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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Missouri and Kansas have joined 41 other states and Puerto Rico in a lawsuit accusing generic drug makers of conspiring to manipulate and drive up prices for more than 100 generic drugs.

The 510-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut, names 20 drug companies and 15 executives as defendants, alleging they participated in a conspiracy led by generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceuticals USA.

Segment 1: Debate KC

Two high schoolers from Kansas City, Kansas, made waves in the 2019 Urban Debate National Championships. We hear more about their experiences and find out how our town has traditionally used debate as a tool for social justice.

Bethany Wood / For the Kansas News Service

Stephanneth Adams plans to leave Kansas.

The nurse practitioner landed in the state’s rural southwest — where she saw patients in Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal — through a federal program aimed at stubborn health care shortages in urban and rural America.

But why stay? Adams has her eyes on Nevada, a state that lets its most educated nurses roll up their sleeves and work without permanently needing, as they do in Kansas, permission from a physician.

AdventHealth

AdventHealth will take over operation of Ransom Memorial Health, a 44-bed acute-care hospital in Ottawa, Kansas, the Florida-based health system announced on Wednesday.

Ransom Memorial will be renamed AdventHealth Ottawa. It joins other members of the AdventHealth network, including AdventHealth Shawnee Mission in Merriam, Kansas, formerly known as Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Bruce Stidham / Kaiser Health News

When Karolyn Schrage first heard about the “dominoes gang” in the health clinic she runs in Joplin, Mo., she assumed it had to do with pizza.

Turns out it was a group of men in their 60s and 70s who held a standing game night — which included sex with one another. They showed up at her clinic infected with syphilis.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Buoyed by the biggest gift in its history, $10 million from the Sunderland Foundation, Truman Medical Centers on Thursday launched an ambitious campaign to raise nearly $19 million to upgrade its neonatal intensive care unit.

The push to modernize and expand Truman's NICU has locked in pledges of $14 million, according to hospital officials. That includes additional commitments of $2.5 million from the Hall Family Foundation and other contributors such as Waddell and Reed CEO Phil Sanders, the president of Truman’s board. 

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

A state court judge has thrown out a lawsuit seeking damages against the board of trustees of tiny Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, and Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway.

The lawsuit was filed by the owner of the hospital, Hospital Partners Inc., in Putnam County in April 2018, but the company had taken no action since then. The case was later moved to Cole County, where it continued to languish and was dismissed on Monday.

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Allegations of financial fraud and stolen hospital records have surfaced in an increasingly nasty legal battle over the fate of Hillsboro Community Hospital in Hillsboro, Kansas.

The critical access hospital, which is partly owned by a company controlled by Florida resident Jorge Perez, is resisting efforts by Perez to move its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to North Carolina.

That’s where a bankruptcy judge recently consolidated the bankruptcy filings of seven other rural hospitals controlled by Perez and Perez-affiliated groups. The hospitals include the now-closed Oswego Community Hospital in Oswego, Kansas; Horton Community Hospital in Horton, Kansas; and I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs, Missouri.

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An Overland Park weight-loss hospital that lost its Medicare certification last year remains in legal limbo.

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld on procedural grounds a lower court’s dismissal of Blue Valley Hospital’s lawsuit challenging the loss of its certification.

PATIENTCARETECHNICIANSALARY.NET / FLICKR - CC

Even as it seeks to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional, the Trump administration on Monday reported that about 11.4 million people signed up for coverage in 2019 on the act’s state- and federally run exchanges.

That represents a dip from about 11.8 million in 2018, defying fears of a more precipitous drop after the Trump Administration cut promotion and outreach efforts and Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not having coverage.

About 60 percent of the approximately 70,000 Missourians purged from the state’s Medicaid program in 2018 lost coverage because they failed to reply to a mailed renewal form, according to state data.

The Missouri Department of Social Services started using an automated system to determine residents’ Medicaid eligibility last year. If the system couldn’t find their information, the state mailed enrollees renewal forms to complete and return.

Some health experts and state officials are concerned people otherwise eligible for the program are living without insurance because they never received the mail.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

It’s no longer news that when it comes to its residents’ health, Wyandotte County ranks near the bottom of Kansas counties and Johnson County ranks at the top.

Bethany Wood / For the Kansas News Service

DODGE CITY — Check out Dodge City.

A new $12 million waterpark. A shiny new craft brewery — not far from the new whiskey distillery. And, yes, that trendy new downtown cafe.

A nearly $6 million addition to Boot Hill Museum just kicked off last fall. That’s about when Dodge City wrapped up $86 million in renovations and expansions to its schools.

Dan Margolies / KCUR

Three Kansas hospitals are among six hospitals once run by a North Kansas City-based company that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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This story was updated to include comments from Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. 

Yet another ailing rural hospital once operated by EmpowerHMS, which used to be based in North Kansas City, has closed.

The Horton (Kansas) Community Hospital about 78 miles northwest of Kansas City shut its doors at 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to City Administrator John Calhoon.

