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.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's new administration experienced some social media mishaps this past week, and conservative Republicans pounced. Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty says there's more going on than meets the eye. 

The last week might have been easier for Gov. Laura Kelly if every staffer and appointee had stuck to sharing cat photos on Twitter instead of political opinions.

The Kansas GOP pounced quickly on her newly formed Democratic administration for the social media transgressions of its people. With divided government in Topeka, GOP leaders won’t miss a chance to point out potential errors.

Sometimes the audience catches things in daily life that a journalist misses — things with the potential to become exceptional stories. Questions that could capture the attention of your community. But your curiosities about life in Kansas don’t always reach our reporters.

Now, the Kansas News Service aims to change that.

With Kansas Matters, we want your questions about modern life in Kansas to unearth possible stories that matter to Kansans like you.

File photo

Kansas Sen. Jim Denning’s defamation lawsuit against The Kansas City Star should be thrown out because the First Amendment protects even untruthful speech, the newspaper asserted in a court filing Wednesday.

In a brief supporting its motion made last month to strike Denning’s petition, The Star says that Denning would be unable to show that the newspaper acted with “actual malice” when it published a column by unpaid guest columnist Steve Rose about Denning’s opposition to Medicaid expansion.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 2:53 p.m. Thursday: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency Thursday, following flooding along the Missouri River.

Thursday morning the river breached a levee near Winthrop, Missouri, across from Atchison, Kansas. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans powered past objections from conservative leaders in the Kansas House Wednesday to approve Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

Albeit a slightly revised version.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Flooding continues along the Missouri River after last week's "bomb cyclone" and ongoing snowmelt, posing a challenge for small towns like Elwood, Kansas. 

Bobby Hall is a city supervisor in Elwood, a small town of around 1,200 people just across the river from St. Joseph, Missouri. With the river at 27 feet Wednesday, and expected to crest at 29 feet Thursday, officials are predicting potentially 5 feet of water for homes and businesses nearby.

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.

Kansas universities are looking beyond the Midwest — as far out as California — for out-of-state students to fill their classrooms.

But other states are competing just as hard for Kansas students.

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.

Camilo Rueda Lopez / (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Social workers can perform a myriad of tasks. Some check on children in abusive homes and some train foster families. Others support patients through medical procedures like kidney dialysis or provide talk therapy to mental health patients.

But there are too few of them in Kansas.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Republicans in the Kansas Senate seem ready to end a long-running lawsuit by complying with a court ruling that said the state sends too little money to local school districts.

The Kansas House? Not just yet. It’s advancing a plan that would continue adding school spending for another year, and only another year.

Just after approving the school funding Gov. Laura Kelly asked for, the Kansas Senate turned around and gave the final okay to a tax relief package she opposes, daring the new governor to issue her first veto. 


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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.

Wichita State University President John Bardo, who transformed the school with the development of the Innovation Campus, has died.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY — Seventy hours a week got old. Fast. So did working multiple jobs.

So Joseph Cowsert wept tears of joy and relief the day he got word while bathing his baby daughter that UPS was offering him a 40-hour-a-week position in web development.

“It was like a burden lifted off of me,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was weighing so heavily.”

Gov. Laura Kelly signed her first bill and school finance got some attention, but roundtable discussions on Medicaid expansion dominated a short week at the Kansas Statehouse. Sara Collins, a healthcare economist with the Commonwealth Fund, and Michael Cannon, health policy director for the Cato Institute, represented diverging views of the costs and benefits. 


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Three Kansas City-area hospitals are among 17 in Missouri and seven in Kansas that are being penalized by Medicare this year for high infection and patient-injury rates.

Truman Medical Centers, Research Medical Center and Belton Medical Center will see their Medicare payments reduced by 1 percent because of high rates of complications. It’s the fifth year in a row Truman has been penalized.

A college degree is still your best bet for earning top dollar.

Yet with more Americans graduating from college, having a degree is no longer enough to stand out. To make the most of that degree in an economy filled with college grads, choosing the right degree is that much more important. Here are some tips for finding the right college major.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The Republican-controlled Kansas House approved wide-ranging tax legislation Thursday. The measure would reduce sales taxes on food, which could help Kansans across the income spectrum. It would also give some big corporations a break, and that will likely spark a showdown with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Pittsburg State University / YouTube

Gene Bicknell’s name is all over the campus of Pittsburg State University, his alma mater. It’s on a sports complex. The arts center is simply known as the “Bicknell,” after the homegrown entrepreneur.

But while he’s beloved as a civic booster in Pittsburg, the former businessman is far less endeared to tax officials in Topeka, from whom he’s just wrested back $48 million in revenue.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

A Kansas activist known for her work on transgender issues has died. Stephanie Mott, 61, was a mental health clinician, LGBTQ advocate and prolific public speaker who traveled the country to share her experiences as a transgender Christian woman. 

Mott served as the vice chair of Equality Kansas, chaired the LGBTQ caucus of the Kansas Democrats and founded the Kansas Statewide Transgender Equality Project.

Henrion Hall is where the dirty art happens at Wichita State University.

Sculpting. Ceramics. Spray painting. Students are likely to ding, splash and generally make a mess of the walls. With the building nearing 100 years old, the university doesn't mind.

In Norton County, as in many parts of rural Kansas, the ambulance service is stretched thin.

Norton, with a population around 5,400 in the northwest corner of the state, has six full-time ambulance workers and nine volunteers to respond to all the 911 calls as well as transport patients from one hospital to another.

“Sometimes patients needing to be transferred are left waiting,” said Craig Sowards, Norton County EMS director.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution to promote diversity and equality in the city. However, many community members attending the meeting said it did not go far enough.

“A proclamation is nothing but lip service,” Olathe resident Chad Palmer told the city council, expressing that they needed to go further in making a stand against discrimination.

It’s not exactly unusual for customers to complain about their electricity bills. But repeated rate hikes over the past decade have made Westar Energy’s customers particularly mad. And last year’s merger with Kansas City Power and Light only served to keep the company’s finances — and its profit margin — in public view.

The University of Kansas Health System

Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital say a change in the distribution of livers across the country could result in Kansans waiting longer for life-saving transplants.

So they’re backing a bill in the Kansas Legislature that would allow residents who donate their organs to specify whether they want them used to benefit Kansas transplant patients.

“The purpose of the Kansas Donor Rights act is to bring the conversation to the forefront,” said Sean Kumer, a liver transplant surgeon at KU.

Kansas lawmakers have given the green light to a slew of bills to proceed past a mid-session break, while stopping other proposals in their tracks. Meanwhile, new KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz is looking forward to getting the state highway program back on the road. 


Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

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