May 17, 2016
Bolstered by the federal healthcare law, the number of lower income kids getting health coverage continues to improve, a recent study found.
Regional Outbreaks of Disease Reported
May 17, 2016 By Marsha Mercer
A year ago, Laura Hall felt tired all the time, was losing weight and had a bad cough.
The 41-year-old Spanish teacher from Shelburne, Vt., went to doctors for three months before they finally nailed the diagnosis: active tuberculosis.
“I was scared. I was horrified. Oh my gosh, how did I get this? Where did I get it?” Hall said in a video about TB survivors’ experiences. “I didn’t think that I could get TB, ever.”
Many children with insurance are not getting care
May 17, 2016 By Shefali Luthra
Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books requiring health insurers to cover autism treatments. But new research evaluating the so-called “insurance mandates” suggests these efforts are failing in key ways to help people — especially children — get needed therapy.
These findings, which were to be presented Wednesday at a major conference on autism spectrum disorder and will appear this summer in JAMA Pediatrics, highlight the consequences of this shortfall.
But They Are Still Used by Relatively Few States
May 10, 2016 By Christine Vestal
For more than a decade, doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners have liberally prescribed opioid painkillers despite mounting evidence that people were becoming addicted and overdosing on the powerful pain medications.
Now, in the face of a drug overdose epidemic that killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, a handful of states are insisting that health professionals do a little research before they write another prescription for highly addictive drugs like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin.
Pressuring Lawmakers May be Seen as Avenue to Success
May 10, 2016 By Andy Marso
After another legislative session with no action on Medicaid expansion, advocates in Kansas are turning their attention to the upcoming state elections and urging voters to become more vocal on the issue.
A Monday rally in a Statehouse hearing room drew a standing-room-only crowd. It was better-attended than other similar rallies in the four years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have discretion over whether they expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
Provider/Insurer Aims to Give Patients More Convenience, Transparency
May 10, 2016 By Anna Gorman
Lacee Badgley, the mother of a 7-year-old, works full time as an insurance adjuster. Like most working parents, she finds making time for doctor’s appointments a challenge.
“I don’t have the time or energy to drive around town and then wait,” she said.
That’s why Badgley, 36, switched from her previous doctors to Zoom+, a medical provider and health insurer that aims to give patients more control and transparency. She can make same-day appointments through a mobile app, and she’s usually in and out within 30 minutes.
Experts Say There is No End in Sight
May 3, 2016 By Michelle Andrews
At some hospitals, posters on the wall in the emergency department list the drugs that are in short supply or unavailable, along with recommended alternatives.
The low-tech visual aid can save time with critically ill patients, allowing doctors to focus on caring for them rather than doing research on the fly, said Jesse Pines, M.D., a professor of emergency medicine and director of the Office for Clinical Practice Innovation at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, who has studied the problems with shortages.
Far Larger Percentage of Mothers Die Than in Other Developed Nations
May 3, 2016 By Michael Ollove
The relatively high percentage of American women who die as a result of pregnancy, which exceeds that of other developed nations, is prompting a new national prevention campaign that is relying on the states to take a leading role.
The key element in that effort is to encourage all states to go beyond the information provided on a typical death certificate by having mortality review panels investigate the causes behind every maternal death that occurs during pregnancy or in the year after delivery.
New Regs Also Passed For Acupuncturists, Midwives
May 3, 2016 By Andy Marso
A “mega-bill” containing several provisions related to licensure of medical professionals survived a rules dispute to pass just before the Kansas Legislature adjourned early Monday morning.
Unless Gov. Sam Brownback vetoes the bill, the conference committee report combined in House Bill 2615 will require acupuncturists to be licensed, enter Kansas into a compact that will license physicians to practice across state lines and expand the authority of nurse midwives.
Lowe's Among The Companies Making Such Offer
Apr 26, 2016 By Michael Tomsic
Lowe’s home improvement company, like a growing number of large companies nationwide, offers its employees an eye-catching benefit: certain major surgeries at prestigious hospitals at no cost to the employee.
How do these firms do it? With “bundled payments,” a way of paying that’s gaining steam across the healthcare industry, and that Medicare is now adopting for hip and knee replacements in 67 metropolitan areas, including New York, Miami and Denver.
Health Plans Must Now Act Quickly If They Want Settlement Shares
Apr 26, 2016 By Michelle Andrews
Accidents happen, and if they’re someone else’s fault, you can go to court to try to get compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you win, though, the pot of gold you receive may be considerably smaller than you expect: Your health plan may claim some or all of it as reimbursement for money it spent on your medical care.
