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.

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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.

                                          

A new study by the Urban Institute says that not expanding Medicaid will cost hospitals in Kansas and Missouri more than $9 billion over a 10-year period.

The analysis from the nonpartisan research organization pegs the loss to Kansas hospitals at $2.6 billion between 2013 and 2022. Missouri hospitals would forfeit $6.8 billion over the same period.

Dawn Cherie Araujo / Global Sisters Report

 

Although she’s the executive director of a national organization, Sr. Simone Campbell doesn’t carry a briefcase. Instead, she carries documents and books from city to city, state to state, in a navy tote bag from “The Colbert Report,” a show she’s appeared on twice.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

LaShana McGee marvels at the exploits of her 4-year-old daughter around their neighborhood pool in Piper, Kan.

“She goes straight to the deep end. It’s crazy,” McGee says. “I don’t know why she does that, but she does. She just jumps right in, and she will swim her way back to the stairs where you get in.”

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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.

File photo

 

Ken Selzer emerged from a crowded field Tuesday to capture the Republican nomination for Kansas insurance commissioner.

The certified public accountant from Leawood defeated four rivals in a tight race that was among the last to be settled Tuesday night. Selzer captured 27 percent of 236,644 votes cast in the contest, according to final but unofficial numbers compiled by Kansas secretary of state’s office.

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.

State officials last week formally launched a “health home” initiative they hope will help Medicaid enrollees with mentally illnesses live healthier lives and lower the state’s health care costs. 

“We have several goals,” says Becky Ross, director of Medicaid initiatives at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “But the main goal, first and foremost, is to keep people out of the emergency room, reduce inpatient stays as much as possible and help people learn more about how to manage their chronic conditions, whatever those conditions might be.”

KHI News Service Photo

 

The same groups that used the wedge issue of Obamacare to unseat moderate Republican senators two years ago are targeting several House members for defeat in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Kansas Medicaid Fraud Unit Recovers Nearly $29 Million

Aug 4, 2014

Kansas recovered nearly $29 million in taxpayer funds in fiscal 2014 through its Medicaid fraud enforcement unit, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, the Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division of the Kansas attorney general's office recovered more than $28.7 million. The recoveries were reported in the division’s annual report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The top executive at the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System says he and other hospital officials are “baffled” by Gov. Sam Brownback’s unwillingness to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Voters in Salina, Kan., will decide this fall whether to end fluoridation of the city's water supply.

The city has been adding fluoride to its municipal water supply since 1968, as a low-cost way to improve residents’ dental health. That practice could end this November.

Petitions submitted to the Saline County Clerk have been verified as having enough signatures to force the issue to a vote. The question to be decided in the general election is whether the 1968 city ordinance that approved water fluoridation should be rescinded.

Four safety net clinics in Kansas and three in Missouri have been awarded federal funding to create or expand mental health services for low-income individuals. 

The funding is part of almost $55 million in similar grants nationwide through the Affordable Care Act. The clinics will each receive about $250,000.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas saw 2,500 patients for mental health issues last year.  CEO Krista Postai says she intends to use the new money to integrate medical and behavioral care.

University of Missouri - Kansas City

Although some disparities have been shrinking in recent years, African-Americans’ experience with health and healthcare still varies dramatically from much of the rest of the population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, infant mortality and hypertension, among other health markers.

For the past 25 years, Kansas City’s Black Healthcare Coalition has been working to improve health in the African-American community.

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.

'Nun On The Bus' Coming To Kansas City

Jul 30, 2014
NETWORK

Sister Simone Campbell, an outspoken proponent for Medicaid expansion who has appeared on several prominent TV talk shows, will address a public forum on social justice issues in Kansas City, Mo., next week.

Campbell, who led the national “Nuns on the Bus” campaigns in 2012 and 2013, is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Community Christian Church, 4601 Main St.

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.

submitted photo

In early July, Robyn Zwolinski and her husband, Gene, decided it was time to put down their 13-year-old West Highland terrier, Blaire. The past few years had been hard for Blaire: she had lost her sight and had begun to develop cognitive canine dysfunction — a dog’s version of dementia.

The Zwolinskis contacted their vet, Vern Otte of Stateline Animal Hospital. Otte had seen them through the euthanization of several pets, and Robyn says they trusted him implicitly. Before coming into the hospital for the procedure, Otte called to ask Robyn a question that took her by surprise.

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Missourians on Medicare have saved more than $26 million so far this year on prescription drugs and Kansans more than $10 million, thanks to one of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says.

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.

St. Joseph Medical Center

 

 

A West Coast hospital company has agreed to acquire two hospitals and other related facilities as part of a deal with Kansas City, Mo.-based Carondelet Health, the parties announced Monday.

The buyer is Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare Services, which has signed a letter of intent that includes the acquisition of St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs.

Kansas welfare officials said Friday that they have suspended placing foster children with TFI Family Services, pending investigation of the death Thursday of an infant left in a hot car in Wichita.

TFI formerly contracted with the Kansas Department for Children and Families to provide foster services and continues to have foster homes as a subcontractor to the state's current lead foster care contractors, KVC Behavioral Healthcare of Olathe and St. Francis Community Services of Salina.

Alex Smith / KCUR

After announcing this season’s schedule of peanut allergy-friendly events, the Kansas City Royals saw several sell out, and the team soon added another to keep up with demand.

The announcement came after a campaign from some local fans, and it followed a growing trend of baseball teams working to be more accommodating to fans with allergies.

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.

Same-Sex Unions Pose Challenge To Hospitals

Jul 23, 2014

The absence of legal protections for same-sex couples made the news last year when a Kansas City hospital denied a man the right to stay by his male partner’s bedside.

Now many area hospitals are trying to make themselves more accommodating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families.  

Nearly two years ago, Kris Saim received some harrowing news.  He was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. But the diagnosis wasn’t the only thing he was worried about.

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.

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.

David Goehring / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

Conflicting federal court rulings are raising questions about whether consumers in Kansas and Missouri will continue to be eligible for subsidies when purchasing private health insurance through the federal insurance exchange.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Tuesday that only consumers purchasing coverage through state-operated marketplaces are eligible for federal tax credits.

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