Dan Margolies | KCUR

Dan Margolies

Health Editor

Dan Margolies is editor in charge of health and education news at KCUR.  Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.

Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long…

Ways to Connect

Cynthia Page / Flickr--CC

A respiratory ailment that sent some 500 children to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City appears to be tapering off.

The enterovirus D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. At its peak several weeks ago, Children’s Mercy was seeing 30 patients a day. That number has now fallen to about 15 a day, says hospital spokesman Jake Jacobson.

Cookie M / Flickr--CC

Missouri is the 16th most obese state in the nation, according to a report released Thursday.

At No. 19, Kansas doesn’t fare much better.

The 11th annual report on state obesity rankings by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says adult obesity rates increased in six states over the past year, with Mississippi and West Virginia topping the scales. More than a third of adults in those two states – 35.1 percent – are obese, according to the report.

University of Kansas Hospital

 

Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital have teamed up with dozens of other transplant programs to urge delay of a proposal that would change how livers for transplant are distributed around the country.

The proposal, scheduled to be taken up in Chicago in mid-September, would have a profound impact on KU Hospital, which runs one of the top liver transplant programs by volume in the country, and other regional transplant centers.

Wladyslaw / Wikimedia-CC

Kansas improperly billed Medicaid for nearly $11 million in school-based health services, a government watchdog has found.

In a report released Monday, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that Kansas received $10.75 million in unallowable reimbursements for services provided during the one-year period from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010.

Bigstock

Kansas was one of just three states that saw their rates of people without health insurance go up since last year, according to a new survey.

And, if the poll results are accurate, Kansas was the one whose rates went up the most.

The data, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, show that the uninsured population in Kansas rose from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by midyear 2014 — a whopping increase of 5.1 percentage points.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

 

Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner Corp., has agreed to acquire the assets of Siemens AG’s healthcare information technology unit for $1.3 billion in cash.

The combined companies will have more than 20,000 employees in 30 countries and $4.5 billion in annual revenue, according to a news release.

Cerner, a major provider of electronic health records, has more than 14,000 employees worldwide — about 9,600 of them in the Kansas City area — and posted nearly $400 million in profits last year.

A subsidiary of Kansas City, Mo.-based software company DST Systems Inc. will pay more than $2 million to settle charges that it fraudulently billed Medicare.

Argus Health Systems Inc. has agreed to pay $2,029,210 to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to resolve the case, which involved reimbursement for Medicare Part D drugs.

Medicare Part D subsidizes the costs of prescription drugs and prescription drug insurance premiums for Medicare beneficiaries.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Just days after Prime Healthcare Services agreed to buy two Kansas City-area hospitals, laid-off employees of two other area hospitals owned by Prime sued the company, claiming they were not provided with promised severance benefits.  

The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of other terminated employees. It says 49 workers were let go immediately after Prime bought Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, Kan., from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System in April 2013.

As a kid growing up in Grandview, Mo., Michael Thompson began smoking cigarettes at the age of 13. Thirty-four years later, in 1997, he came down with lung cancer.

In 2000, he filed a personal injury suit in Jackson County Circuit Court against the makers of the cigarettes he smoked. A jury awarded him $1 million. A state appeals court later upheld the verdict.

In 2009, Thompson died of throat cancer. His widow and children then filed a wrongful death action in state court against  two of the manufacturers, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA.

St. Joseph Medical Center

 

Prime Healthcare Services, the for-profit California health care company that has agreed to acquire two nonprofit Kansas City area hospitals, is no stranger to controversy.

Among other things, it has faced fierce opposition from the nation’s largest health care labor organization, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and has been accused of billing fraud.

Aid for Women, a Kansas City, Kan., clinic that provided abortion services, closed Saturday, leaving only three clinics in the state that provide abortions.

Aid for Women, at 720 Central Ave., was incorporated in 2004. It said on its website that it closed its doors on July 26 and was referring patients to the state’s remaining abortion clinics — two in suburban Kansas City and one in Wichita. The website said the clinic manager and physician had both decided to retire.

Health insurance policyholders in Missouri will receive $14.6 million in rebates from health insurers under a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as the Medical Loss Ratio rule. Kansas policyholders will receive $3.6 million.

The Medical Loss Ratio rule requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement, as opposed to administrative costs like salaries and marketing.

Insurers that don't meet that benchmark have to refund the difference to customers.

A Jackson County judge heard arguments Wednesday on whether the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph should pay a $1.1 million arbitration award for breach of contract in its ongoing litigation over clergy sex abuse.

The diocese contends the arbitrator, Kansas City lawyer Hollis Hanover, exceeded his authority when he made the award after finding the diocese had violated the terms of a $10 million settlement it reached with 47 sex abuse victims in 2008.

Under the terms of the settlement, the diocese pledged to adopt a variety of child safety measures.

University of Missouri-Kansas City

Steven L. Kanter, a neurosurgeon and vice dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been named dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

(Note: KCUR is licensed by UMKC.)

Kanter succeeds Betty Drees, who led the medical school for 13 years and will remain on the faculty.

Kanter begins his work as dean on Oct. 1. He will also teach one of his specialties, medical informatics, which deals with the analysis of troves of medical data through the use of information technology.

Ian D. Keating / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy group, released its annual Kids Count report on Tuesday, and Kansas ranked 15th overall and Missouri 29th. The report assesses overall child well-being based on four broad categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Both Kansas and Missouri saw their indicators for education and health improve while their indicators for economic well-being and family and community mostly worsened.