It’s completely legal and it happens all the time. But a recent Supreme Court decision gives consumers ammunition to push back.
They're 50th and 47th Nationwide
Apr 26, 2016 By Megan Hart
Kansas spends only about $12 per person on public health, making it one of the states putting the least money into preventing chronic and infectious diseases.
According to a recent report from the Trust for America’s Health, Kansas spent about $36 million in fiscal year 2015 on public health programs for its 2.9 million people, or about $12.40 per person. That ranked the state 47th in per capita spending compared to the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.
Politics Has Blocked Tool to Curb Drug Abuse
Apr 19, 2016 By Bram Sable-Smith
At Richard Logan’s pharmacy in Charleston, Mo., prescription opioid painkillers are locked away in a cabinet.
Missouri law requires pharmacies to keep schedule II controlled substances — drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl with a high addiction potential — locked up at all times.
Many Have Insurance, But Lack Funds
Apr 19, 2016 By Michelle Andrews
Denise Johnson works two jobs, but neither of them offers health insurance to part-timers like her. She signed up for a marketplace plan this year, but for routine medical care, Johnson still goes to the free clinic near her Charlottesville, Va., home.
The problem is her plan’s deductible of at least $1,000. She can’t recall the precise figure, but it doesn’t really matter. “It’s absolutely high,” said Johnson, 58. “Who can afford that?” She struggles to pay her $28 monthly premium.
Many Applicants Have Been Waiting For Months
Apr 19, 2016 By Andy Marso
Representatives of 15 groups that advocate for Kansas Medicaid populations sent a letter to state leaders this week urging them to eliminate a Medicaid application backlog that has left thousands of Kansans awaiting coverage.
The groups have formed a coalition called the KanCare Advocates Network. They represent children, pregnant women and Kansans who are elderly or disabled.
Up More Than 500 Percent
Apr 5, 2016 By Christine Vestal
When Ohio tallied what many already knew was an alarming surge in overdose deaths from an opioid known as fentanyl, the state asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate.
The rash of fatal overdoses in Ohio — a more than fivefold increase in 2014 — was not an isolated outbreak. Fentanyl is killing more people than heroin in many parts of the country. And the death toll will likely keep growing, said CDC investigators Matt Gladden and John Halpin at the fifth annual Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit here.
Agency Being Urged to Change Policy
Apr 5, 2016 By Phil Galewitz
Nearly a third of people without health insurance, about 10 million, live in families that received a federal earned income tax credit (EITC) in 2014, according to a new study.
But the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t tell those tax filers that their low and moderate incomes likely mean their households qualify for Medicaid or subsidies to buy coverage on the insurance exchanges.
Justice Department Spearheads Investigation
Apr 5, 2016 By Dan Margoiles
Kansas is one of 10 judicial districts nationwide selected to form units to crack down on nursing homes providing “grossly substandard” care, the Justice Department announced last week.
But Proposal Raises Ethical Issues
Mar 29, 2016 By Michelle Andrews
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and Harvard oncologist have a proposal to get highly effective but prohibitively expensive drugs into consumers’ hands: health care installment loans.
Writing last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the authors liken drug loans to mortgages, noting that both can enable consumers to buy big-ticket items requiring a hefty up-front payment that they could not otherwise afford.
But such policies won't be subject to Medicaid fee
Mar 29, 2016 By Andy Marso
Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Monday that will allow insurance companies to avoid paying a privilege fee when they sell health plans that cover only in-network care.
The state already allowed insurers to sell network-only plans if they registered with the Kansas Insurance Department as health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, and paid the fee.
More Children Being Born At-Risk For Withdrawal
Mar 29, 2016 By Christine Vestal
As soon as the home pregnancy test strip turned blue, Susan Bellone packed a few things and headed straight for Boston Medical Center’s emergency room. She’d been using heroin and knew she needed medical help to protect her baby.
“I felt so guilty. I still do,” said Bellone, a petite, energetic woman. At 32, and six years into her heroin addiction, having a baby was the last thing on her mind. “I was not in the right place to start a family,” she said. “But once it was happening, it was happening, so I couldn’t turn back.”
CMS Introduces Various Initiatives to Cut Costs
Mar 22, 2016 By Julie Appleby
Aetna and Cigna inked deals in early February with drugmaker Novartis that offer the insurers rebates tied to how well a pricey new heart failure drug works to cut hospitalizations and deaths. If the $4,500-a-year drug meets targets, the rebate goes down. Doesn’t work so well? The insurers get a bigger payment.
