Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ways to Connect

Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center

 

Twenty-five health centers in Missouri and 16 in Kansas have been awarded $9.6 million in federal funds to expand primary care services.

The funding is part of $295 million awarded to 1,195 health centers nationwide under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The money is to be used to hire new staff, help the clinics stay open longer and provide services such as oral health, mental and behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services.

File photo

 

A newsletter for Johnson County seniors has become a source of consternation to some legislators, who say an upcoming article critical of the health care compact passed this year unfairly portrays the legislation as a threat to Medicare.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

 

A reconstituted mental health facility in Kansas City, Kan., has been a financial and therapeutic success in its first five months of operation, officials involved in the transition said Wednesday.

“It’s great news so far,” said Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), “and I think it’s only going to get better.”

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.

The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013.

Rep. Jim Ward, a member of a KanCare oversight committee who requested the fiscal information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, on Tuesday questioned how long the three companies can sustain such losses.

"These companies can’t keep subsidizing Medicaid to the tune of $100 or $150 million per year, and that’s what’s happening,” said Ward, a Wichita Democrat.

Kevin Brown

 

Wichita physician Josh Umbehr has never understood the traditional model of health care reimbursement — the one in which doctors and hospitals fill out pages of forms to bill a patient's insurance company for everything from a $3 test to a $30,000 surgery.

“You don’t have car insurance for gasoline," Umbehr said in a recent phone interview. "Why would you have health insurance for family practice?”

With that philosophy in mind, Umbehr has operated on a kind of service plan for the human body since he opened his practice in 2010.

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved will get a $468,000 federal grant to lead the state's efforts again to get residents signed up for health insurance on the online insurance exchanges.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced $60 million in "navigator" grants to 90 organizations nationwide, including KAMU.

Breastfeeding Advocates To Meet In Wichita

Sep 8, 2014

Later this month, breastfeeding advocates from across Kansas will gather in Wichita for a daylong summit on how best to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least six months.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 15 percent of Kansas infants are breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months,” says Katie Ross, program officer with the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (UMHMF). “That’s pretty low compared to a lot of other states.”

The rare Enterovirus D68, which has afflicted hundreds of children since the start of August, may have peaked.

Children’s Mercy Hospital is currently seeing about 20 patients per day with the breathing difficulties, coughing and fever common to the virus, according to hospital spokesperson Jake Jacobson.

That’s compared with about 30 cases per day a week and a half ago.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the virus in 19 specimens from Kansas City and 11 specimens from Chicago in late August.

Federal officials are sending notices to more than 300,000 people — including about 1,800 Kansans — warning them that the health insurance plans they bought on the federal online marketplace will be revoked unless they provide documents that resolve "data inconsistencies" with their citizenship or immigration status.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

 

Out of the 8,000 full- and part-time law enforcement officers in Kansas, only 1 in 4 have been trained to handle crisis calls involving the mentally ill.

Records show that 80 percent of the nearly 1,800 trained officers work in four high-population counties: Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte.

The other 20 percent — about 360 officers — are spread across police and sheriff’s departments in the remaining 101 counties.

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.

commons.wikipedia.org

 

An official with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said it will be difficult for the state to have a plan in place by the proposed deadline to meet President Obama's order to curb emissions linked to climate change.

Tom Gross, chief of the bureau's air monitoring and planning division, said the rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could leave the state with only one year between the time it becomes final in June 2015 and the time the state has to implement a plan in June 2016.

Tucked inside a new building in Sioux Falls, S.D., is a workspace that might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago. Doctors and nurses sit in front of banks of video cameras and electronic monitors, ready at a moment's notice to provide real-time care for patients hundreds of miles away. That care is now available in Kansas.

Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Tuesday that if elected he would order a "top-to-bottom" review of KanCare.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback spearheaded KanCare, which places the state's 400,000 Medicaid recipients under the administration of three private insurance companies, also known as managed care organizations (MCOs).

The governor has said the program is on track to meet its goal of saving the state $1 billion over five years through care coordination without cutting services, eligibility or provider payments.

Phil Cauthon

 

 

It’s early on a Saturday morning and about 100 people – most of them members of the Kickapoo tribe – are gathering for the dedication of a new walking trail on the reservation, situated on about 20,000 acres in the glacial hills of northeast Kansas near Horton.

On hand to help with the ceremony is an athlete whose name may have faded a bit from public memory, but who still qualifies as a living legend here.

