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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Stormont Vail Health of Topeka is closing two regional clinics because of financial pressures created by recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursements and the decision by state leaders not to expand the health care program.

Stormont will close Cotton O’Neil clinics in Lyndon and Alma, according to a news release issued Thursday. The Lyndon clinic will close Dec. 31. The clinic in Alma will close Jan. 31, 2017.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says members of Congress should set aside partisan differences and fix problems with the Affordable Care Act.

Failing to do so, she warns, could hasten consideration of a single-payer system.

Brad Nading

After a series of hits to their budgets, community mental health centers in Kansas are adjusting through cutbacks, changes in services or a combination of the two.

In Topeka, Valeo Behavioral Health Care plans to limit sessions for uninsured patients. Valeo provided about $2 million in charitable care last year but can’t offer that much this year because of cuts to Medicaid and other revenue streams, CEO Bill Persinger says.

Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop.

But they’re declining faster in states that have expanded Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.

New data out Tuesday from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Kansas’ uninsured rate dropped to 9.1 percent in 2015, down from 10.2 percent the year before and 12.3 percent in 2013.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fellman says a chance passerby — or, perhaps, divine intervention — kept him alive when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder became overwhelming.

Fellman, a combat veteran of the Iraq War who spoke Friday at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs summit in Topeka about mental health care, said he had planned to die on July 31, 2015.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Mat Smith and Ben Stickler are in training.

The two twenty-somethings from the Kansas City area are working to improve their rankings in the online game League of Legends. Stickler says the strategy and competition remind him of the sports he played growing up.

“You can see yourself getting better,” Stickler says. “You can challenge yourself as you get better. And just play with people that are as well as you and really bond over that.”

Zach Klamann / Heartland Health Monitor

Planned Parenthood Great Plains says it has joined forces with three Planned Parenthood facilities in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, giving it a total of 12 health centers in four states.

Formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, the organization earlier this year expanded into central Oklahoma and took on its current name to reflect its greater geographical reach.

The University of Kansas Hospital and Hays Medical Center announced Wednesday that they have signed a letter of intent to join forces, bringing together the state’s only academic hospital and one of its leading rural hospitals.

The partnership, which was announced at simultaneous news conferences at both hospitals, builds on a relationship established nearly three years ago when the two institutions, along with more than a dozen critical care hospitals, partnered to treat heart and stroke patients in western Kansas.

Trust For America's Health / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

One of every three adult Kansans was obese in 2015, ranking the state seventh in the country in an annual report. Kansas also was one of only two states where obesity rates increased from the previous year.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Like most moms, Judy Talbot has photos and videos of her daughter on her smartphone.

But some of the images Talbot keeps on her phone show her daughter smacking herself in the face repeatedly or strapped to a bed, writhing against restraints with bruises up and down both legs.

“From her kicking,” Talbot explained.

Talbot’s daughter, Jill, is 32 and has autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Donna Ginther / University of Kansas

University of Kansas economist Donna Ginther made waves in 2011 with her studies showing racial disparities in research grant awards, which led the National Institutes of Health to start an initiative to address the issue. She says the problem isn’t necessarily bias on the part of those who award grants but lack of mentors and training for diverse communities.

Ginther recently sat down with KCUR’s Alex Smith to talk about her latest work on the issue, which factors in gender. She and her colleagues looked at NIH R01 grants awarded between 2000 and 2006.

user Mrd7b2 / Wikipedia

Medical information for hundreds of patients has been stolen from an area hospital.

Children’s Mercy Hospital, based in Kansas City, released a statement Wednesday reporting that information for 238 patients was stolen from the locked trunk of an employee’s care.

“We are very sensitive to these families’ concerns and have apologized to them,” the statement read.

The hospital said that the information does not include patients’ addresses, social security numbers or financial information.

McKinnon Motorsports

For anyone who knows Elyse McKinnon, it’s hard to imagine her not tearing down a race track on a motorcycle.

But life without racing is just what the 30-year-old had to consider after a tragic crash in the summer of 2015 left her with a broken back.  

McKinnon and her husband, Chris McKinnon, of Lawrence, Kansas, have been avid motorcyclists since moving to the Midwest from Florida shortly after Elyse graduated from college.

Elyse says her competitive drive prompted her transition from weekend rider to competitive drag racer.

U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

A new analysis from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says headlines about anticipated premium increases on the Obamacare health insurance marketplace overlook an important point: Most Americans, including two-thirds of Kansans and three-quarters of Missourians, still will be able to find a plan for $75 a month or less.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

 

Familiar sounds filled the air at Blue Valley Northwest High School’s first football practice of the year.

Rock music playing over the sound system. Whistles blaring. Coaches yelling instructions.

But one sound wasn’t present: helmets colliding.

