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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.

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.

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An inmate serving life without parole in a Missouri prison is suing to receive therapy for gender dysphoria disorder.

Jessica Hicklin, a 37-year-old transgender woman, has been diagnosed by multiple doctors with the disorder but has been denied access to hormone therapy to treat the condition, according to Lambda Legal, an LBGT legal organization based in New York. The organization filed the lawsuit Monday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division.

Courtesy Nimrod Chapel Jr.

An attorney for the so-called “Medicaid 23” says his clients will appeal their convictions on trespassing charges, even though they face no jail time.

A Cole County, Missouri, jury on Wednesday acquitted 22 clergy members of obstructing government operations but found them guilty of trespassing when they refused to leave the Missouri Senate gallery during a protest in May 2014. The case of the 23rd defendant will be decided later.

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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.

It's a split decision in the trial of the so-called "Medicaid 23," a group of religious leaders who staged a protest in the Missouri Senate more than two years ago over lawmakers' refusal to expand Medicaid.

Twenty-two members of the group were found guilty of trespassing for not leaving the Senate gallery when ordered to do so by Capitol police. But they were found not guilty of obstructing the operations of the Senate. The case of one other member will be decided later.

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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.

Hewlett Packard Enterprises

Computer giant Hewlett Packard Enterprises has entered into a $215 million contract with the state of Kansas to upgrade a Medicaid computer system that tracks patient claims payments to providers.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

The trial of 23 people who protested Missouri’s failure to expand Medicaid began today in Jefferson City with jury selection.

The so-called Medicaid 23 defendants include many notable Kansas City clergy members, among them Sam Mann, Wallace Hartsfield and Vernon P. Howard Jr. They are accused of trespassing and obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors.

The unusual mass trial stems from protests the defendants staged in May 2014. They were arrested after refusing to leave the Senate gallery, where they were chanting and singing.

Heartland Health Monitor

Nine Kansas medical practices and collaborative groups will participate in an experiment to find out if doctors could do a better job preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, Wyandotte County has seen the number of its uninsured fall from 26 percent to 18 percent, one of the biggest drops in the country.

But it’s one thing to boast of boosting the ranks of the insured, another to steer them through a complicated and, at times, bewildering health care system.

With a $1.9 million grant from the United Health Foundation, announced today by county officials at the offices of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, the county is now in a better position to do that.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

John Fasbinder’s dental office was busy on a recent Tuesday.

Three employees helped in the reception area, answering phones and clicking away at computers. Hygienists tended to patients in three dental chairs in the main clinic. Fasbinder and his associate, Seth Cohen, flitted among those patients and others in private rooms set up for more intensive work.

Most days are like this for Fasbinder. At his Prairie Village office, he takes patients on Medicaid — no matter how old they are, what part of Kansas they come from or how difficult they are to treat.

A company that issues health care ID cards for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and other insurers said it had experienced a data breach that may affect more than 400,000 Missouri policyholders.

Newkirk Products Inc. said the breached data varied by plan but generally only included information found on members’ ID cards.

Kelly Cannon, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, said financial and medical information was not exposed.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The leaders of some Kansas community mental health centers say they are having trouble getting paid for some Medicaid services they believe their clients need.

Brenda Mills, CEO of Family Service and Guidance Center, a Topeka-based community mental health center that serves children, spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

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Three Kansas City hospitals earned national bragging rights in U.S. News & World Report’s latest hospital rankings.

The University of Kansas Hospital was nationally ranked in 11 adult specialties, Children’s Mercy Hospital was nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties, and Saint Luke’s Hospital was nationally ranked in four adult specialties.

The three were the only hospitals in the metro to receive national recognition in the publication’s 27th annual Best Hospitals rankings.

Zach Klamann / Heartland Health Monitor

Missouri must pay more than $156,000 in attorneys’ fees after losing a court battle against Planned Parenthood over the revocation of its abortion license in Columbia, Missouri, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey on Monday awarded Planned Parenthood Great Plains (formerly Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri) all but $157.50 of the legal fees and expenses it sought after it prevailed in the case.

