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

Joe Loong / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas health centers will receive about $2.2 million in grants and Missouri health centers, including three in Kansas City, will receive about $7.5 million to improve access to oral health care.

The grants are part of $156 million in federal funding announced Thursday by the Health Resources and Services Administration for health centers in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas has “reconsidered” its decision to terminate the participation of 11 Planned Parenthood physicians and other medical providers in the state’s Medicaid program, although it’s still trying to cut off Planned Parenthood itself.

Rebecca Lyn Phillips, of Topeka, has schizophrenia and writes a blog about the challenges of living with the disorder. She says the prospect of step therapy is 'terrifying' to many people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Although every state has now adopted some form of “step therapy” to control prescription drug costs, patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain deeply distrustful of the policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Also known as “fail first,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

Alex Smith / KCUR

As the nation grapples with the weekend mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, one of the country’s leading advocates for gun control offered some advice to the state of Kansas.

Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, spoke to health care providers, educators and medical students at the University of Kansas Medical Center on Monday, laying out a proposal to create temporary gun restrictions as a way to reduce gun violence.

He said special considerations are needed when someone is experiencing a crisis and may be at risk for dangerous behavior.

Rotary Club of Nagpur / Flickr-CC

Starting tonight and for an entire week, the Glenwood Arts theater is screening the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” which was withdrawn from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year amid an uproar over its thesis: that there’s a link between the mandatory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, and that health authorities have conspired to cover it up.

Ozarks Community Hospital

A new study by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute finds stark differences between states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and those — like Kansas and Missouri — that haven’t.

Matt Kleinmann / Community Health Council of Wyandotte County

Standing at the meeting point of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, you can still get a glimpse of what Lewis and Clark might have seen when they camped here 212 years ago: vast skies, tall trees, wide, shimmering rivers, even the occasional eagle.

Rick Behrens, pastor of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kansas, says the rivers are hidden gems.

“It’s really a unique slice of nature in the middle of our cities that’s pretty amazing and a great opportunity for people to get away from the city, in a sense, right in the middle of the city,” Behrens says.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

A federal judge on Tuesday promised to rule before July 7 on Planned Parenthood’s request to block the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from cutting off its Medicaid funding.

That’s the date when the agency has said it will terminate Planned Parenthood’s participation in the Medicaid program.

The original cutoff date was May 10, but KDHE has extended that deadline twice, in part because it has had trouble finding counsel to represent it.

Courtesy Coffeyville USD 445

Children’s programs across the state are scrambling to deal with grant cuts that take effect at the start of July.

The cuts come from a $3.3 million reduction in funding for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, which uses the state’s share of the 1998 master settlement agreement with large tobacco companies to provide grants through the Children’s Initiatives Fund for programs for children and families.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas tax collections for May fell short of projections by about $74 million, and legislators said Wednesday they fear that will mean more cuts to Medicaid.

The May shortfall comes despite the state’s revenue estimating group revising projections downward for the third consecutive time about six weeks ago.

It wipes out the meager savings Gov. Sam Brownback created when he made cuts two weeks ago after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals nationwide are facing a host of financial challenges, but states can still take action to keep them open, the head of a rural health group told the Governor’s Rural Health Working Group on Wednesday in Topeka.

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, said people in urban areas have a few explanations for why rural hospitals are struggling: irreversible population decline in rural areas, low-quality care and bad management practices.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

A pregnant woman who was shackled, chained and transported from the Jackson County jail to a facility 192 miles away while bleeding, vomiting and experiencing contractions has settled her lawsuit against the county.

Jackson County has agreed to pay Megon Riedel $50,000 in damages and to implement policies and procedures addressing its use of restraints and transportation for pregnant inmates and pretrial detainees, said ACLU attorney Gillian R. Wilcox, who represented Riedel.

Mark Baylor / Creative Commons-Flickr

Health advocates have a simple message for parents: Don’t share a bed with your baby.

Unfortunately, it’s a message many Kansas parents aren’t taking to heart.

In 2016, seven infants in Sedgwick County died sleeping in the same bed with their parents, a practice that can lead to suffocation. That’s equal to the bed sharing deaths in Wichita for all of 2015.

Three infants in Leavenworth County this year have also died sharing beds.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

A Kansas appeals court has upheld a jury award to the estate and parents of a 40-year-old man who took his life after a botched medical procedure left him with overwhelming spinal injuries.

The $2.88 million judgment in 2014 was the largest jury award in a Johnson County medical malpractice case in more than 25 years, according to local attorneys.  

File photo

Kansas health care providers will urge federal officials to reject Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed Medicaid cuts and may challenge them in court.

