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

Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio

 

The long-running legal battle over the construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas continues.

Earlier this summer, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging the latest construction permit to be issued by state health officials. The environmental group says the permit, issued by Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Robert Moser, doesn’t impose adequate limits on greenhouse gases and other pollutants. A KDHE spokesperson says otherwise.

Northcentral Kansan Tests Positive For West Nile

Aug 20, 2014

State health officials say an adult from Republic County, in northcentral Kansas, has the first confirmed case of West Nile virus in Kansas this year.

No information has been released as to the patient’s condition, or whether he or she has been hospitalized.

The disease is spread by infected mosquitoes, and is not contagious from person to person. KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow says this is the time of year when the species of mosquito that carries West Nile is most active.

Elle Moxley
KCUR

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran on Tuesday helped celebrate the opening of a new patient tower and emergency department at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

The Kansas Republican, from Manhattan, Kan., praised local leaders for coming together to complete the project. He then took a jab at Congress' inability to do the same.

Alex Smith / KCUR

 

A forum in Overland Park Tuesday morning drew attention to the importance of National Institutes of Health funding. U.S. Rep.  Kevin Yoder, NIH official Christopher Austin and University of Kansas officials spoke before an audience of about 150 at KU’s Edwards campus. Yoder, a Kansas Republican, said that while he’s concerned with the federal deficit and overspending, he supports NIH funding.

Kansas Mental Health System Under Increasing Stress

Aug 18, 2014
www.kansasmemory.org / Kansas State Historical Society

 

One day last month, Osawatomie State Hospital had 254 patients in its care — almost 50 more than its optimal capacity.

The overcrowded conditions forced a few dozen patients, all of them coping with a serious mental illness and likely a danger to themselves or others, to be triple-bunked in rooms meant for two.

Kansas Cancer Consortium Receives Federal Funding

Aug 18, 2014

The National Cancer Institute has provided a five-year, $1.7 million grant to a Wichita-based partnership of cancer treatment and research specialists serving most of Kansas.

Wichita oncologist Shaker Dakhil, who heads the Cancer Center of Kansas, will remain the principal investigator for the community-based clinical trials and care delivery research. He says the NCI grant project will include fewer patients than the program it replaces, but it will furnish more funding per patient and deliver better results.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

It was nearly a decade ago that the Rosedale Development Association, a nonprofit community improvement corporation, identified lack of transportation as a significant barrier for neighborhood residents who wanted better access to medical care, grocery stores and other basic services.

The feedback came via a community-needs survey conducted by a volunteer working with the organization, said Erin Stryka, program manager of the association’s Rosedale Healthy Kids program.

Whoever emerges as the top candidate from a crowded field of applicants for the state’s Medicaid inspector general post likely will be vetted more carefully than in the past.

Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will conduct a background check of the candidate before he or she is appointed.

“It’s something that we’re going to require before extending the contract,” he said.

A state official charged with overseeing Medicaid-funded services that help people with disabilities live in community-based settings rather than in nursing homes said Tuesday that coming changes in federal wage and hour rules are likely to increase costs, reduce access to care and give beneficiaries less say in deciding who will provide their care.

Remember that headline-grabbing report last week that said Kansas was the only state in the nation to see a significant increase in its uninsured rate?

Well, it’s looking more and more suspect.

Some officials were immediately skeptical when the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey results were released, showing that the adult uninsured rate in Kansas had increased by 5.1 percentage points, jumping from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by mid-year 2014.

Wladyslaw / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas improperly billed Medicaid for nearly $11 million in school-based health services, a government watchdog has found.

In a report released Monday, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that Kansas received $10.75 million in unallowable reimbursements for services provided during the one-year period from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010.

                                          

A new study by the Urban Institute says that not expanding Medicaid will cost hospitals in Kansas and Missouri more than $9 billion over a 10-year period.

The analysis from the nonpartisan research organization pegs the loss to Kansas hospitals at $2.6 billion between 2013 and 2022. Missouri hospitals would forfeit $6.8 billion over the same period.

Dawn Cherie Araujo / Global Sisters Report

 

Although she’s the executive director of a national organization, Sr. Simone Campbell doesn’t carry a briefcase. Instead, she carries documents and books from city to city, state to state, in a navy tote bag from “The Colbert Report,” a show she’s appeared on twice.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

LaShana McGee marvels at the exploits of her 4-year-old daughter around their neighborhood pool in Piper, Kan.

“She goes straight to the deep end. It’s crazy,” McGee says. “I don’t know why she does that, but she does. She just jumps right in, and she will swim her way back to the stairs where you get in.”

Bigstock

Kansas was one of just three states that saw their rates of people without health insurance go up since last year, according to a new survey.