Good news for the University of Kansas Hospital: For the fifth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report has named it “The Best Hospital in Kansas City” and for the third year in a row “The Best Hospital in Kansas.”

Even better news for the hospital: For the first time, KU was listed in all 12 adult specialties pegged to mortality rates, reputation, safety and other factors.

“I’m not from Kansas, but I’m so proud to be here,” says KU Hospital President and CEO Bob Page. “I’m on cloud nine.”

Adrian Clark / Flickr--CC

 

Missouri now boasts a new category of medical licensee: assistant physicians.

Despite strong opposition from some healthcare groups, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday signed into law a measure that would allow medical school graduates who have not completed residencies – or even obtained medical licenses — to practice medicine.

Nixon, however, issued signing statements warning of the need for additional safeguards to ensure that patients are not placed in jeopardy.

Wikipedia -- CC

A national gun control group on Wednesday challenged the constitutionality of a Kansas law that nullifies federal gun laws in the state.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence alleges the law’s provisions are “unconstitutional on their face under long-standing, fundamental legal principles.”

“Neither the Kansas legislature, nor any state legislature, is empowered to declare federal law ‘invalid,’ or to criminalize the enforcement of federal law,” the complaint asserts.

Mike Mozart / Flickr -- Creative Commons

As part of a growing trend linking traditional healthcare providers with retailers, HCA Midwest Health System announced Tuesday that it will offer coordinated care at select Walgreens stores.

HCA, the biggest health system in Kansas City, said the Walgreens Healthcare Clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners, who will provide care for minor illnesses and injuries, health testing and other non-emergency services.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Cerner Corp. has teamed up with two other government contractors to bid on an estimated $11 billion electronic health-record system for the Defense Department, according to Modern Healthcare magazine.

The publication reports that the Kansas City-based healthcare information technology company has formed an alliance with Leidos and Accenture Federal Services to bid on the 10-year contract for the department’s health system.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Kansas City is known for lots of things: barbecue, the Country Club Plaza, broad boulevards, the place where Walt Disney grew up.

Less flatteringly, Kansas Citians are fatter, exercise less and smoke more than most of the rest of the country.

As leader of the Mid-America Regional Coalition’s Regional Health Care Initiative, Scott Lakin works to address those unhealthy distinctions. Lakin is a former Missouri state representative and one-time director of the Missouri Department of Insurance.

He answered five questions as part of our monthly series, KC Checkup:

Wikimedia-CC

Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill is among 175 hospitals nationwide most likely to be penalized with the loss of Medicare payments because of high rates of infection and other complications.

In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calculated preliminary “hospital-acquired condition” scores from 1 to 10, with one being best and 10 being worst.

A new report analyzing health plan enrollment through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace shows that most people who signed up — about 70 percent — are paying less than $100 a month for coverage after their advance tax credits are accounted for and nearly half those who enrolled are paying less than $50 per month.

Saint Luke’s Health System says it plans to build a 60-bed rehabilitation hospital in the Kansas City area in partnership with Nashville, Tenn.-based Centerre Healthcare Corp.

The hospital network says it has not selected a site for the proposed 60,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to open in 2016.

The rehab hospital will offer programs for stroke, brain and spinal cord injuries, amputations and other major medical conditions, Saint Luke’s said in a news release.

Mercy Health / Flickr-CC

Considering a major joint replacement?

If you check into the University of Kansas Hospital, you might be charged more than $115,000. But if you go to Olathe Medical Center just 22 miles down the road, you’re apt to be billed just over $50,000.

Coping with renal failure? At Truman Medical Center, the bill is likely to add up to more than $14,000. But at Research Medical Center, a mere six miles distant, it’s more likely to come to $48,000.

Patrick / Flickr--CC

Missouri is the 39th healthiest state for older adults, according to a study released Wednesday by a nonprofit arm of UnitedHealth Group, the country’s largest health insurer.

In the second state-by-state analysis undertaken by the United Health Foundation, Missouri slipped three places, hurt by relatively high smoking rates, a high percentage of low-care nursing home residents and a low percentage of dental visits within the previous 12 months.

Nearly 12 percent of Missouri adults age 65 and older are smokers, according to the study, 46th worst in the nation.

bigstock.com

Five journalism organizations, including The Kansas City Star and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, sued the Missouri Department of Corrections Thursday, seeking information on the drugs the state uses in lethal injection executions.

The suit, filed in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City, says that the department last October stopped providing the public with information about the drugs it uses in lethal injections.

Missouri’s refusal to expand Medicaid will leave more than 56,000 patients who use community health centers without insurance, according to a report released Friday by researchers at George Washington University.

Similarly, Kansas’ refusal to expand Medicaid will leave more than 24,000 community health center patients without insurance, according to the report.

Federal health exchange enrollments more than doubled in Missouri and nearly doubled in Kansas in the weeks leading up to the enrollment deadline, according to figures released by the government Thursday. 

In Missouri, enrollment through the federal marketplace shot up to 152,335 - a 105 percent increase over the number who selected a health plan by the end of February. In Kansas, enrollment increased to 57,013 - a 95 percent jump over February.

HCA Inc. on Wednesday agreed to pay $77 million to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City on top of nearly $162 million it was ordered to pay last year. 

The payment averts a hearing in May in which a judge was to decide how much additional money, if any, HCA owed.

The payment stems from a lawsuit the foundation, which was created from the proceeds of the sale of Health Midwest to HCA in 2003, filed in 2009. The suit alleged that HCA Midwest Health System reneged on obligations it assumed when it bought Health Midwest.

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