In another approach, pharmacy benefit firm Express Scripts this year began paying drugmakers a special negotiated rate for some cancer drugs — to reward the use of the medicines for the specific cancers for which they have the most demonstrated effectiveness.
Four Centers Receive HHS Grants
Mar 22, 2016 By Megan Hart
More than $1.4 million in federal grants will help four Kansas health centers enhance their treatment programs for opioid abuse.
In announcing the grants earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said abuse of and addiction to opioids, such as heroin and prescription painkillers, “is a serious and increasing public health problem.”
Cleveland Clinic Among Those Providing Training
Mar 22, 2016 By Phil Galewitz
She didn’t want to spend the rest of her days seeing doctors, the 91-year-old woman confessed to Kevin Newfield, M.D., as he treated a deep wound on her arm.
“You don’t have to, but you have to tell me what you do want,” Newfield replied.
“I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of being 106,” she told the surgeon and her daughter, who was in the room with them.
Other Businesses Often Impacted Hard
Mar 15, 2016 By Sarah Varney
For years, Sybil Ammons was the director of nursing at Stewart County’s only hospital. Now, she’s the county coroner.
Since the hospital here closed three years ago, Ammons says more than a dozen local residents were unable to get medical care quickly enough and were either harmed or died because of the delays. “We’ve had a stroke, several heart attacks,” she said, standing along Richland’s main street in this small town about 150 miles south of Atlanta. “We’ve had traumas out on the four-lane.”
Safe Injection Sites Would Cut Overdoses
Mar 15, 2016 By Sarah Breitenbach
A bustling economy. Record-low unemployment. A ballooning heroin problem.
That’s how Mayor Svante Myrick describes Ithaca, N.Y., where he hopes to open the nation’s first safe injection facility — a place where heroin users could shoot their illegal drugs under medical supervision and without fear of arrest.
New Law Allowing Them on College Campuses Affects Hospital
Mar 15, 2016 By Sam Zeff
July 2017 may seem like a long way away, but when you’re planning to allow guns on college campuses, it might as well be just around the corner.
How Kansas colleges will comply with the law allowing guns on campus while maintaining security is complicated. But it’s perhaps most complex at the University of Kansas Medical Center and KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.
But no Action Being Taken by Legislature For Now
Mar 8, 2016 By Jim McLean
Poll results released Monday by the Kansas Hospital Association show a majority of Kansans continue to favor expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.
The statewide poll conducted in mid-February found that 62% of Kansas voters supported expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to cover approximately 150,000 non-disabled adults earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level, which is $16,242 for an individual and $33,465 for a family of four.
Michigan Among 11 Advocating Reforms
Mar 8, 2016 By Michael Ollove
Outraged by exorbitant prices for certain prescription drugs, lawmakers in at least 11 states have introduced legislation that would require pharmaceutical companies to justify their prices by disclosing how much they spend on research, manufacturing and marketing.
The bills are similar to a provision in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2017 budget.
Study Contradicts Notion They Cut Costs
Mar 8, 2016 By Chad Terhune
Retail clinics, long seen as an antidote to more expensive doctor offices and emergency rooms, may actually boost medical spending by leading consumers to get more care, a new study shows.
Rather than substituting for a physician office visit or trip to the hospital, 58 percent of retail clinic visits for minor conditions represented a new use of medical services, according to the study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. Those additional visits led to a modest increase in overall health care spending of $14 per person per year.
Most Support is Among Democrats; Alternatives Are Preferred
Mar 1, 2016 By Jordan Rau
Americans are divided about the idea of creating a single-payer government health insurance system, as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has proposed, but support shrinks when negative arguments are highlighted and alternatives are presented, according to a poll released last week.
Higher Earners More Likely to Marry, Creating Reluctance to Relocate
Mar 1, 2016 By Shefali Luthra
If someone is well-educated, the odds are that he or she will marry someone with similar credentials, according to census data. And that trend has consequences when it comes to access to health care in rural areas.
Rural areas have for years been facing a doctor shortage. That means for the roughly 20% of Americans who live in those areas, it’s harder to get care when it’s needed.
Many Have to Travel Hours to Clinics
Mar 1, 2016 By Esther Honig
At a domestic violence shelter in Hays, director Tiffany Kershner sits with a client in a small meeting room. Leyila, 35, who asks that only her first name be used to protect her privacy, recently left an abusive marriage.
Today she’s hoping she can get an appointment with an OB-GYN, but Kershner knows that’s no easy task in Hays. “We’re looking for the money to try and help with the exams and help with the doctor’s visits,” Kershner said. “But there’s just not a lot of money for it, so we’re just looking for any particular grant we can write.”