Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A budget deal in Washington, D.C., is helping Kansas balance its own books temporarily with an infusion of Medicaid cash.

But a Democratic senator says the savings should be used to provide home and community-based services to Kansans with disabilities.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, answered lawmaker questions Monday about the administration’s plan to shift about $125 million to the state general fund.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas hope the story of how the conservative governor of another red state found a way to move forward will motivate Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to do the same here.

They invited a delegation of hospital officials from Indiana to come and talk about how they worked with Republican Gov. Mike Pence and large GOP majorities in the Indiana Legislature to pass a conservative plan that expanded health coverage to more than 350,000 low-income residents of the Hoosier state but required them to share in the costs.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, columnists and bloggers speculate about spooky legislation we might see in 2016 and discuss the legislative ghosts that might carry over from 2015. It's a Statehouse Blend Halloween Special.


Kansas Senate Vice President Jeff King is taking issue with Governor Sam Brownback’s reasons for opposing Medicaid expansion.

Melika Willoughby, Brownback’s deputy communications director, outlined those reasons in an Oct. 6 email to supporters. Referring to expansion as a “masquerading component of Obamacare, Willoughby said the governor believes it would “morally reprehensible” for the state provide health coverage to low-income Kansans “who choose not to work” before providing support services to all of the disabled Kansans now on waiting lists.

Kansas Action for Children

An annual report on child well-being in Kansas shows some positive trends, but they’re overshadowed by persistent problems.

Among the improvements cited in the 2015 Kansas Kids Count report: There are fewer uninsured children in Kansas.

Ian D. Keating / Flickr -- Creative Commons

For two years now, the staff at Kansas Action for Children has been trying to unravel a mystery: Why is Medicaid enrollment dropping among the state’s youngest children?

Enrollment of low-income children 1-5 peaked in October 2012 and has been dropping steadily since.

Enrollment of infants younger than 1 in low-income families also dropped during that period. Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, a Topeka-based nonprofit, said she wants more research to determine whether eligible children are missing out on health coverage.

Mercy Hospital Independence

Note: This story was updated at 12:37 p.m. to include a link to the Republican talking points memo.

The Medicaid expansion debate in Kansas is heating up.

Big time.

The pending closure of Mercy Hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence appears to be the catalyst.

Kansas officials announced Tuesday they will delay for six months a plan to consolidate Medicaid support services for Kansans with various disabilities.

The leaders of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said they want to use the time to gather more information from people who would be affected by the changes.

“After discussions with consumers, providers and other stakeholders, we have decided to take additional time to incorporate stakeholder feedback,” KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett said in a statement.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Sen. Jim Denning from Overland Park provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss Medicaid expansion and the Kansas budget.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.


Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Democrat Missouri Rep. Jeremy LaFaver from District 025 provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss legislative term limits, Planned Parenthood, and Medicaid.


  • Jeremy LaFaver, Rep. from District 025, Missouri General Assembly 
  • Meredith Adams, Citizen
  • Cody Newill, General Assignment Reporter, KCUR

Kansas’ decision to not expand Medicaid is putting health care providers in jeopardy, the head of the state’s largest health system said Wednesday.

Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, issued a statement calling on Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to drop their opposition to expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Mercy Hospital Independence

The scheduled closure of the only hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence could create new urgency around the Medicaid expansion debate.

Advocates of expanding the Kansas Medicaid program — known as KanCare — say the additional federal money it would generate would help stabilize a growing number of struggling hospitals in the state and might have helped save Mercy Hospital Independence.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor's note: This story was updated on Sept. 1 to include the response of the CEO of Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

A former emergency room nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital has filed a federal “whistleblower” lawsuit alleging that the hospital falsified patient records to obtain higher Medicare and Medicaid payments.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. on behalf of Megen Duffy alleges that top hospital officials knew about the fraud, which began in 2007, and threatened to fire employees who objected.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Cabinet officials say Kansas’ quest to combine Medicaid waivers for people with seven categories of disabilities is intended to provide better care and outcomes, not cost savings.

But costs will go down if care improves as intended, they say.

Officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services are beginning a statewide listening tour on the proposed changes after briefing a legislative committee on them Friday.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas officials are reviewing a recent federal appeals court ruling that requires the state’s Medicaid program to pay in-home care workers minimum wage and overtime.

Officials at the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services issued a statement shortly after the ruling was handed down Friday saying they were attempting to determine its “potential impact” on the state’s Medicaid program, known as KanCare.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

  The head of the Kansas Hospital Association is taking issue with comments made by Gov. Sam Brownback at a recent news conference.

