Sam Brownback

Jim McLean
KHI News Service

Kansas received more bad financial news on Monday when the state said tax collections in September missed projections by $45 million.

Since the new fiscal year started July 1, Kansas has collected $68 million less than expected.

But one state House leader is trying to put a good face on a bleak picture.

In an email to colleagues Sunday, Rep. Ron Ryckman, the conservative House budget chairman from Olathe, said lawmakers are facing "challenging times." But "we should not forget the groundwork that has been laid to begin improving the fiscal outlook," he wrote.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

If Kansas is forced to reduce its budget by five percent over the next two fiscal years, higher education in the state could take a $56.4 million hit.

That's on top of $47.9 million in reductions the previous two years.

The data comes from budget documents submitted to the Governor's office by the six Kansas Board of Regents universities.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislative auditors said Wednesday they can’t confirm that the Medicaid application backlog numbers state officials have reported are correct.

Applications have been backlogged for about a year following the rocky rollout of a new computer system, an administrative decision that funneled all applications through a single state agency and a larger-than-expected influx of applications during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

Charles Riedel / AP

You couldn't have gotten a more different picture of school finance and student success in Kansas than we heard during two hours of oral arguments Wednesday in the state Supreme Court.

The state argued that every public school in Kansas is accredited and an analysis by the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) says Kansas schools rank 10th in the country.

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.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Two weeks ago Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said the state needed a new school funding formula and called on educators to email him their suggestions.

At his Statehouse news conference Brownback offered no specific ideas.

On Thursday, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) talked about what should be in a new formula next year. But, like the governor, the organization offered few details. KASB did urge everyone to email.

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.

Catilin Troutman / KCUR 89.3

Amazon has officially started construction on a huge new fulfillment center in Kansas City, Kansas. 

The facility, which will sit on 190 acres of land near Interstate 70 and the Turner Diagonal, will provide more than 1,000 jobs to the underutilized area. 

Gary Guo, Amazon's Vice President of North America Operations, said the center will host Amazon's robotic technologies. It will fill orders for small items like books, electronics, and small household items. 

He said the center will be operating by the peak of holiday shopping in 2017. 

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A bipartisan group of four former Kansas governors is predicting dire consequences if conservatives successfully oust four state Supreme Court justices.

Former Democratic Gov. John Carlin has the harshest assessment. If the justices are kicked off the bench in November's retention election "then the hole this (Brownback) administration has dug for us may be too deep to get out of," said Carlin, at a stop in Kansas City Tuesday. Carlin, who was in office from 1978-1986, also called this retention fight “chaos” and said it has “an indirect effect on economic growth” in the state.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

It has taken six years, but Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback finally reached out to educators and others on Wednesday to ask for ideas on how to fund public education.

The plea comes after many of Brownback's conservative legislative allies were ousted in the August primaries, and it appears more conservatives may lose their seats in November. It also comes in the final year of the block grant funding scheme passed when lawmakers scrapped the previous formula, which was popular with most school districts.

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.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this summer, Jeff Blackwood started the process of moving his business to Kansas City, Missouri -- and out of Overland Park, Kansas.  But first, he had something to say.

“I could have just moved and not said anything," Blackwood says. “There’s really no benefit to me in having said anything, but it comes down to conscience.”

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.

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.

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.

Heartland Health Monitor

Administrators at Osawatomie State Hospital worked to maintain a delicate balance in 2011 as they struggled to cope with rising demand for care and funding that hadn’t kept up.

OSH superintendents had credited the facility’s experienced workforce for pulling it through lean times before, but that key source of stability soon would be diminished.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Everyone knows agriculture is huge in Kansas.

It’s a $62 billion a year industry that accounts for 43 percent of the Kansas economy and touches every part of the state.

Following the 2012 Brownback tax cuts, farmers no longer had to pay state income tax -- just like 334,000 LLCs, S corporations and sole proprietorships.

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 a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the second story in a series.

Andy Taylor

Dr. Julie Stewart doesn’t want political candidates and elected officials to show up at her nonprofit medical clinic in Coffeyville for photo opportunities, grant announcements or organized tours.

Instead, the Coffeyville physician would like those officials to take a personal interest in the patients who have chosen Stewart’s Community Health Clinic of Southeast Kansas because they have no health insurance options.

Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature continue to be unpopular, and the primary race in the 1st Congressional District is in a dead heat, according to a new survey from the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute. 

With the presidential nominations settled and Kansas races heating up ahead of the Aug. 2 primaries, Brad Pendergast, with the Docking Institute, says it was time for some new polling numbers.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A state Senate race in the Topeka area shows how complicated this election cycle can be for some candidates. Kansas Republicans are running at a time when polls are showing the state’s Republican governor – and the Legislature itself – with pretty low approval ratings.

Senator Vicki Schmidt, a moderate Republican from Topeka’s 20th District, is not shy about the fact that she often doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Gov. Sam Brownback.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The state’s Medicaid application backlog is making work more stressful for Angela Moore, executive director of Sharon Lane Health Services in Shawnee.

Moore’s nursing home has 110 employees caring for about 70 elderly and disabled residents, and she has cash flow worries because of persistent problems with the state’s Medicaid eligibility system.

At one point recently she was waiting on Medicaid coverage approval for 17 residents — which means Sharon Lane was providing free care for almost one-fourth of its clients.

KHI News Service

While most Kansas educators are still breathing a sigh of relief that the school funding equity issue was solved in a special session and public schools could remain open, some lawmaker are already looking ahead to the new session in January.

Sen. Laura Kelly, the minority whip from Topeka, says a small bipartisan group has already begun meeting to draft a new school funding formula to replace block grants, which expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The plan, drafted by Democrats and moderate Republicans, is based a great deal on the old formula.

Sarah Long / Joyful Photography

Funding cuts and changes for children’s programs across the state became a reality at the start of this month — and that means fewer Kansas families will receive some services.

An official with TARC, a Shawnee County organization that serves people with developmental disabilities, said the nonprofit was out of options for administrative cuts in the wake of state funding reductions.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

A federal judge blocked Kansas’ effort to cut off two regional Planned Parenthood affiliates’ Medicaid funding, ruling the move likely violates federal law.

In a 54-page decision handed down late Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson granted a preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (now known as Planned Parenthood Great Plains) and by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

File photo

The Kansas Hospital Association is urging federal officials to stop Gov. Sam Brownback from implementing $56.4 million in Medicaid cuts set to take effect today.

Brownback ordered the cuts in May to cover shortfalls in the fiscal year 2017 budget approved by the Legislature. The hospital association is asking the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to immediately intervene to stop the cuts, which include a 4 percent reduction in provider payments.

File photo

The troubled Larned State Hospital has a new superintendent.

Veteran state attorney Bill Rein has been named to head the facility, which provides inpatient treatment for people from the western two-thirds of Kansas suffering from severe or persistent mental illness.

Wikimedia Commons - CC

Kansas lawmakers have approved a school funding plan that they say will end the risk of a legal fight closing Kansas schools. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling that says the funding system was unfair to poorer school districts.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley joined a large bipartisan majority Friday night that supported the bill.

“Regardless of who came up with the plan, what matters is that what we did today was put the children of Kansas first. This is a responsible plan that solves the problem,” said Hensley.

United States Mission Geneva / Wikimedia Commons--CC

Four former governors have banded together to “Save Kansas” from Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters.

In a letter circulated Friday, former Govs. Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Graves, Mike Hayden and John Carlin urged Kansas Democrats, Republicans and Independents to band together “to regain our fiscal health and stop the calculated destruction of our revenue stream and our educational, healthcare, and transportation systems.