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.

University of Kansas Hospital

This story was updated at 2:16 p.m. to include the response of KU Hospital.

A University of Kansas Hospital pathologist’s lawsuit alleging the hospital’s chief pathologist misdiagnosed a patient as having cancer and subsequently covered it up has taken a strange new turn.

On Friday, the plaintiff, Dr. Lowell L. Tilzer, voluntarily dismissed his whistleblower action against the hospital, saying he “believes further litigation of this claim is not necessary to protect him from retaliation at this time.”

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.

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Years of problems at Osawatomie State Hospital reached a crisis point in the fall of 2015, when the sexual assault of a hospital employee by a patient triggered two failed inspections and the loss of federal funding.

Kansas had relied more on OSH after it reduced the number of state hospital beds in the 1990s. The idea was to put more money into community mental health services, but that hadn’t happened since the early 2000s — and those services actually lost money during the Great Recession. 

A top Kansas official said he hesitates to propose renovating all of Osawatomie State Hospital until he knows federal inspectors will give the state a “fair shake.”

Federal officials cut Medicare payments to OSH in December after inspectors found safety issues, including patients assaulting one another and the sexual assault of an employee. Losing the payments has cost the state about $1 million per month.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

One of the area’s leading mental health service is cutting services for more than 800 adults and children.

Wyandot Inc., an umbrella organization for four nonprofit agencies in Kansas City, Kansas, said today that it would need to cut services due to revenue losses and Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision earlier this year to reduce Medicaid reimbursements by 4 percent.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore brushed off two Democrats’ calls for her resignation and defended her agency Wednesday following an audit critical of its oversight of the state’s foster care system.

Gilmore acknowledged that the audit was “negative,” but disputed some of it and said the agency already had started correcting most of the deficiencies cited.

Shawnee Mission Health / Facebook

Federal health officials today released much anticipated – and controversial – quality ratings for 4,000 hospitals in the United States, and just one in greater Kansas City, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, received the top rating of five stars.

The ratings, published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), are intended to enable consumers to comparison shop and to encourage hospitals to improve their quality of care.

Courtesy University of Kansas Hospital

The University of Kansas Hospital will break ground Wednesday morning on a new building in Overland Park.

The new $100 million dollar facility, set to open in 2018, will feature eight operating rooms and 18 patient rooms. It will also include room for 17 additional beds for future expansion.

The facility’s services will include imaging, sports medicine, orthopedics, plastic surgery, ENT and cancer surgery.

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A legal challenge to Missouri’s execution protocol brought by four taxpayers has been rejected by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

In a decision Tuesday, the appeals court upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the taxpayers’ claims just days after they filed their lawsuit.

The lawsuit sought to halt the scheduled execution by lethal injection of convicted murderer David Zink. The execution went ahead as scheduled, on July 14, 2015.

Zink had been found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and rape in the 2001 death of 19-year-old Amanda Morton.

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.

Kansas State Historical Society

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted dozens of interviews to chart how Osawatomie State Hospital went from a respected facility to one that federal officials deemed too unsafe for Medicare patients and how the hospital could rebuild for the future. This is the first story in a series resulting from that investigation.

The final federal inspections of Osawatomie State Hospital in 2015 painted a picture of a place where both employees and patients were in danger and low staffing levels compromised care.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

New federal legislation aimed at combating the nation’s opioid addiction crisis has a provision tailored specifically for Missouri, which is the only state without a database designed to prevent pill shopping among multiple dispensers.

The language, inserted by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, makes counties and municipalities eligible for federal funds that help establish a prescription drug monitoring program. Her amendment applies only to states without a prescription drug monitoring database.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

An app on Dr. Roy Jensen’s phone counts down the days until the University of Kansas Cancer Center’s application to be designated "comprehensive" by the National Cancer Institute is due.

“To some extent, comprehensive status is a good conduct medal for things you’re doing,” Jensen, director of the center, says of its quest for the designation, which fewer than 70 cancer centers across the country have.

If it gets it, it’ll be the only comprehensive cancer center in Kansas.

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