruled that closely held, for-profit businesses could assert a religious objection to the Obama administration’s regulations. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the case.

Q: What did the court’s ruling do?

brains the head / Flickr-CC

A construction company based in Kansas City, Mo., plans to limit the contraceptive coverage it offers employees in the wake of Monday's Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling.

Kaiser Health News

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that at least some for-profit corporations may not be required to provide contraceptives if doing so violates the owners’ religious beliefs.

But the five-justice majority writing in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, et al., took pains to try to limit their ruling only to the contraceptive mandate in the health law and only to “closely held” corporations like the family-owned businesses represented by the plaintiffs in the case.

Excessive alcohol use accounts for almost one in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the United States, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, released late last week, found that from 2006 to 2010 excessive use of alcohol killed nearly 88,000 Americans each year. In 2001, the last time CDC researchers reviewed the data, alcohol was blamed for almost 75,800 deaths.

The Supreme Court has ruled that family owned and other closely held companies can opt out of the Affordable Care Act's provisions for no-cost prescription contraception in most health insurance if they have religious objections.

The owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores and those of another closely held company, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., had objected on the grounds of religious freedom.

The ruling affirms a Hobby Lobby victory in a lower court and gives new standing to similar claims by other companies.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Truman Medical Centers' new outpatient center will provide a range of medical services beyond the acute care for which the system is best known.

At a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday morning, Truman President and CEO John Bluford said the center — a four-story, 90,0000-square-foot building at Truman's Hospital Hill campus costing $29 million — was a symbol of the alliance between Truman and its physician partners.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Cerner Corp. has teamed up with two other government contractors to bid on an estimated $11 billion electronic health-record system for the Defense Department, according to Modern Healthcare magazine.

The publication reports that the Kansas City-based healthcare information technology company has formed an alliance with Leidos and Accenture Federal Services to bid on the 10-year contract for the department’s health system.

Online Tool Helps Match Foster Children, Families

Jun 27, 2014

The University of Kansas and a child advocacy group have developed an online tool that helps social workers match adoptive families with children in foster care.

The tool, called Every Child a Priority, or ECAP, uses statistical analysis and technology to figure out which families are most likely to meet a child’s needs.

“Essentially, ECAP is an enhanced matchmaking service for children and families,” Mike Patrick, chief executive at TFI Family Services Inc., said in a prepared statement.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

When activists worldwide marked three decades since the emergence of a mysterious immune disease, Kansas City, Kan., participants posted a timeline of key events in the fight against the AIDS pandemic in a building foyer in their community.

Yet this was no ordinary foyer; it was the main entrance to Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ at 2025 N. 12th St. Not only that, but the display in the African American church went up right around Christmastime to coincide with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

Colyer Urges Public To Report Adult Abuse

Jun 26, 2014
Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer on Wednesday urged Kansans to be quick in letting state officials know when they suspect an older adult is being abused or neglected.

“Elder abuse is something that should not be tolerated,” he said, addressing an early afternoon rally in a parking lot next to the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging.

About 50 people — a mix of state employees and agency case workers — attended the 40-minute rally, one of several events being staged to highlight policy initiatives of Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration prior to the upcoming primary and general elections.

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is asking the public what its priorities should be as the first step in a new health initiative.

Healthy KC is a collaboration introduced Wednesday by the Chamber, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and local health leaders. The group will focus on improving health throughout the metro area.

“The message behind the new Healthy KC Commission is, ‘We’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired,’” Chamber CEO Jim Heeter said in a statement Wednesday.

Duane Cramer / Duane Cramer Creative

This Friday is National HIV Testing Day, first created almost 20 years ago to encourage members of the public to learn their HIV status. Since then, what it means to be HIV-positive has changed dramatically.

Individuals diagnosed as positive today can expect to live as long as they would without the virus, as long as they receive treatment.

But many HIV patients, especially in African American communities, don't receive the treatment they need, and health advocates blame that on the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.

Wikimedia-CC

Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill is among 175 hospitals nationwide most likely to be penalized with the loss of Medicare payments because of high rates of infection and other complications.

In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calculated preliminary “hospital-acquired condition” scores from 1 to 10, with one being best and 10 being worst.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is changing the way it shares its reports on nursing home conditions with the public.

The new system, officials say, will make the reports more accurate and more accessible.

But for a group that supports nursing home residents and their families, the changes will make it harder to know which homes are the subjects of complaints and investigations of substandard care.

Matteo Paciotti / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Expanding liquor sales to grocery and convenience stores in Kansas could lead to more underage drinking, according to a new report from the Kansas Health Institute.

The report, called a health impact assessment, is designed to give policymakers information about the potential health consequences of expanded liquor sales.