That’s because the Kansas State High School Activities Association, or KSHSAA, approved new rules last year limiting full-contact football practice.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The director of one of the state’s largest community mental health centers says the head of the agency that oversees the behavioral health system appears to be making an effort to repair damaged relations with providers.

But he says Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck has his work cut out for him.

File photo

Facing increasing criticism from health care providers about recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates, Gov. Sam Brownback said that he will attempt to restore the cuts by increasing a tax that hospitals pay.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Brownback said he was forced to order a 4 percent cut in provider reimbursement rates in May after efforts to negotiate an increase in the surcharge failed.

It's a split decision in the trial of the so-called "Medicaid 23," a group of religious leaders who staged a protest in the Missouri Senate more than two years ago over lawmakers' refusal to expand Medicaid.

Twenty-two members of the group were found guilty of trespassing for not leaving the Senate gallery when ordered to do so by Capitol police. But they were found not guilty of obstructing the operations of the Senate. The case of one other member will be decided later.

File photo

The waiting list for Medicaid services for Kansans with physical disabilities has dropped by more than 1,700 since last year but hasn’t budged for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

In July, 3,450 Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities were waiting for home and community-based services provided through Medicaid, as were 10 Kansans with physical disabilities.

Hewlett Packard Enterprises

Computer giant Hewlett Packard Enterprises has entered into a $215 million contract with the state of Kansas to upgrade a Medicaid computer system that tracks patient claims payments to providers.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

The trial of 23 people who protested Missouri’s failure to expand Medicaid began today in Jefferson City with jury selection.

The so-called Medicaid 23 defendants include many notable Kansas City clergy members, among them Sam Mann, Wallace Hartsfield and Vernon P. Howard Jr. They are accused of trespassing and obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors.

The unusual mass trial stems from protests the defendants staged in May 2014. They were arrested after refusing to leave the Senate gallery, where they were chanting and singing.

Heartland Health Monitor

Nine Kansas medical practices and collaborative groups will participate in an experiment to find out if doctors could do a better job preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, Wyandotte County has seen the number of its uninsured fall from 26 percent to 18 percent, one of the biggest drops in the country.

But it’s one thing to boast of boosting the ranks of the insured, another to steer them through a complicated and, at times, bewildering health care system.

With a $1.9 million grant from the United Health Foundation, announced today by county officials at the offices of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, the county is now in a better position to do that.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

John Fasbinder’s dental office was busy on a recent Tuesday.

Three employees helped in the reception area, answering phones and clicking away at computers. Hygienists tended to patients in three dental chairs in the main clinic. Fasbinder and his associate, Seth Cohen, flitted among those patients and others in private rooms set up for more intensive work.

Most days are like this for Fasbinder. At his Prairie Village office, he takes patients on Medicaid — no matter how old they are, what part of Kansas they come from or how difficult they are to treat.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The leaders of some Kansas community mental health centers say they are having trouble getting paid for some Medicaid services they believe their clients need.

Brenda Mills, CEO of Family Service and Guidance Center, a Topeka-based community mental health center that serves children, spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

Creative Commons-Wikimedia

Three Kansas City hospitals earned national bragging rights in U.S. News & World Report’s latest hospital rankings.

The University of Kansas Hospital was nationally ranked in 11 adult specialties, Children’s Mercy Hospital was nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties, and Saint Luke’s Hospital was nationally ranked in four adult specialties.

The three were the only hospitals in the metro to receive national recognition in the publication’s 27th annual Best Hospitals rankings.

Heartland Health Monitor file photo

Gov. Sam Brownback intends to take the “interim” off Tim Keck’s title.

Keck has served as interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services since January. He previously had worked as deputy chief counsel for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

University of Kansas Hospital

This story was updated at 2:16 p.m. to include the response of KU Hospital.

A University of Kansas Hospital pathologist’s lawsuit alleging the hospital’s chief pathologist misdiagnosed a patient as having cancer and subsequently covered it up has taken a strange new turn.

On Friday, the plaintiff, Dr. Lowell L. Tilzer, voluntarily dismissed his whistleblower action against the hospital, saying he “believes further litigation of this claim is not necessary to protect him from retaliation at this time.”

Courtesy Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted a months-long investigation into what led federal officials to deem Osawatomie State Hospital as a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the fifth and final story of the series.

iStock

Years of problems at Osawatomie State Hospital reached a crisis point in the fall of 2015, when the sexual assault of a hospital employee by a patient triggered two failed inspections and the loss of federal funding.

Kansas had relied more on OSH after it reduced the number of state hospital beds in the 1990s. The idea was to put more money into community mental health services, but that hadn’t happened since the early 2000s — and those services actually lost money during the Great Recession. 

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