Kansas

File Photo / Kansas News Service

While the Kansas Legislature’s final budget bill did increase spending on mental health hospitals by $17 million, more than two-thirds of that funding will be used to maintain the status quo.

That’s because $11.7 million — or 69 percent of the $17 million in extra funds the Legislature appropriated early Monday in Senate Bill 249  — will be used to replace federal funding the state hospitals lost or pay contract facilities to assist when Osawatomie State Hospital is at capacity.

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The Kansas Legislature added several patient protection measures to a bill allowing “step therapy” for Medicaid drugs before passing the legislation early Monday morning.

Advocates for Kansans with mental illness and other conditions were pleased with the changes but remain concerned about the possible effects of the underlying bill on vulnerable patients.

Step therapy requires Medicaid patients to try the least expensive medications for treating their ailments first. If those fail, they can then “step up” to a more expensive alternative.

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A “mega-bill” containing several provisions related to licensure of medical professionals survived a rules dispute to pass just before the Kansas Legislature adjourned early Monday morning.

Unless Gov. Sam Brownback vetoes the bill, the conference committee report combined in House Bill 2615 will require acupuncturists to be licensed, enter Kansas into a compact that will license physicians to practice across state lines and expand the authority of nurse midwives.

Miran Rijavec / Creative Commons-Flickr

The Kansas Legislature passed a bill Saturday banning tanning salons from serving minors, a measure advocates say will reduce cancer.

Free-market advocates had pushed for an amendment allowing tanning for customers under 18 with parental permission. But the House and Senate ultimately voted to join a dozen other states and Washington, D.C., in banning it completely.

Unless Gov. Sam Brownback vetoes the measure, it will become law as soon as it is published in the state statutes book.

Kansas' budget woes have resulted in public schools across the state reducing costs and arts education is taking the hit. One Shawnee Mission teacher has had enough of shrinking support for the arts in his district.

Guests:

  • Jonathan Lane is Orchestra Director at Shawnee Mission East High School.
  • Narric Rome is vice-president of Government Affairs and Arts Education for Americans for the Arts.

KHI News Service file photo

The Kansas House shot down a plan to return some 330,000 Kansas businesses back to the income tax rolls Friday, voting 45-74 on the measure.

A tax conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators agreed to push the measure forward for a floor vote as the Legislature tries to close a budget gap, adjourn the session and head back to the campaign trail.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A coalition of health care and religious groups is asking Gov. Sam Brownback to convene a conference on gun violence.

“In the immediate aftermath of the tragic attack at Excel Industries in Hesston, you declined questions about gun policy issues because you understandably felt the timing was not appropriate,” reads the first sentence of the request submitted earlier this week. “We the undersigned inferred that you do believe, however, a time and place for such a conversation exists. We think that time should be soon.”

Bigstock

The departure of UnitedHealthcare could leave Kansans shopping on the federal online marketplace with only one choice of insurer, but Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is working to bring in more.

Deputy Commissioner Clark Shultz says Selzer has for several months been in talks with other insurance companies about joining the marketplace in 2017, and those discussions appear close to yielding results.

“It’s too early to announce that and we don’t have it secured, but there are some very positive developments,” Shultz says.

Feeding America

A new study of food insecurity finds some familiar patterns in Kansas. But there are also a few surprises.

Every year when the County Health Rankings are released, they show southeast Kansas and Wyandotte County as having persistent problems with lower average incomes and higher poverty levels. So it should come as no surprise that those same places have a high degree of food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of reliable access to adequate food.

Health Care Cost Institute

Kansas City-area residents needing a knee replacement might find it worthwhile to drive to St. Louis.

That’s because the average price of the procedure in the KC area is $26,601. In the St. Louis area, it’s $23,114 – a $3,487 difference.

On the other hand, the average cost of an ultrasound in metro St. Louis is $375. That compares with $271 in metro Kansas City, a $74 difference.

United Health Foundation

More than a quarter of adult Kansans say they don’t have any of five major behavioral risk factors for chronic disease, but the picture isn’t so rosy for minorities, men or people with lower incomes.

A recent report from the United Health Foundation examined the percentage of adults with five unhealthy behaviors: smoking, excessive drinking, insufficient sleep, physical inactivity and obesity.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A bill to legalize hemp oil at the state level has drawn the ire of Kansas medical marijuana advocates who say it’s too watered down to do any good.

Members of Bleeding Kansas, one of the state’s largest medical marijuana advocacy groups, rallied Wednesday at the Capitol to urge legislators to ditch Senate Bill 489.

Christine Gordon and others said the bill would only add fees and regulatory hurdles to cannabidiol, or CBD oil — a substance that already can be accessed legally at the federal level.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Federal officials have reversed position on a long-standing ban on paying for some inpatient psychiatric care, giving a possible boost to Kansas crisis centers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a proposed rule Monday that will place new requirements on managed care organizations administering Medicaid, such as the three insurance companies that operate KanCare, the state’s privatized $3 billion program.

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An effort to roll back a controversial business tax exemption is among the budget-balancing proposals that lawmakers will take up in the final weeks of the 2016 legislative session.

