Lack of Medicaid Expansion Creates Steady Stream of Patients
Aug 25, 2015 By Bryan Thompson
for their services.
Rebecca Lewis once was among those Kansans. In 2011, the McPherson woman found herself working three part-time jobs and trying to complete a college degree. As a single mom with three young boys — then ages 8, 5 and 2 — it was hard to make ends meet.
But Resistance From Religious Groups Remains Formidable
Aug 25, 2015 By Kristian Voden-Fencil
Remember the so-called death panels?
When Congress debated the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the legislation originally included a provision that would have allowed Medicare to reimburse doctors when they meet with patients to talk about end-of-life care.
African-Americans Less Likely Than Other Groups to Enroll
Aug 25, 2015 By Sarah Varney
Twice already Narseary and Vernal Harris have watched a son die. The first time — Paul, at age 26 — was agonizing and frenzied, his body tethered to a machine meant to keep him alive as his incurable sickle cell disease progressed. When the same illness ravaged Solomon, at age 33, the Harrises reluctantly turned to hospice in the hope that his last days might somehow be less harrowing than his brother’s.
Their expectations were low. “They take your money,” Mrs. Harris said, describing what she had heard of hospice. “Your loved ones don’t see you anymore. You just go there and die.”
Shortage of Slots in Iowa, Other Midwest States
Aug 18, 2015 By Rebecca Beitsch
Last year, 369 students graduated from Iowa medical schools, but at least 131 of them had to finish their training elsewhere because Iowa had only 238 residency positions available.
The story was the same for at least 186 students who graduated from Missouri medical schools and 200 who studied at Tennessee schools. States such as New York, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were happy to take them—all four states took in more residents than students they trained.
Hospitals Often Deprive Patients of Crucial Shut-Eye
Aug 18, 2015 By Shefali Luthra
It’s a common complaint — if you spend a night in the hospital, you probably won’t get much sleep.
There’s the noise. There’s the bright fluorescent hallway light. And there’s the unending barrage of nighttime interruptions: vitals checks, medication administration, blood draws and the rest.
New Funding Shifted to Cover State's Shortfalls
Aug 18, 2015 By Jim McLean
Governor Sam Brownback’s decision to divert federal funding away from a health insurance program is drawing sharp criticism from children’s advocates.
Shannon Cotsoradis, president of the nonprofit advocacy organization Kansas Action for Children, said the governor is shortchanging Kansas families who depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Report Says Little Progress Has Been Made
Aug 11, 2015 By Bryan Thompson
Kansas is in the bottom half of the class on a new report from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.
The report, “How Do You Measure Up,” judges states on nine policies related to cancer control and prevention. It uses a traffic signal color scheme to indicate state legislative progress: green for a positive trend, red for serious shortcomings and yellow for somewhere between.
Study Suggests Strong Therapeutic Benefits
Aug 11, 2015 By Lisa Gillespie
Therapy provided over the phone lowered symptoms of anxiety and depression among older adults in rural areas with a lack of mental health services, a new study shows.
The option is important, one expert said, because seniors often have increased need for treatment as they cope with the effects of disease and the emotional tolls of aging and loss.
Concern Special Needs Children Will Lose Needed Care
Aug 11, 2015 By Clay Masters
Brenda Hummel’s 7-year-old daughter Andrea was born with severe epilepsy. Like many children with significant diseases or disabilities, she has health insurance through Medicaid. Hummel navigated Iowa’s Medicaid resources for years to find just the right doctors and care for her daughter. But now Iowa’s governor, Republican Terry Branstad, is moving full speed ahead with a plan to put private companies in charge of managing Medicaid’s services, and that has Hummel worried.
Everywhere in the Hummel household, there are signs of just how much care Andrea needs. Her bedroom, for instance, looks like a typical kid’s room — stuffed animals, a frog light that shines images on the ceiling, and a butterfly mobile. But the bed stands out – the head of the bed goes up and down so Andrea can have her head elevated when she sleeps.
Insurers Fighting Back Against Coverage
Aug 4, 2015 By Jenny Gold
When Michael Kamins opened the letter from his insurer, he was enraged.
His 20-year old son recently had been hospitalized twice with bipolar disorder and rescued from the brink of suicide, he said. Now, the insurer said he had improved and it was no longer medically necessary for the young man to see his psychiatrist two times a week. The company would pay for two visits per month.
Patient Portal Provider For Hospitals Was Hacked
Aug 4, 2015 By Bryan Thompson
Dinged For Early Patient Readmissions
Aug 4, 2015 By Jordan Rau
Once again, the majority of the nation’s hospitals are being penalized by Medicare for having patients frequently return within a month of discharge — this time losing a combined $420 million, government records show.