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In mid-February, I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs, Missouri, took the unusual step of voluntarily suspending its own license after state regulators said it was “out of regulatory compliance.”

The 15-bed critical access hospital said it planned to reopen in 90 days. But now the path forward has become steeper.

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cut off the hospital’s participation in the Medicare program. CMS cited deficiencies that are “so serious they constitute an immediate threat to patient health and safety.”

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Reported syphilis cases in Kansas City jumped by 71 percent last year and included nine cases of congenital syphilis in which the mother passed the disease on to her newborn child.

The spike has set off alarm bells at the Kansas City Health Department, which could see cuts in or reallocations of health levy funds that support the city's safety net system in next year’s municipal budget.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a Columbia, Missouri, resident with setting a fire at the Planned Parenthood clinic in that city that led to its closure for a week.

Wesley Brian Kaster, 42, was accused of one count of maliciously damaging, by means of fire or an explosive, a building owned by an organization that receives federal funding.

Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons-Flickr

The company hired to provide health care in Kansas prisons is getting paid millions less than its contracted amount after failing to meet the agreement’s terms.

State officials reduced payments to Corizon Health because the company failed to hire enough nurses and other health workers. Corizon lost additional money after audits found it fell short of performance standards for a range of medical services.

Now, the Kansas Department of Corrections says the contractor has one more year to look after the health of 10,000 people in its prisons.

RareKC

When Kelly Ranallo's first child was born 21 years ago, something seemed wrong, but no one could put a finger on it. When Ranallo’s second child was born, the Overland Park mother's feeling was even stronger.

"(Our pediatrician) gave that look that no mom wants to see, which is 'I'll be right back. I'm going to go and make a couple phone calls, then I'll be back, and we’ll talk about this,'" Ranallo says.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

Missouri has one remaining abortion provider after a federal judge on Friday refused to block the state's law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes was the latest development in a case that has bounced around the federal courts for more than two years, after Planned Parenthood challenged the requirement as medically unnecessary.

Segment 1: A Kansas City non-profit is advocating for people with rare diseases.

When you have a disease that's common, you can expect a swift diagnosis and a level of understanding from friends and family. But that might not be the case if your condition is rarely seen and little-understood, even by medical professionals. Hear about the obstacles facing patients with rare diseases and their families

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A physician who won one of the biggest jury awards in Missouri last year in a whistleblower case over emergency room staffing is going back to court after a judge slashed his award by more than half.

Dr. Raymond Brovont had worked in the regular emergency room and the pediatric emergency room at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Technically, his employer was an emergency-room staffing company called EmCare. After he raised concerns that only one physician was being used at night to cover both ERs – a policy he believed endangered patient safety — Brovont was fired.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — The glittery gold print on Cara Simon’s graduation cap begged — maybe only half-jokingly — for a break: “Can I take a nap now?”

Toilsome college coursework may have kept the Wichita native up at night, but looking for a job won’t. Simon lined one up at an emergency room before even graduating — one of the benefits of earning a nursing degree.

“It’s so versatile,” she said. “You can work in a million different places. You can work in any state. It’s exciting.”

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A medical group that provides anesthesia services to Kansas City metro hospitals has notified 3,472 patients that some of their personal information may have been compromised after surgery schedules were stolen from an employee’s car.

Anesthesia Associates of Kansas City posted a notice on its website that the surgery schedules may have included some patients’ names, dates of birth, types and dates of surgery, and the name of the patients’ surgeons.

Segment 1: What are local churches doing to prevent and report abuse?

Abuse in the church is a particular kind of betrayal. And it's an issue church-goers everywhere are wrestling with after news in Texas broke of pastors who could still find work despite long histories of sexual abuse allegations. In this conversation, we hear how local survivors, clergy, and advocates are responding to these stories.

Segment 1: Community newspaper check-in with Camp Magazine.

From a continent-wide softball competition, to a ‘rainbow wave’ in local government — there’s a lot of news in Kansas City’s LGBTQ community. We visit with the editor of Camp Magazine, to take a look at recent headlines. 

Segment 2, beginning at 13:20: A local icon hangs up his cape.

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This story was updated to add the comments of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.

Oswego Community Hospital, a 12-bed critical access hospital in southeast Kansas, abruptly closed down on Thursday, citing insufficient revenue to cover its operating expenses.

The hospital’s board released a statement saying the hospital had “weathered low patient volumes; high number of uninsured patients; low reimbursement rates; difficulty in getting payment from private insurance providers; low Medicaid and Medicare rates; and the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.”

Segment 1: MU professor finds that eye behavior can provide mental health analysis.

They say eyes are a window to your soul. But according to a University of Missouri researcher, they're also a window to your stress level.

Segment 2, beginning at 12:44: Local mom shares her story about changing her mind on a controversial issue: vaccines.

Chris Neal of Shooter Imaging / Kansas News Service

Thousands of Kansas children and teens go without vaccines that could save their lives.

A series of policy changes, though, could protect more Kansans against everything from cervical cancer to swift-acting meningococcal disease.

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