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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State health officials are looking for connections in seven reported cases of kidney failure commonly caused by a type of bacteria sometimes found in food. 

A total of seven cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome have been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. These cases have not been confirmed yet, according to KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry. 

Nearly half of all inmates at the municipal jail in Kansas City, Mo., indicated they had a mental health problem, according to the latest results from a periodic survey administered by an outside contractor.

Roughly 45 percent of the respondents answered “yes” when asked if they thought they had a mental health problem or had been told they had one, according to the survey results, which were delivered earlier this month.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

 

Representatives from a broad spectrum of agencies and organizations, including hospitals and courts, are crystallizing plans they hope will help solve a health problem in Kansas City, Mo.

The issue is that people who are high, drunk or in psychiatric crisis clog emergency rooms and tie up first-responders with needs more suited to mental health intervention, according to organizers.

The Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City will merge with the New York Blood Center, one of the largest independent community-based blood centers in the United States.

In a statement Monday, the Kansas City organization said the merger would provide a “greater breadth of services, efficiency and financial stability.”

Lisa Keller, spokesperson for the Community Blood Center, said plans for the partnership started to develop about three years ago. The merger was prompted, in part, by lower demand for donated blood.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

More than 57,000 Kansans signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange before the March 31 deadline.

“That was 19.1 percent of all those who were eligible,” said Katrina McGivern, communications coordinator for the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, one of the Kansas groups given federal grant dollars to help get people enrolled.

Missouri’s refusal to expand Medicaid will leave more than 56,000 patients who use community health centers without insurance, according to a report released Friday by researchers at George Washington University.

Similarly, Kansas’ refusal to expand Medicaid will leave more than 24,000 community health center patients without insurance, according to the report.

Mike Sherry / KCPT - Hale Center for Journalism.

A forum on a Wyandotte County health initiative drew a standing-room-only crowd to City Hall Thursday evening, but that level of interest didn’t mean participants believed government officials would follow through with the plan.

In reporting feedback from their break-out sessions, forum organizers said many attendees were skeptical because they believed City Hall had not delivered for them in the past.

Missouri spends the least on public health per person in the country, according to a new report out from the non-partisan Trust for America's Health. 

The Show-Me state spent just $5.86 per person, compared with a national average of $27.49, in fiscal 2013, the report says.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

The decision by state officials not to expand Medicaid eligibility could deny thousands of uninsured Kansans access to life-saving cancer treatments, according to a recent report by researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

KCPT

John Hornbeck came to a Thursday forum in Kansas City, Kan., with two cans of green beans.

His point was to illustrate that solving hunger isn’t as simple as merely providing someone something to eat — especially when health is thrown into the mix.

Federal health exchange enrollments more than doubled in Missouri and nearly doubled in Kansas in the weeks leading up to the enrollment deadline, according to figures released by the government Thursday. 

In Missouri, enrollment through the federal marketplace shot up to 152,335 - a 105 percent increase over the number who selected a health plan by the end of February. In Kansas, enrollment increased to 57,013 - a 95 percent jump over February.

HCA Inc. on Wednesday agreed to pay $77 million to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City on top of nearly $162 million it was ordered to pay last year. 

The payment averts a hearing in May in which a judge was to decide how much additional money, if any, HCA owed.

The payment stems from a lawsuit the foundation, which was created from the proceeds of the sale of Health Midwest to HCA in 2003, filed in 2009. The suit alleged that HCA Midwest Health System reneged on obligations it assumed when it bought Health Midwest.

Tax cuts in Kansas have "landed with a thud," according to the co-author of a report that criticizes the state's actions for harming public services and sapping the state's long-term economic vitality. 

The report, which was released by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says massive tax cuts enacted by Kansas lawmakers in 2012 have left the state's schools, public health departments and other public services "stuck in the recession." 

The three private companies contracted to manage Medicaid services through KanCare lost money in the program's first year, according to a report released this week.

The total losses between the companies come to more than $100 million.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, is concerned that could lead to service reductions or the companies pulling out of the program altogether.

Mike Shields / Kansas Health News

Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday he will ask the Kansas Legislature to approve spending an additional $2.6 million in state funds to help reduce the waiting lists for in-home, Medicaid services for the disabled.

If approved, an estimated 209 additional people would receive the services.

There are about 5,000 people on the waiting lists; more than 3,100 are developmentally disabled. About 1,800 physically disabled people also await services, though administration officials said they were still in the process of verifying the accuracy of that number.

Alex Smith / KCUR

The Kansas City Royals said on Thursday that they would offer special events at select games for those with severe peanut allergies.

The announcement was a victory for Janna Miller of Knob Noster, Mo.

In March, Miller started a Facebook group to encourage allergy-sensitive events at Royals games after noticing none listed on this season’s schedule.

Her son, Weston, was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy when he was three.

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