In the fourth year of federal readmission penalties, 2,592 hospitals will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient that stays in the hospital — readmitted or not — starting in October. The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act, was designed to make hospitals pay closer attention to what happens to their patients after they get discharged.
Most States Charge Inmates For Care
Jul 28, 2015 By Michael Ollove
Even going to prison doesn’t spare patients from having to pay medical copays.
In response to the rapidly rising cost of providing healthcare, states are increasingly authorizing the collection of fees from prisoners for medical services they receive while in state prisons or local jails. At least 38 states now do it, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and Stateline reporting.
Did Not Come Close to Estimated Savings
Jul 28, 2015 By Phil Galewitz
A $57 million experiment to deliver better, more efficient care at federally funded health centers struggled to meet its goals and is unlikely to save money, said a new government report.
The test to coordinate treatment for high-risk Medicare patients in hundreds of communities was one of many demonstrations run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ innovation center.
Safety Net Hospitals Feeling Pinch
Jul 28, 2015 By Dan Margoiles
It’s a sweltering Monday afternoon, and in the emergency room of Truman Medical Centers near downtown Kansas City, Mo., a patient complains of excruciating abdominal pain.
The attending physician advises her there’s only so much he can do.
More Personal Stories Are Needed
Jul 21, 2015 By Andy Marso
One of the leading advocates for Medicaid expansion in Kansas says it’s time to change tactics.
This week Alaska became the 30th state to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Kansas is one of the remaining states where Republican legislators and governors remain resistant.
Providers in Midwest and Elsewhere Device Ways of Alternate Care
Jul 21, 2015 By Christine Vestal
Five-year-old Lakota Lockhart talks about Batman nonstop. When his mom, Krystal, can wedge in a word, she describes what life has been like since Lakota was born with a rare central nervous system disorder that causes his breathing to stop every time he falls asleep.
She says they’re lucky Lakota was born across the street, at Brandon Regional Hospital in Tampa, Fla., or she might never have known about the Chronic Complex Clinic at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
Some Hospitals Charge $2,000, Some $12,000
Jul 21, 2015 By Michelle Andrews
Which hospital parents pick to deliver their baby can have serious cost consequences, according to a new study.
Hospital costs for women who had no maternal or obstetric risk factors to complicate childbirth ranged from less than $2,000 to nearly $12,000, the analysis of discharge data found. The wide variation in cost means that for expectant parents, it can pay to shop around.
Amerigroup, Centene lead the pack
Jul 14, 2015 By Andy Marso
The three companies that administer KanCare have donated more than $50,000 to the campaigns of current Kansas legislators since the $3 billion Medicaid program began in 2013.
Amerigroup leads the trio with $27,750 in donations, as of the most recent filings, which include donations through Dec. 31, 2014. Centene Management Corporation, the parent company of Sunflower State Health Plan, gave $17,250 in that time period. United for Health, the political action committee of United HealthCare, came in a distant third with $6,200 in campaign cash. Amerigroup donated to 20 current senators and 37 current House members, Centene gave to five senators and 26 House members, and United HealthCare donated to nine senators and four House members.
Wide Ranging Revamp Comes As Population Ages
Jul 14, 2015 By Susan Jaffe
After nearly 30 years, the Obama administration wants to modernize the rules nursing homes must follow to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid payments.
The hundreds of pages of proposed changes cover everything from meal times to use of antipsychotic drugs to staffing. Some are required by the Affordable Care Act and other recent federal laws, as well as the president’s executive order directing agencies to simplify regulations and minimize the costs of compliance.
Their Ability to Distract Becomes a Safety Issue
Jul 14, 2015 By Shefali Luthra
Next time you’re on the operating table and you have one last look around as the anesthesiologist approaches, don’t be too sure that that person in scrubs looking at a smartphone is pulling up vital health data. He or she might be texting a friend, or ordering a new carpet.
Cellphone use is not generally restricted in the operating room, but some experts say the time for rules has come. In interviews, many described co-workers’ texting friends and relatives from the surgical suite. Some spoke of colleagues who hide a phone in a drawer and check it when they think no one is watching.
Wants Bipartisan Support to Address Lingering Issues
Jul 7, 2015 By Mary Agnes Carey
President Barack Obama called on Republicans last week to find a bipartisan way to fix problems in the nation’s health care system rather than continue to fight over the health law.
“Part of what I’m hoping is with the Supreme Court case now behind us what we can do is … focus on how we can make it even better because it’s not as if we’ve solved all the problems in our health care system,” Obama said in remarks at an elementary school in Nashville, Tenn. “America still spends more on health care than any other advanced nation and our outcomes aren’t particularly better.”