Sean Winters / Flickr -- Creative Commons

If your child has been coughing or wheezing recently, it may have nothing to do with allergies or asthma.

In the past few weeks, Kansas City hospitals have seen an influx of children suffering from the symptoms of a rare respiratory virus during what is usually the low season for respiratory issues.

“Across the region, emergency rooms have been full, pediatric units have been near capacity across town,” says Dr. Mike Lewis, a University of Kansas Medical Center pediatrician.

The state’s privatization of Medicaid is complicating efforts to detect fraud and abuse, according to a recently released report from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office.

The 2014 annual report from the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division says the three private companies managing the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program — called KanCare — are not providing all the information needed for the state to conduct investigations.

Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Spritzing perfume is how Judy Johnson realized her eyesight had gone bad.

At one point, diabetes had worsened her vision so much that the 69-year-old Lansing, Kan., resident had to squirt out a puff of her favorite scent just to find the opening in the mister.

“I looked at it this morning,” Johnson said Wednesday, “and I could see the hole.”

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

Kari Bruffett, who was confirmed Thursday as secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said one of her first goals will be to continue the transition away from institutional care for people with disabilities in favor of home- and community-based services.

The Legislature's Confirmation Oversight Committee approved Bruffett unanimously after she told committee members that her agency's mission fits neatly with a personal mission statement she formulated while working as a government affairs liaison at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

The rural hospital that Dr. Roger Warren leads in Hanover, Kan., is owed about $140,000 by the three insurance companies the state contracted with to administer Medicaid. And as he walks the halls, Warren is able to point out exactly what that money means to his full-service medical clinic.

Alex Smith / KCUR

The University of Kansas fall semester started this week, and along with new classes comes a big change in lifestyle for thousands of students. Junk food, all-night study sessions, marathon parties – the college life has a reputation as being a less-than-healthy one.

For this month’s KC Checkup, KCUR’s Alex Smith spoke with KU health educator and grant coordinator Jenny McKee about the health of the latest generation of young scholars.  

The lobbyist for a group of advanced practice Kansas nurses seeking a compromise with doctors on scope of practice legislation was not expecting much heading into the first round of talks.

But the marathon session held late last week changed Mary Ellen Conlee’s outlook.

“I’m much more optimistic,” Conlee says.

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.

Susie Fagan / KHI News Service

 

Experts say powerful antipsychotic drugs — sometimes given in combination — are used too much and often inappropriately as “chemical restraints” or sedatives to control the behavior of Kansas nursing home residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and that efforts to curb the practice so far are showing weak results compared with other states.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio

 

The long-running legal battle over the construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas continues.

Earlier this summer, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging the latest construction permit to be issued by state health officials. The environmental group says the permit, issued by Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Robert Moser, doesn’t impose adequate limits on greenhouse gases and other pollutants. A KDHE spokesperson says otherwise.

Northcentral Kansan Tests Positive For West Nile

Aug 20, 2014

State health officials say an adult from Republic County, in northcentral Kansas, has the first confirmed case of West Nile virus in Kansas this year.

No information has been released as to the patient’s condition, or whether he or she has been hospitalized.

The disease is spread by infected mosquitoes, and is not contagious from person to person. KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow says this is the time of year when the species of mosquito that carries West Nile is most active.

Elle Moxley
KCUR

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran on Tuesday helped celebrate the opening of a new patient tower and emergency department at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

The Kansas Republican, from Manhattan, Kan., praised local leaders for coming together to complete the project. He then took a jab at Congress' inability to do the same.

Alex Smith / KCUR

 

A forum in Overland Park Tuesday morning drew attention to the importance of National Institutes of Health funding. U.S. Rep.  Kevin Yoder, NIH official Christopher Austin and University of Kansas officials spoke before an audience of about 150 at KU’s Edwards campus. Yoder, a Kansas Republican, said that while he’s concerned with the federal deficit and overspending, he supports NIH funding.

Kansas Mental Health System Under Increasing Stress

Aug 18, 2014
www.kansasmemory.org / Kansas State Historical Society

 

One day last month, Osawatomie State Hospital had 254 patients in its care — almost 50 more than its optimal capacity.

The overcrowded conditions forced a few dozen patients, all of them coping with a serious mental illness and likely a danger to themselves or others, to be triple-bunked in rooms meant for two.

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