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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More offenders are completing the sexually violent predator treatment program in Kansas, but state officials say they still need a bigger building to house those in treatment.

The program, based at Larned State Hospital, attempts to treat offenders who have completed their prison sentences but who were found to have a mental or personality disorder that placed them at a high risk of committing another violent sexual offense.

BikeWalkKC

Kansas City will reassess its approach to accommodating cyclists, City Manager Troy Schulte told the city council Thursday.

His announcement came in response to a new audit showing the city failing to achieve its goals of becoming more bike friendly.

The audit concluded that the city’s on-street bike plan, Bike KC, lacks critical elements to serve the needs of cyclists and the city’s multi-modal transportation goals.

The failure to update the plan and follow the recommendations of a public committee have led to project delays and increased costs.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Dementia is an impairment of brain functions marked by memory loss and personality changes. It affects an estimated 4 million to 5 million adults in the United States annually and, as the elder population increases, is likely to have a growing impact in the future.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting as many as 5 million Americans in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050.

www.weisspaarz.com

The owner of a medical imaging company allegedly defrauded Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1.5 million, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Topeka.

Cody Lee West, 38, did business as C&S Imaging Inc., a mobile diagnostic testing facility based in Paragould, Arkansas. The facility provided ultrasound services to chiropractors and other medical providers in Kansas.

According to the complaint, West told chiropractors he would provide them with ultrasound equipment and a technician at no charge. The chiropractors would bill for the services.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Medicaid application backlog in Kansas is on its way back up, threatening months of progress on a coverage problem that has vexed health care providers across the state.  

For more than a year, providers that rely on Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare, have been stung by delayed payments as they wait months for eligibility determinations that by federal rule are supposed to take no more than 45 days.

Kansas News Service File

Medicaid expansion will get hearings in the Kansas House during the upcoming legislative session, the chairman of its health committee says, and leadership assignments suggest the issue may have a more receptive audience than in the past.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who also headed the committee in 2016, says he remains opposed to expanding Medicaid to some low-income non-disabled adults, but his committee will debate the issue.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has requested a one-year extension of the current KanCare program while delaying a proposal for an updated version of the Medicaid managed care system.

KanCare, which placed all 425,000 Kansans in Medicaid under the administration of three private insurance companies, began in 2013 and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.

State officials had planned to make changes to the current contracts and then apply for a long-term extension of KanCare with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the beginning of 2017.

America's Health Rankings/United Health Foundation

Kansas was the only state where the obesity rate went up significantly in 2015, according to an annual report, and state officials are trying to figure out why and how to reverse the trend.

The state also lagged on vaccination rates and remained stuck in the middle on overall health, according to the America’s Health Rankings Report, which was released Thursday.

Charlotte Cooper / womensenews.org

A new federal rule barring states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood could prove to be a short-term victory for the organization.

Congressional Republicans have already put the rule on their hit list and it may not survive the first 100 days of a Donald Trump administration.

The rule, posted Wednesday on the website of the Federal Register, is slated to take effect Jan. 18, two days before Inauguration Day.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Sen. Vicki Schmidt is regaining the chairmanship of the state Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for next year.

“I’m certainly excited to chair public health and welfare again and excited for the opportunities to explore issues that are very important to Kansans,” Schmidt said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Schmidt, a Republican pharmacist from Topeka, last chaired the committee during the 2012 legislative session, when the chamber was led by moderate Republicans.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Many pet owners expect to be able to bring their furry friends everywhere – to restaurants, to the grocery store, on planes – and now some want even more doors to open up.

Increasing numbers of domestic violence shelters are accepting the pets of owners who have experienced abuse, and a federal proposal would set up funding for even more to do so.

There’s more a stake that just keeping owners and pets together. Supporters say accommodating pets can be a matter of life and death.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A task force chaired by Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to address problems in rural health care determined that expanding telemedicine, addressing workforce shortages and giving providers more flexibility were key to Kansas’ future.

The Rural Health Working Group wrapped up a year of meetings Tuesday and is now compiling a set of recommendations to present to the Legislature ahead of the session that begins Jan. 9.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

School lunch has long been a target of jokes. Those jokes turned to complaints from students and parents alike in 2012 when new congressionally mandated nutrition standards took effect.

Adam Piotrowski / Flickr--CC

Donations to the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City always drop off around the holidays, but lower-than-expected collections last month have led to a shortage.

“We try to collect more blood in anticipation of those days off, and we usually do OK,” says Executive Director David Graham. “But we had more of a challenge this year than normal. November is traditionally a strong month of blood collections for us, and it wasn’t quite as strong this year.”

Courtesy Melinda Miner

At 59 years old, Bill Miller is starting to have neck and back problems. Thirty-two years of bending over to check patients’ teeth and gums will do that, he said.

Miller is the only dentist in Hill City, a community of about 1,500 people northwest of Hays. He has treated Medicaid patients his entire career, even as reimbursements increasingly have lagged the cost of providing care.