Asked about his continuing opposition to Medicaid expansion, Brownback downplayed the importance of the issue, telling reporters that innovation is more important to hospital finances than the billions of additional federal dollars that expansion would provide.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Missouri Rep. Joe Don McGaugh from District 039 provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss agriculture, education, and Medicaid expansion.


  • Joe Don McGaugh, Rep. for District 039, Missouri General Assembly 
  • Arley Hoskin, Citizen Voice
  • Mike McGraw, Special Projects Reporter, Flatland KC
Executive Office of the President of the United States

Advocates of government-sponsored health care gathered Thursday at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, to mark the anniversary of legislation that’s both a local story and a milestone for medical care in the United States.

Fifty years ago, on the same stage where speakers sat, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law establishing Medicare and Medicaid, vastly expanding insurance protections for the elderly and for low-income Americans.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday he’s unconvinced Medicaid expansion is an answer to the financial woes of rural Kansas hospitals and suggested they should innovate instead.

During a news conference Friday, Brownback was asked about a Reuters story on the improving financial fortunes of public hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act versus the stagnation of hospitals in states that did not.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor's note: This is the second of two stories looking at Medicaid expansion in Missouri and Kansas. Today's story looks at the failure to expand Medicaid in Kansas. Wednesdays story looked at the failure to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Tonight, Thursday, at 7:25 p.m., KCPT Channel 19 will air a video tied to the stories. 

  The Kansas Hospital Association and other groups urging Kansas lawmakers and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to expand Medicaid coverage to more poor adults have little to show for their three years of lobbying on the issue.

Truman Medical Centers

Editor's note: This is the first of two stories looking at Medicaid expansion in Missouri and Kansas. Today's story looks at the failure to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Tomorrow's story will look at the failure to expand Medicaid in Kansas. On Thursday at 7:25 p.m., KCPT Channel 19 will air a video tied to the stories. 

It’s a sweltering Monday afternoon, and in the emergency room of Truman Medical Centers near downtown Kansas City, a patient complains of excruciating abdominal pain.

The attending physician advises her there’s only so much he can do.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

One of the leading advocates for Medicaid expansion in Kansas says it’s time to change tactics.

This week Alaska became the 30th state to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Kansas is one of the remaining states where Republican legislators and governors remain resistant.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Advocates for expanding Medicaid coverage to more low-income Americans must refine their strategies to win over lawmakers in states such as Missouri and Kansas, which have resisted efforts to loosen eligibility requirements.

That was the message Saturday during a panel discussion at the National Council of La Raza annual conference, which is being held at the Kansas City Convention Center.

“I would say it is going to take more than what we have been doing,” said Laura Guerra-Cardus, associate director of the Children’s Defense Fund in Texas.

Financial disclosures aren’t just for political candidates. New data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that Missouri doctors received at least $71.9 million from medical device and drug companies in 2014 and the latter half of 2013. Illinois doctors pulled in $104 million during that same time period, many of whom hail from the Chicago area.  

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A lot of the hospitals in rural Kansas are called “Critical Access Hospitals.” It’s an important designation, because Critical Access Hospitals were created by the federal government to maintain access to health care in rural areas.

But Many Kansas Critical Access Hospitals are in financial trouble. Medicare requires them to offer 24-hour emergency services. But most don’t have enough ER patients to justify the cost of 24-7 service, says Melissa Hungerford, senior vice president for health care leadership at the Kansas Hospital Association.

The Kansas Health Consumer Coalition will cease operations this week.

“It’s been a struggle to maintain our funding,” said Carol Ramirez Albott, president of the Topeka-based advocacy group’s governing board. “Things just got to a point where we felt like we couldn’t adequately do the job.”

The board, she said, notified its supporters of the decision late last week.

Attorneys general in 10 states, including Kansas, have asked a congressional committee to investigate efforts by the Obama administration to “coerce” states to expand their Medicaid programs by withholding unrelated healthcare funds.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislators locked in increasingly tense discussions about how to balance the budget and end the longest legislative session in Kansas history said there is no longer any serious talk about expanding Medicaid eligibility this year.

“Given all the time we’ve wasted, it is incredibly disappointing that we couldn’t find the time to deal with this issue,” said Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat and the Legislature’s most vocal advocate of expansion.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s determination to not expand Medicaid in his state remains strong. On this edition of Up To Date, journalist Kai Wright discusses his recent article for The Nation, which examines the effects the governor's policy on Kansas residents and medical professionals. 

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Frustrated by their inability to muster more than a handful of votes for any tax plan, Kansas Republican legislative leaders are asking rank-and-file members the “What will it take to get out of here?” question.

They’re getting a variety of answers as the session, on its 103rd day, inches closer to record territory as the longest in state history. In 2002, legislators met for 107 days.