Several key Republicans, including many self-described conservatives who voted for Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts in 2012, are openly supporting bills to either reduce or eliminate the exemption as legislators return Wednesday to the Statehouse to wrap up the session.

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Members of the Legislative Post Audit Committee again declined Tuesday to request an investigation into whether the Kansas Department for Children and Families has placed children in risky situations because of a preference for heterosexual foster parents.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, first requested the audit in December after reports surfaced of DCF removing a baby from the home of a lesbian couple in Wichita and placing it with a heterosexual Topeka couple who subsequently were charged with child abuse.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

When Shannon Lindsey moved from Missouri to Kansas two years ago, she decided she wanted to go to Johnson County Community College to get a nursing degree that would make her more employable.

Lindsey, now 49, has several disabilities, so she contacted Kansas’ vocational rehabilitation office for assistance. In Missouri she had the same vocational rehabilitation counselor for years — a state worker who understood her needs, what was available to help her and how to get it to her quickly.

C_osett / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas spends only about $12 per person on public health, making it one of the states putting the least money into preventing chronic and infectious diseases.

J. Schafer / Kansas Public Radio

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was processing a crime scene Sunday  at a Topeka hotel where three federal agents suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being shot while trying to make an arrest on Saturday night.

According to a statement by the FBI, members of the United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force were executing a federal arrest warrant for Orlando J. Collins, 28, who was on the Kansas most-wanted list and was considered armed and dangerous. The warrant had been issued for Collins on April 20, charging him with two counts of robbery.

Creative Commons-Flickr

Two Kansas State University students are suing the university for refusing to investigate their claims of rape because the violence occurred in fraternities located off campus.

In separate suits filed Wednesday in federal court in Kansas, the students allege the university was indifferent to their reports of rape. The women also allege the university violated their rights as consumers of public education in the state.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Kansas officials got the bad news they were expecting Wednesday.

After reading the economic tea leaves and noting that state tax collections have been short of expectations in 11 of the past 12 months, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group reduced its revenue projections for this budget year and the next by $228.6 million.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A handful of university economists and state officials will meet Wednesday behind closed doors in Topeka to revise their estimate of how much tax revenue Kansas will collect over the next year. 

It’s a process the state has used since the late 1970s for budgeting purposes. But a string of missed estimates in recent years has made it controversial.

Courtesy Iola Unified School District 257

Delivering meals to low-income people is a long-standing way to improve nutrition, but a project in Iola Unified School District 257 will bring the whole diner.

Kathy Koehn, nutrition and wellness coordinator at USD 257, said students taking vocational classes in the district are working to remodel an older school bus as a “traveling bistro” where children who may not have access to healthy food during the summer can get lunch.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Two employees of Larned State Hospital made rare public comments Monday about difficult working conditions at the mental health facility.

Kyle Nuckolls and Lynette Lewis described for a legislative committee the toll that mandatory overtime and limited time between shifts is taking on workers at the short-staffed facility and their families.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Lewis, a pharmacy technician who has worked at Larned for 18 years.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Representatives of 15 groups that advocate for Kansas Medicaid populations sent a letter to state leaders this week urging them to eliminate a Medicaid application backlog that has left thousands of Kansans awaiting coverage.

The groups have formed a coalition called the KanCare Advocates Network. They represent children, pregnant women and Kansans who are elderly or disabled.

Kansans from those populations have been waiting months, in some cases, for their Medicaid applications to process.

Courtesy Zach Williams

Since he took over as interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, Tim Keck has emphasized improving morale at state hospitals by letting employees know they are appreciated and their concerns are heard.

Now Keck is backing up those words with action of a personal sort, encouraging KDADS employees to participate in a bone marrow drive on behalf of a co-worker in need of a transplant.

Jennifer Morrow / Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 3:39 p.m.

The Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to review an appeals court decision finding that the Kansas Constitution creates “a fundamental right to abortion.”

The decision by the high court was expected after the Kansas Court of Appeals, in an evenly divided vote, upheld a trial judge’s decision to block a Kansas law banning the second-trimester abortion method known as “dilation and evacuation.”

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Editor’s note: A backlog of Medicaid applications has caused financial strain for nursing homes and put thousands of Kansans at risk for loss of medical care. State officials trace the beginnings of the backlog to a computer system switch.

The month of March was short on moisture and now drought is creeping across much of Kansas. Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says March is normally a wet month, so last month's dry conditions had a big impact.

“Because it's the start of our wetter pattern, things go down very, very quickly when we don't get what we should be seeing,” says Knapp.

Knapp says the coming months are the normally the rainiest times of year for many parts of Kansas. Those months will be critical in determining whether the drought expands or is washed away by seasonal rains.

Courtesy Bill Stovall

A statewide registry is in the works to make it easier for Medicaid patients to find qualified, reliable personal care workers.

That’s good news for Bill Stovall of Topeka and others like him who help direct care for their family members.

Stovall has a long list of complaints against personal care workers who have cared for his sister in recent years, including punctuality problems and a lack of training.

EG Schempf / Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

The largest collection of Kansas City artists in the metropolitan area can be found at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College, according to executive director Bruce Hartman.

And now, there's also a gallery exclusively devoted to artists with ties to the state of Kansas called the Kansas Focus Gallery. 

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