Jim McLean | KCUR

Jim McLean

Reporter and Editor, Kansas News Service

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KCUR 89.3. He is the managing director of KCUR's Kansas News Service, a collaboration between KCUR and other public media stations across Kansas. 

Jim was previously news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He has received awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

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Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas hospitals are leading the push for Medicaid expansion.

But they’re not the only providers for which expansion is a critical financial issue. It’s also a priority for the safety net clinics that exist to provide free and reduced-cost care to low-income Kansans.

File photo

 

It’s likely that the records of some Kansas Medicaid recipients and Missouri Blue Cross and Blue Shield policyholders were compromised by a cyberattack on the Anthem health insurance company.

The breach was discovered last week but news of it wasn’t made public until Wednesday.

Via Christi Health

Kansas’ largest health insurer and the state’s largest health care provider are forming an accountable care organization to lower health care costs.

After nearly a year of negotiations, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and Wichita-based Via Christi Health have finalized an agreement aimed at changing the way care is provided to approximately 20,000 Kansans covered by BCBS policies.

Kansas’ worsening budget problems are making it harder to generate a legislative discussion about expanding Medicaid.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Groups representing nurses and doctors met several times over the summer and fall but couldn’t reach a compromise on legislation to allow nurses with advanced training to practice on their own.

The failed negotiations threw the dispute back into the laps of Kansas lawmakers, who don’t appear eager to settle it.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A group of Kansas hospital leaders is doing what Gov. Sam Brownback has so far declined to do: negotiate with federal officials on Medicaid expansion.

A delegation of hospital executives recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and outline an expansion proposal they are developing for Brownback and Kansas lawmakers to consider this session. 

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Advocates for allowing dental hygienists with advanced training to perform a broader range of procedures are now in their fifth year of trying to convince legislators to approve the necessary changes in state law.

Wearing bright yellow and black scarves, they rallied Wednesday morning and then headed for meetings with legislators to press their case for expanding access to services in a state where 95 of 105 counties have a shortage of dental providers .

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

 

A coalition of health organizations is supporting Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s call for a big increase in the state’s cigarette tax.

Brownback is proposing to raise the tax by $1.50 per pack, increasing it from 79 cents to $2.29. The governor wants to use the approximately $81 million in additional revenue to close a gaping hole in the fiscal 2016 budget.

Several red-state governors have dropped their opposition to Medicaid expansion in recent months and are pursuing ways to use federal dollars to fund their own more conservative plans.

Michael Cannon / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

A Kansas City-based nonprofit organization says a recent poll shows widespread support for exempting some foods from the Kansas sales tax.

Ashley Jones-Wisner, state policy manager for KC Healthy Kids, says the survey conducted for the Kansas Health Foundation showed that 86.6 percent of Kansans supported exempting fruits and vegetables from the state sales tax.

The Wichita-based foundation helps to fund KC Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing obesity among children.

Consumers in Kansas and Missouri are among those who could be most affected if the U.S. Supreme Court eliminates federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

The court announced on Monday that it will hear arguments in the case — King v. Burwell — on March 4, 2015. 

At issue is whether the Affordable Care Act authorizes federal subsidies only in state-operated marketplaces and not in the federal marketplace being used by consumers in Kansas, Missouri and up to 35 other states.

KC Healthy Kids

 

Led by KC Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization supported in part by the Kansas Health Foundation, a coalition is being formed to guide a legislative effort to exempt food from the state sales tax.

“Cutting the sales tax on food will make it more affordable for Kansans to eat healthier,” says Ashley Jones-Wisner, state policy manager for KC Healthy Kids.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.

 

A multimillion-dollar plan to transform downtown Kansas City, Kan., into a national model is one step closer to reality.

The Unified Government Board of Commissioners last week unanimously approved a new master development plan designed to help improve the health of Kansas City and other Wyandotte County residents by providing a state-of-the-art community center, more green space in which to exercise and access to healthy foods at a 30,000- to 35,000-square-foot urban grocery store.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

The Unified Government’s commission chambers were jam-packed on Thursday night.

It wasn’t a controversy over a multi-million bond issue that brought people out. It wasn’t even the final step in the approval process for the city’s “healthy campus” downtown redevelopment plan.

It was a proposed change in the way the city deals with feral cats, stray dogs and pit bulls.

The newly re-elected speaker of the Kansas House reiterated on Monday that he would rather deal with the state’s budget problems by cutting spending than by revisiting the tax cuts that are shrinking state revenues.

Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, was overwhelmingly elected to a second term as speaker, defeating Rep. Virgil Peck of Tyro, 80-16.

Republicans now hold a 97- to 28-seat majority in the House.

The Kansas Hospital Association on Thursday continued its campaign for Medicaid expansion by reminding policymakers how much the state is losing by not claiming federal dollars to cover more low-income adults.

Republican members of a joint legislative committee say there’s no need to launch a state investigation into allegations that lobbyists connected to Gov. Sam Brownback engaged in “pay to play” deals involving KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat and member of the KanCare Oversight Committee, on Tuesday urged members to recommend the formation of an investigative committee in a report they’re preparing for legislative leaders.

State officials will need to find an additional $40 million to meet rising KanCare costs in the current budget year, according to caseload estimates compiled by the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department.

KanCare is the name of the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Also, an anticipated increase in the number of children in the foster care system will require an additional $10.2 million in state funding in the current budget year, which ends June 30.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

Sherry Calderwood wishes she could turn back the clock.

Last fall, she and her husband decided not to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace because it cost too much.

RELATED STORY: Kansas City Groups Target Hard-To-Reach For Health Insurance 

KHI News Service

Dr. Robert Moser has resigned as secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

His resignation will be effective at the end of the month.

Moser broke the news to the agency’s staff late Monday afternoon in an email.

“I am stepping down from my current position as KDHE secretary and state health officer effective the end of November,” Moser said.

Moser said “it was a hard decision” to leave the state’s public health and Medicaid agency.

“However, it is the right time for me and my family to look at other opportunities,” he said.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

 

Kansas hospitals are moving ahead with plans to put a Medicaid expansion plan before lawmakers despite election results that returned Gov. Sam Brownback to office and solidified conservatives’ control of the Legislature.

Democrat Paul Davis favored expansion but came up short in his bid to upset Brownback, a Republican who thus far has opposed expansion. Also, several Democratic House members who likely would have favored expansion lost narrowly to GOP challengers.

Poverty is a political issue in Kansas.

Gov. Sam Brownback campaigned in 2010 on a platform that included as one of its main goals reducing childhood poverty.  And since taking office, he has aggressively pursued that goal. But he’s done it his way.

A once-obscure effort by a group of states to get out from under federal health care regulations has become an issue in the final days of the Kansas governor’s race.

The top-of-the-ticket races may be commanding the most attention in this year’s Kansas election, but significant issues also are in play in some of the down-ballot contests.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

     

Which of the following is true?

  • The Affordable Care Act has provided thousands of low-income Kansas with greater access to affordable health insurance.
  • A looming ACA mandate has caused some Kansas employers to hire fewer full-time workers and instead fill positions with part-time employees.
  • The combination of reductions in Medicare rates and the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid eligibility has put Kansas hospitals in a financial bind.

The correct answer is “all of the above.”

Wikimedia Commons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis says if elected, he will reverse Gov. Sam Brownback’s controversial decision to put the private companies managing the state’s Medicaid program in charge of delivering support services to Kansans with developmental disabilities.

Brownback, a conservative Republican seeking a second term, privatized the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program in 2013 and renamed it KanCare to achieve two — and some say conflicting — goals of improving care and reducing costs.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

State officials are intensifying their efforts to help Kansans with disabilities get jobs.

But advocates in the disability community are skeptical that an initiative announced Monday will be enough to reverse a recent trend that has seen a steady decline in the number of Kansans with disabilities placed in jobs.

The initiative, dubbed “End-Dependence Kansas,” will provide $25 million in mostly federal funds over the next five years to organizations that operate programs that help people with disabilities find employment.

A $21 million shortfall in September tax collections has renewed the debate on Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic policies heading into the last month of the 2014 campaign.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

The trend of Kansas Republicans crossing party lines to support Democrats running against GOP conservatives has now reached the insurance commissioner’s race.

Republican incumbent Sandy Praeger, who’s not running for re-election after three terms, endorsed Democrat Dennis Anderson on Tuesday at a campaign event staged at Brewster Place, a Topeka, Kan., retirement community.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican, will endorse Democrat Dennis Anderson on Tuesday, according to a news release issued by Anderson’s campaign.

Anderson is seeking to succeed Praeger as the state’s insurance regulator. He’s running against Republican Ken Selzer, who emerged from a crowded field to capture the GOP nomination in the August primary.

The release issued Monday says that Anderson will “announce the newest endorsement of his campaign,” and goes on to say that both he and Praeger will be available to answer questions.

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