State of Kansas official portrait

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is appealing a federal court’s dismissal of his lawsuit challenging the suspension of his law license by the Kansas Supreme Court three years ago.

Kline filed an electronic notice of appeal late Saturday to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There will be a political shift in the Kansas legislature with the new leaders lawmakers selected Monday. Conservatives will hold on to the very top jobs for 2017, but more moderate Republicans also picked up key positions. There is turnover among some of the Democratic leadership posts too.

All the change reflects gains made by moderate Republicans in the August primaries, and gains by Democrats in November, especially in the House. The move to the center on the Senate side is more subtle, but nonetheless notable.

“Elections have consequences and this election pretty much showed it’s going to be a fairly blended leadership team,” said Rep. Dan Hawkins, a conservative Republican from Wichita who lost a bid for leadership job.

Heartland Health Monitor

Dana Schoffelman sees one way to keep serving Kansas kids with serious mental health needs without going under financially: taking fewer of them and supplementing with out-of-state children.

Schoffelman, executive director of Florence Crittenton Services in Topeka, has new financial concerns because of a policy change by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Kansas Department for Children and Families

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families confirmed this week that a call center for child abuse reports had trouble keeping up with the volume of calls it received in September but denied the center had a “backlog.”

Foster care contractors learned of the issue in a Sept. 22 email sent by a DCF employee that said the call center was “experiencing a backlog in processing new reports of abuse or neglect, due to a severe staffing issue.”

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Planned Parenthood Great Plains says it has been flooded with support since the national election in November.

The women's health organization, which serves Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, says that between Nov. 8 and Dec. 1, it has received three times the amount of donations it receives in a typical month.

Spokeswoman Bonyen Lee-Gilmore says around 200 volunteers have signed up during the same period, compared to around 10 in an average month.

Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote early next week on a major medical research and mental health bill that two members of the Kansas congressional delegation played a role in.

healthcare.gov

Close to 25,000 Kansans have signed up for health insurance through the online marketplace, healthcare.gov, despite uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act under a new administration.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service reported Wednesday that 24,778 people in Kansas had signed up for insurance since open enrollment for 2017 started Nov. 1. The number of people seeking insurance was up less than 2 percent compared to the same period during open enrollment last year.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Most Tuesday mornings, the Palestine Senior Activity Center in Kansas City is a pretty quiet place. But recently, high schoolers, community workers and seniors crowded the parking lot. Lots of curious neighbors peeked from porches and through the gates to see what the buzz was about.

With a cue from Lynn Miller of Palestine Missionary Baptist Church, a booming beat exploded from a PA system, and the parking lot crowd seemed to transform into a lockstep dance troupe.

Megan Wingerter / Heartland Health Monitor

It isn’t far from the gleaming bank buildings and high-end hotels to the rent-to-own stores and corner shops that stock more chips than fruit.

A visitor getting off the highway in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, would pass by a Hilton Garden Inn and several high-rise buildings bearing the names of financial companies.

Listen to Jerry Jones, executive director of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, talk about the Kirwan report

File Photo / Kansas News Service

This story was updated at 6:04 p.m. 

Kansas is seeking a private partner to operate Osawatomie State Hospital under a proposal that would allow the contractor to shift more than half the hospital’s beds to other parts of eastern Kansas.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

An analysis of KanCare performed by a former Republican governor’s think tank found that the switch to managed care Medicaid in Kansas has delivered on cost-cutting promises but not on quality of care.

Leavitt Partners, a policy consulting shop founded by former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, performed the analysis between May and October by interviewing KanCare providers and reviewing federal and state data.

Some Americans Elect To ‘Opt Out’ Of Obamacare

Nov 17, 2016
HealthCare.gov

This story was originally published by Kaiser Health News and is reprinted with permission.

Steven Lopez has gone without health insurance for 15 years, and the Affordable Care Act hasn’t changed his mind. Once again this year he will forgo coverage, he said, even though it means another tax penalty.

Last tax season, the 51-year-old information technology professional and his family paid a mandatory penalty of nearly $1,000, he said. That’s because they found it preferable to the $400 to $500 monthly cost of an Obamacare health plan.

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Medicaid expansion advocates in Kansas say they’ll move forward with legislation despite national election results that signal a repeal of Obamacare.

But they are a lot less optimistic about their chances than they were before last week.

Click here to read about a Kansas City family's growing anxiety about Obamacare's repeal

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Last week’s election results stunned a lot of people who get health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress say they want to scrap the law, but what might replace it remains unknown.

That has left many Missouri and Kansas families in limbo, unsure what will become of their medical care.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

The leader of a mental health crisis center in Kansas City told legislators Tuesday that the amount of money his facility is saving Kansas hospitals, prisons and jails is nearly double its total budget.

Randy Callstrom is president and CEO of Wyandot Inc., a community mental health center that took over the former Rainbow Mental Health Facility state hospital in 2014.

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