Women and children escaping domestic abuse often need more than shelter. Many also have serious medical issues.

To address them, Rose Brooks Center, one of the area's largest domestic violence shelters, on Thursday opened a new two-bed health clinic inside its Kansas City facility.

Susan Miller, Rose Brooks' CEO, says the clinic will fill a vital need for the more than 800 women and children sheltered by the agency each year.

Kaiser Health News 

Kansas’ efforts to address the ever-burgeoning needs of its aged and disabled populations rank 17th best in the nation, according to a scorecard released Thursday by AARP.

“Seventeenth — that places us in the second quartile of states, or somewhere toward the middle of the road,” says Maren Turner, director of AARP Kansas. “Kansas can do better than that. I mean, who wants to receive middle-of the-road services? Most people don’t.”

Kansas ranked 18th in a similar report last year. It came in ninth in 2011.

Trevor Graff / KHI News Service

Ryan and Kathy Reed celebrated their son Otis’ third birthday last week, hoping that better days are ahead for him in the family’s new Colorado home.

Otis suffers from uncontrollable epileptic seizures. His body stiffens with them hundreds of times each day.

The Reeds left Kansas for Colorado in early May to gain access to medical marijuana for Otis. He received his first dose of non-psychotropic marijuana extract – known as Charlotte’s Web – on May 8. In the weeks since, steady increases in the dosage have helped Otis to sleep better but haven’t reduced his seizures.

A new report analyzing health plan enrollment through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace shows that most people who signed up — about 70 percent — are paying less than $100 a month for coverage after their advance tax credits are accounted for and nearly half those who enrolled are paying less than $50 per month.

Anna Gorman / Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News

As soon as Deb Emerson, a former high school teacher from Oroville, Calif., bought a health plan in January through the state’s insurance exchange, she felt overwhelmed.

She couldn’t figure out what was covered and what wasn’t. Why weren’t her anti-depressant medications included?  Why did she have to pay $60 to see a doctor? The insurance jargon - deductible, co-pay, premium, co-insurance - was like a foreign language. What did it mean?

Kansas Hospital Association

It’s make-or-break time for advocates of Medicaid expansion in Kansas.

Fearing that political events may be conspiring to foreclose the opportunity to use mostly federal dollars to extend coverage to thousands of uninsured poor adults, the Kansas Hospital Association is preparing to shift its lobbying campaign into high gear.

The first step, says Tom Bell, the association’s chief executive, will be to craft an expansion proposal for lawmakers to consider in the 2015 session.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says a Veterans Administration pilot program offering timely quality health care to rural veterans is being allowed to expire in a few months, even though VA officials tell members of Congress no decision has been made.

Moran and four of his colleagues sent a letter to the VA Secretary seeking an explanation. 

The pilot program, called Access Received Closer to Home, or ARCH, is offered through five pilot sites across the country, including one in Pratt, Kan.

Unlike its neighboring states of Missouri and Nebraska, where significant decreases have been reported, Kansas has seen a significant jump in the number of people enrolled in its Medicaid/CHIP programs, even without loosening its relatively tight eligibility standards.

According to a new report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, enrollment in the programs — together branded as KanCare — rose in April to a historic high of 426,642 people, or roughly one in seven Kansans. That’s up from 396,374 in April 2013.

file photo

The Topeka Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center has not been implicated in the waiting-list scandal unfolding across the country.

But on Friday, two Republican members of the Kansas congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, said their offices have fielded numerous complaints from veterans in recent months about long-standing appointments being canceled or rescheduled at the last minute.

Wichita-area doctors and hospitals have adopted a pre-surgery checklist designed to make the city’s operating rooms among the safest in the nation.

“If you go to the Hospital Compare website and look at ‘antibiotic prophylaxis ordered’ under ‘procedures and core measures,’ you’ll see that we’re at 99-plus percent,” says Dr. Randall Morgan, an obstetrician and chair of the Wichita Quality Health Collaborative’s Surgical Safety Committee.

Kansas Hospital Association

The chief executives of  the Missouri and Kansas hospital associations say thousands of uninsured veterans would be eligible for coverage if Medicaid were expanded in those states. 

In an opinion piece that ran in The Kansas City Star on Tuesday, they estimated that more than 37,000 veterans in Missouri and Kansas would qualify for Medicaid coverage under expansion.

KHI News Service

Providers of home and community-based (HCBS) Medicaid services and their state overseers are preparing for a raft of new federal rules that are intended to assure that the people who receive the services have more say in how they are helped and that their living conditions are “non-institutional.”

The regulations could have major consequences for many beneficiaries and the businesses and organizations that help them, particularly for some senior care providers who operate assisted living facilities attached to or in near proximity to nursing homes.

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