The recently announced cuts would reduce state expenditures for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, by $56.3 million and trigger a loss of approximately $72.3 million in federal funds. Combined, the managed care organizations that administer $3 billion KanCare program and the health care and service providers they have contracts with would be forced to absorb more than $128 million in cuts.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

State officials on Thursday wrapped up a series of public forums on the pending renewal of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Federal approval for the five-year demonstration project expires at the end of 2017, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment plans to apply for reauthorization by the end of this year.

Forum organizers were looking for ideas about coordination of care, value-based payment systems and waiver integration.

Pat Hook

NPR, Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered to survey Americans last year about their perceptions of health care.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri says it’s merging with its central Oklahoma counterpart and will be renamed Planned Parenthood Great Plains effective July 1.

The combined affiliates will operate nine clinics in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma and will be headquartered in Kansas City, according to a news release from PPKM.  

Nicolas Rohner

Bob Caviar has seen his share of heavy eaters.

He’s the owner of Papa Bob’s Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas, and the creator of a sandwich he’s christened “The Ultimate Destroyer.”

“This wasn’t designed as a challenge,” Caviar says. “It was really designed to feed families.”

But the football-sized sandwich, which contains four and a half pounds of meat, has turned out to be irresistible to eaters with something to prove.

Though many heed the call, the years have shown it takes a rare breed to conquer the Ultimate Destroyer.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated at 8:30 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback trimmed more than $56 million from Medicaid in Kansas as part of larger budget cuts announced Wednesday, raising concerns that health care providers may decide not to take unprofitable patients.

About $38.2 million of the $56.4 million in budget cuts comes from reducing reimbursements by 4 percent for providers who treat patients covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program launched in 2013. The remaining $18.2 million comes from cuts in other areas of the Medicaid program.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

The Overland Park City Council on Monday set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products, meaning that a regional campaign has now upped the legal age in the metropolitan area’s five largest cities.

The council approved the ordinance Monday on a 9-3 vote, with council members Dave Janson, Fred Spears and Dan Stock voting against the measure.

Courtesy Innara Health

The beginning of May was a roller coaster of emotions for Innara Health CEO Michael Peck.

The results of a promising trial of his company’s NTrainer product, which helps premature babies learn to nurse, were unveiled April 30 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore.

File photo

This story was updated at 3:20 p.m.

Another class-action lawsuit alleging Cerner illegally failed to pay employees overtime wages has been filed against the health care technology company.

The latest was filed in federal court in Kansas City on behalf of so-called AMS delivery consultants at Cerner, basically help desk workers who offer technical support and troubleshooting assistance.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

In early April, dozens of cyclists gathered in a midtown Kansas City grocery store parking lot for a crosstown trek in honor of a fallen friend and fellow rider.

Thirty-two-year-old Anthony Saluto had been killed a few days earlier when a driver heading in the opposite direction swerved into his lane and hit him. Many of the cyclists, including Peter Quick, were still shaken up.

“It’s like losing a family member,” Quick said. “Bicyclists in this town are a pretty tight-knit group. So when something happens to somebody you know, it hits home pretty fast.”

File photo

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer announced Thursday that two companies have filed to sell health insurance plans in Kansas on the individual market, including the federal Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace.

UnitedHealthcare’s announcement that it would be pulling out of the marketplace in 2017 opened the possibility that Kansans who shop there would be left with only one choice of insurer.

Joe Gratz
Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 11:39 a.m.

Battling on two legal fronts, the regional affiliate of Planned Parenthood scored a court victory in Missouri and secured an additional delay in a threatened cutoff of its Medicaid funds in Kansas.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled that Missouri’s attempt to revoke the abortion license of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri, violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

File photo

The head of the legal department at Larned State Hospital will be transferred to Topeka later this month, a move that has some western Kansas attorneys concerned the distance could throw a wrench in the process of committing people who need mental health treatment.

State officials have scheduled five meetings to gather public comment on KanCare in advance of renewing contracts to administer the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The contracts currently held by UnitedHealthcare, Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan (a subsidiary of Centene) expire in 2018. Those private insurance companies serve as managed care organizations that operate KanCare.

Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said her agency wants to hear from the public on what to include in the next contracts.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

After another legislative session with no action on Medicaid expansion, advocates in Kansas are turning their attention to the upcoming state elections and urging voters to become more vocal on the issue.

A Monday rally in a Statehouse hearing room drew a standing-room-only crowd. It was better-attended than other similar rallies in the four years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have discretion over whether they expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.”

America's Health Rankings

Kansas parents do a better-than-average job at getting vaccinations for their young children but don’t fare as well once those children reach their teen years.

That’s according to a report from the United Health Foundation showing about 77 percent of Kansas children had received their recommended sequence of shots by age 3, placing the state in the top 10 for on-time vaccinations. Nationwide, about 72 percent of kids had finished their early vaccines on time. 

Pages