And, if the poll results are accurate, Kansas was the one whose rates went up the most.

The data, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, show that the uninsured population in Kansas rose from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by midyear 2014 — a whopping increase of 5.1 percentage points.

File photo

 

Ken Selzer emerged from a crowded field Tuesday to capture the Republican nomination for Kansas insurance commissioner.

The certified public accountant from Leawood defeated four rivals in a tight race that was among the last to be settled Tuesday night. Selzer captured 27 percent of 236,644 votes cast in the contest, according to final but unofficial numbers compiled by Kansas secretary of state’s office.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

 

Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner Corp., has agreed to acquire the assets of Siemens AG’s healthcare information technology unit for $1.3 billion in cash.

The combined companies will have more than 20,000 employees in 30 countries and $4.5 billion in annual revenue, according to a news release.

Cerner, a major provider of electronic health records, has more than 14,000 employees worldwide — about 9,600 of them in the Kansas City area — and posted nearly $400 million in profits last year.

A subsidiary of Kansas City, Mo.-based software company DST Systems Inc. will pay more than $2 million to settle charges that it fraudulently billed Medicare.

Argus Health Systems Inc. has agreed to pay $2,029,210 to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to resolve the case, which involved reimbursement for Medicare Part D drugs.

Medicare Part D subsidizes the costs of prescription drugs and prescription drug insurance premiums for Medicare beneficiaries.

State officials last week formally launched a “health home” initiative they hope will help Medicaid enrollees with mentally illnesses live healthier lives and lower the state’s health care costs. 

“We have several goals,” says Becky Ross, director of Medicaid initiatives at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “But the main goal, first and foremost, is to keep people out of the emergency room, reduce inpatient stays as much as possible and help people learn more about how to manage their chronic conditions, whatever those conditions might be.”

KHI News Service Photo

 

The same groups that used the wedge issue of Obamacare to unseat moderate Republican senators two years ago are targeting several House members for defeat in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Kansas Medicaid Fraud Unit Recovers Nearly $29 Million

Aug 4, 2014

Kansas recovered nearly $29 million in taxpayer funds in fiscal 2014 through its Medicaid fraud enforcement unit, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, the Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division of the Kansas attorney general's office recovered more than $28.7 million. The recoveries were reported in the division’s annual report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The top executive at the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System says he and other hospital officials are “baffled” by Gov. Sam Brownback’s unwillingness to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Voters in Salina, Kan., will decide this fall whether to end fluoridation of the city's water supply.

The city has been adding fluoride to its municipal water supply since 1968, as a low-cost way to improve residents’ dental health. That practice could end this November.

Petitions submitted to the Saline County Clerk have been verified as having enough signatures to force the issue to a vote. The question to be decided in the general election is whether the 1968 city ordinance that approved water fluoridation should be rescinded.

Four safety net clinics in Kansas and three in Missouri have been awarded federal funding to create or expand mental health services for low-income individuals. 

The funding is part of almost $55 million in similar grants nationwide through the Affordable Care Act. The clinics will each receive about $250,000.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas saw 2,500 patients for mental health issues last year.  CEO Krista Postai says she intends to use the new money to integrate medical and behavioral care.

University of Missouri - Kansas City

Although some disparities have been shrinking in recent years, African-Americans’ experience with health and healthcare still varies dramatically from much of the rest of the population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, infant mortality and hypertension, among other health markers.

For the past 25 years, Kansas City’s Black Healthcare Coalition has been working to improve health in the African-American community.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Just days after Prime Healthcare Services agreed to buy two Kansas City-area hospitals, laid-off employees of two other area hospitals owned by Prime sued the company, claiming they were not provided with promised severance benefits.  

The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of other terminated employees. It says 49 workers were let go immediately after Prime bought Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, Kan., from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System in April 2013.

As a kid growing up in Grandview, Mo., Michael Thompson began smoking cigarettes at the age of 13. Thirty-four years later, in 1997, he came down with lung cancer.

In 2000, he filed a personal injury suit in Jackson County Circuit Court against the makers of the cigarettes he smoked. A jury awarded him $1 million. A state appeals court later upheld the verdict.

In 2009, Thompson died of throat cancer. His widow and children then filed a wrongful death action in state court against  two of the manufacturers, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA.

'Nun On The Bus' Coming To Kansas City

Jul 30, 2014
NETWORK

Sister Simone Campbell, an outspoken proponent for Medicaid expansion who has appeared on several prominent TV talk shows, will address a public forum on social justice issues in Kansas City, Mo., next week.

Campbell, who led the national “Nuns on the Bus” campaigns in 2012 and 2013, is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Community Christian Church, 4601 Main St.

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.

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