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Heartland Health Monitor is a unique reporting collaboration focused on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas. The partners —— KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio —— strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Food and Drug Administration

Tippin’s Gourmet Pies LLC has voluntarily recalled several lots of its key lime pies because they may contain flour with peanut residue, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Tippin’s said it conducted the recall of the popular product after its supplier, the Kellogg Company, recalled graham cracker crumbs used in the pies’ crusts because they may contain peanut residue.

No illnesses or allergic reactions to the pies have been reported, but Tippin’s said it was taking the action “out of an abundance of caution.”

What appears at first blush to be little more than a contract dispute between a state agency and a University of Kansas research center is actually much more than that.

The state’s failure to renew a contract with the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation is another assault on the state's mental health system, according to the directors of several community mental health centers.

Healthcare.gov

Almost nine out of every 10 Kansans and Missourians who selected health insurance on the federal online marketplace paid for at least the first month of their coverage this year, offering one bit of stability in the sometimes-turbulent marketplace.

Critics of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, questioned whether people who signed up for coverage actually would pay their premiums after the exchanges’ troubled rollout in late 2013 and early 2014.

Heartland Health Monitor

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas is seeking more information from the state about its backlog of Medicaid applications to determine whether Kansas is breaking federal rules.

Rocky Nichols, the center’s executive director, said the organization has filed an open records request to examine whether the state is doing what the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires for Medicaid applicants stuck in the backlog.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural Americans are gaining health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act at rates outpacing their urban counterparts, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mark Andes is among those in rural Kansas who have benefited. Andes was living and working in McPherson last year when he began having some scary health symptoms.

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.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

The four Republican candidates for Missouri governor kicked off their debate Wednesday night with a variety of statements about the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. KCUR fact-checked some of those statements. Here’s what we found:

Catherine Hanaway:

“Obamacare has failed in every regard. We were told it was going to reduce premiums. On average, premiums went up for the exchange in Missouri over 23 percent last year.”

File photo

Kansas community mental health centers are sending a distress signal to state policymakers.

The association that represents the state’s 26 community mental health centers issued a statement Wednesday expressing “strong concerns” about the $30 million in funding cuts that it says its members have suffered in the past 12 months.

“The community mental health centers have taken one devastating hit after another over the last year,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.

University of Kansas Hospital

This story was updated at 5:24 p.m. to include KU Hospital's statement. 

An explosive lawsuit filed by a University of Kansas Hospital pathologist charges that the head of the hospital’s pathology department wrongly diagnosed a patient with cancer and then covered up the mistake after an organ of the patient was removed.

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.

Natural Resources Defense Council

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 public water systems — including 68 in Kansas — are in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to protect people from lead in the water they drink.

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.

Drug And Device Makers Find Receptive Audience At For-Profit, Southern Hospitals

Jun 29, 2016

Where a hospital is located and who owns it make a big difference in how many of its doctors take meals, consulting and promotional payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies, a new ProPublica analysis shows.

A higher percentage of doctors affiliated with hospitals in the South have received such payments than doctors in other regions of the country, our analysis found. And a greater share of doctors at for-profit hospitals have taken them than at nonprofit and government facilities.

How We Compiled The Dollars For Docs Hospital Data

Jun 29, 2016

Our goal was to compare U.S. hospitals based on the percentage of their affiliated physicians who receive payments of various sizes from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

To do this, we used several databases.

The data we used

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

Kansas City-area hospitals vary greatly when it comes to the percentage of their doctors who accept money from drug and medical device companies.

The hospital with the highest percentage is Providence Medical Center, where nearly 89 percent of its doctors took such payments in 2014, the last year for which data are available. The hospital with the lowest percentage is Truman Medical Center Lakewood, where only 43.8 percent of its physicians took payments from those industries in 2014.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Physicians associated with Kansas and Missouri hospitals received about $46 million in payments from drug and medical device companies in 2014, with about 9 percent going to providers in the Kansas City area.

Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

Public health officials in Wyandotte County and Johnson County say they are seeking funds to continue comprehensive sexual education programs into 2018 after the state declined to renew a federal grant.

Susie Fagan / KHI

Supporters of Medicaid expansion are kicking off a campaign to mobilize Kansas voters on the issue. Federal tax rules prohibit the nonprofit Alliance for a Healthy Kansas from engaging in direct political activity, so the group is mounting a vigorous educational campaign through a series of community meetings across the state. 

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

News of a mistake that dropped several thousand Kansans from state Medicaid backlog reports has advocates and Democratic lawmakers questioning the state’s oversight of the contractor blamed for the error.

Alex Smith / KCUR

In recent years, the once-lowly food truck has entered the big leagues of cuisine.

Once peddlers of quick snacks like hot dogs and falafel, food trucks now sell items like crème brulee, roast duck and Spanish tapas.

Some Kansas City entrepreneurs think these trucks have the potential to do something else – tackle food inequity.

Standing outside a big, white trailer parked at the Guinotte Manor public housing complex northeast of downtown Kansas City, Megan Mulvihill invites curious neighbors to step inside.

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.

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