Health | KCUR

Health

KCUR's health team focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas. Working with journalists at other public media stations and news outlets, reporters Dan Margolies and Alex Smith strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

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The owner of four hospitals in the Kansas City area and its chief executive have agreed to pay the federal government $65 million to settle a whistleblower suit alleging the company defrauded Medicare.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Prime Healthcare Services falsely billed Medicare by unnecessarily admitting patients at 14 of its California hospitals when they should have been treated in an outpatient setting. Reimbursements are higher for admitted patients than for outpatients.

Prime will pay the bulk of the settlement; its CEO, Prem Reddy, will pay $3.25 million.

Christiaan Colen / Creative Commons-Flickr

Officials at a medical practice in Blue Springs say they are taking steps to strengthen privacy protections after a ransomware attack affected nearly 45,000 patients.

Blue Springs Family Care discovered in May that hackers had installed malware and ransomware encryption programs on its computer system, giving them full access to patient records.

Ransomware is a kind of malware that locks up a computer. The attackers typically demand a ransom, often in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, as a condition of unlocking the computer and allowing access to the system.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several members of a task force formed by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer to address the opioid crisis claim his refusal to consider Medicaid expansion undermines their work.

Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division

Segment 1: Controversy in Missouri and Kansas foster care. 

The foster care systems in Missouri and Kansas have been making headlines lately. In Missouri, the prescribing and administering of psychotropic drugs is at the center of litigation that just became a class action case. In Kansas, the Adoption Protection Act allows smaller agencies to deny potential parents adoption or fostering based on the agency's religious beliefs. We got an update on what's happening on both sides of the state line. 

Medical tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry. It's where countries or cities become known for a certain kind of medical procedure and attract patients as visitors. And with these visitors comes money. Are local health institutions trying to push Kansas City as THE place to be if you need a liver transplant? And is this practice ethically problematic?

Guests:

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A lawsuit charging Missouri officials have failed to properly oversee the administration of psychotropic medications to children in foster care was certified Thursday as a class action.

UMKC student Ravi Anand Naidu wearing headphones and seated in front of a microphone at KCUR studios.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Does Kansas City have a bad reputation within the Indian community? 

Indian nationals coming to America often have to worry about immigration hurdles and racism. Two violent incidents since 2017 in the Kansas City metro have added violence to their list of concerns. Most recently, Sharath Koppu, a UMKC student from India was shot and killed during a robbery at the restaurant where he worked. Today, representatives of the Indian community revealed their views of living here.

Segment 1: Are we taking the wrong approach to education research?

Results-oriented education research often overlooks the side effects that accompany common teaching practices. We learn how the approach medical research makes can help educators avoid damaging policies from the start.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

When Cody Goodwin, of Independence, Missouri, was 24, he had already been hooked on opioids, including heroin, for years. His sister decided jail was the only way he could be cut off from drugs, so she reported him to the police.

Kevin Collison

The long-vacant Wheatley-Provident Hospital, an important landmark in the Kansas City African-American community, has been purchased by a development group with plans to renovate it as offices.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Nearly a year after Missouri state Auditor Nicole Galloway released a scathing audit of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, the tiny hospital is still struggling to recover from a lab billing scheme that's now the subject of criminal investigations. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

In a famous segment from Walt Disney’s 1940 film “Fantasia,” Mickey Mouse is a sorcerer’s apprentice tormented by a broom that he brings to life to help with his chores. At one point, Mickey completely loses it, grabs an ax and savagely chops the cheery, bouncing broom into splinters.

But the story doesn’t end there. As Mickey walks away, the splinters begin to wiggle and regrow, until each one become a new broom.

Donald and Laurie Draughon

After finding the Veterans Health Administration liable earlier this year for the suicide of an Iraq war veteran, a federal judge has awarded more than $480,000 to his father and two children.

In what was thought to be one of the few verdicts of its kind, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled in February that the negligence of the VA directly contributed to the death of Cpl. William Draughon of Kansas City.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Former four-term state representative and agriculture secretary Josh Svaty wants the state's top job.

Tatiana Vdb / Flickr-CC

Segment 1: Leaders of the Kansas and Missouri chapters of the ACLU discuss their organizations' goings-on.

With a federal court ruling Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's voter I.D. laws unconstitutional, the ACLU has something to celebrate. In the meantime, they're still fighting restrictive abortion laws in Missouri and for more funding of the state's public defender's office. Today, they updated us on these lawsuits and more.

GOOGLE

Segment 1: The mindset of asylum-seekers in Trump's America.

Sticking to his campaign promise of strictly enforcing the law at our southern border, President Trump's immigration policies resulted in thousands of migrant children being seperated from their parents. Though he ended that policy with an executive order last week, families crossing illegally are still being detained with children. Today, we heard a first-hand account of what it's like living in a family detention center.

agilemktg1 / Creative Commons-Flickr

Insurance customers in Kansas City will have an additional option on the Affordable Care Act marketplace starting in 2019.

Medica, an insurance company based in Minneapolis, announced Monday it will sell individual plans on the exchange to customers in Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in Missouri. It began selling insurance plans on the exchange last year to Kansas customers in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. 

The insurer's coverage is mainly limited to providers in the Saint Luke's Health System.

Miles of Smiles

Neena Patel tells the kinds of stories that make your mouth hurt. She’s a dentist with Miles of Smiles, a nonprofit organization offering free services to low-income kids in Clay and Platte counties who don’t have access to dental care. She regularly sees young patients who haven’t been to the dentist in years – or ever.

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The families of five patients who died under mysterious circumstances in 2002 at a Chillicothe, Missouri, hospital got some bad news three years ago.

The Missouri Supreme Court refused to allow their wrongful death lawsuits against the hospital to proceed. The court said the families had filed their lawsuits too late, five years after the three-year statute of limitations had run out.

Rural hospitals are more likely to close in states such as Missouri that have not expanded Medicaid.

A recent report from the pro-Affordable Care Act organization Protect Our Care analyzed 84 rural hospital closures since 2010. It found 90 percent of those hospital closures were in states that had not expanded Medicaid coverage. Missouri remains one of the 14 states that hasn’t amended its program to cover people who earn up to 138 percent above the poverty line.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County has hired one of the biggest providers of jail healthcare in the country to provide service at the downtown jail. However, the company has a history of being sued for poor care.

Over the past ten years, Advanced Correctional Healthcare (ACH) has been sued 108 times in 16 states, according to Justia.com which tracks federal cases online. Several of those lawsuits are in Missouri and Kansas.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Missouri on Friday suspended Medicaid reimbursement payments to Planned Parenthood, a move that will affect thousands of its low-income patients.

The organization’s affiliates got the news in a letter the same day from Dale Carr, director of Missouri Medicaid Audit & Compliance, who said it was required by a provision in the 2018 budget cutting off funds for abortion providers and abortion counselors.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Medical researchers have made giant leaps in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, which could make it possible to detect the illness long before memory and cognitive problems show up.

There is no cure for the fatal, degenerative disease, and it remains one of the  diagnoses most feared by patients. But researchers and patient advocates say it’s still worth facing their fears and getting tested.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A federal judge has declined to block a Missouri regulation governing medication abortions, although she found that the restriction “has virtually no benefit.”

Ruling in a case brought by the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Kansas City and St. Louis, U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips said the plaintiffs had not shown that the regulation “is a substantial burden to a large fraction of women seeking a medication abortion.”

2017 KANSAS AND MISSOURI CONSUMER HEALTH ACCESS SURVEY

A quarter of Kansas working-age adults and a third of the state’s children live in households dealing with medical debt.

That’s one of the takeaways from a new report commissioned by five Kansas and Missouri health foundations, believed to be the largest survey to date of health consumers in the two states.

In Kansas, about 2,600 adults and minors were included. The survey answers point to problems with access to dental and mental health care, among other services.

The University of Kansas Health System

It’s been a busy few months for The University of Kansas Health System, formerly known as The University of Kansas Hospital.

Its new $100 million hospital at 107th Street and Nall Avenue in Overland Park opens Monday following two years of construction.

That comes on the heels of its acquisition of the Environmental Protection Agency building in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

And that came shortly after it purchased St. Francis Health in Topeka as part of a joint venture with Ardent Health Services.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Newly proposed federal rules would force Missouri clinics to choose between providing comprehensive healthcare and receiving federal funds, according to family planning groups.

Leaders of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Missouri Family Health Council Inc. and other Missouri health groups on Thursday denounced proposed changes to the federal Title X program, which provides funding for family planning and reproductive health providers throughout the country.

Taja Welton is ready for her daughter to be born. She’s moved into a bigger house, one with room for a nursery. She has a closet full of pink, Minnie Mouse-themed baby clothes. Her baby bag is packed right down to the outfit she plans to bring her baby home in that reads, “The Princess Has Arrived.”

“I can’t wait to put it on her,” Welton smiles. The princess even has a name: Macen.


Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

In a case that has implications for Missouri, Planned Parenthood has asked a federal court for a restraining order to block an Arkansas law that effectively bans medication abortions. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up Planned Parenthood's challenge to the law, which requires abortion providers to contract with back-up physicians with hospital admitting privileges. Planned Parenthood says it has sought in vain to find such physicians

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a challenge to an Arkansas law that effectively blocks medication abortions, leaving the fate of a similar Missouri law up in the air.

A medication abortion is a procedure involving a combination of two pills. The woman takes the first at an abortion clinic and typically takes the second at home. Complications from the procedure are rare, with fewer than 1 in 400 patients requiring hospitalization. 

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