More Couples to Gain Access to Employer Plans
Jul 7, 2015 By Jay Hancock
The right to marry in any state won’t be the only gain for gay couples from the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The decision will probably boost health insurance among gay couples as same-sex spouses get access to employer plans, say analysts and benefits consultants.
How much is unclear, but “it’s going to increase coverage” in a community that has often had trouble getting access to medical services, said Jennifer Kates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
Rising Prices to Blame; Midwest Yet to Act
Jul 7, 2015 By Michael Ollove
As more expensive specialty drugs come on the market to treat some of the most serious chronic diseases, more states are stepping in to cushion the financial pain for patients who need medicine that can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
At least seven states — Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New York and Vermont — limit the out-of-pocket payments of patients in private health plans. Montana, for instance, caps the amount that patients pay at $250 per prescription per month. Delaware, Maryland and Louisiana set the monthly limit at $150 and Vermont at $100. Maine sets an annual limit of $3,500 per drug.
Medicaid Expansion And Other Key Matters All But Unaddressed in Session
Jun 23, 2015 By Andy Marso
When the 2015 legislative session started in January, public health advocates had reason to be optimistic they could reach some of their most ambitious goals.
The Kansas Hospital Association was ramping up efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to about 100,000 uninsured Kansans, with the political implications of the 2014 election over.
Bill Passed in Indiana; Illinois is Close
Jun 23, 2015 By Susan Milligan
Iraq war veteran Doug Mercer had been home in McAlester, Oklahoma, for just four days when he was in a motorcycle accident that left him broken and brain-damaged. His wife Michelle became his caregiver after he left the hospital, but nobody there explained how to transport him safely. A few weeks later, Michelle struggled as she tried to get Doug from the car to his wheelchair, breaking his leg.
“They’re sending you home, and you’re thinking, ‘What?’ Nobody instructs you, and says, ‘This is what’s coming home with you and how to use it,’” she said.
Deficit Would Also Rise
Jun 23, 2015 By Phil Galewitz
Repealing the federal health law would add an additional 19 million to the ranks of the uninsured in 2016 and increase the federal deficit over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office said last week.
Large New Clinic Opens For Safety Net Patients
Jun 16, 2015 By Jordan Shapiro
The city of St. Louis hasn’t had a general dental school in nearly 25 years, and it shows. Too few dentists and lack of access have contributed to a measurable decline in dental health for many of the region’s residents.
Organizers of a $23 million dental clinic near Lafayette Square, which opened last week, hope to reverse that trend.
Significant Numbers Have Foregone Prescriptions Because of Cost
Jun 16, 2015 By Phil Galewitz
Nearly three in four Americans say the costs of prescription drugs are “unreasonable” — and most blame drugmakers for those prices, according to a poll released Tuesday.
Mother's Prosecution For Treating Crohn's Disease Raises Eyebrows
Jun 16, 2015 By Andy Marso
For years Garden City resident Shona Banda has been self-medicating her Crohn’s disease with cannabis oil and making no secret of it, touting her homemade vaporizer on YouTube and in a self-published book.
Now Banda could face up to 17 years in prison for doing so, in a case that has medical marijuana advocates enraged and legislators from both parties saying it is past time to re-examine the state’s drug laws.
Claim Hikes Are a Reflection of Accurate Claims Data
Jun 9, 2015 By Dave Ranney
Two of the three companies that sell individual-market policies for Kansans on the federally administered health insurance marketplace are proposing significant premium increases for 2016.
Rate increases proposed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest insurer, range from 35% to 39%. Aetna and Coventry Health Co., which merged in 2013, requested rate increases of 20% to 35%.
They Run Algorithms to Determine The Most At-Risk Patients
Jun 9, 2015 By Todd Bookman
John Iovine finally went home in April 2014, after several months in a rehab facility.
And this point in patients’ recovery — when they’ve been discharged and have to sink or swim on their own — is the stage that everyone in the health system is paying special attention to right now. For too long, too many people like John Iovine would take a dive at this stage and end up back in the hospital again.
The industry calls these returns to the hospital preventable readmissions, and they are a huge drain on finances, costing Medicare alone $15 billion annually. That’s why Medicare launched an initiative a few years ago that penalizes hospitals that see too many patients readmitted too soon. And in turn, that spurred many hospitals to pay more attention to the problem.
But Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin Trying to Block Implementation
Jun 9, 2015 By Rebecca Beitsch
People working in one of the fastest growing professions in America aren’t well paid. Many of them don’t get health or retirement benefits. And federal minimum wage and overtime protections still don’t apply to them.
Despite the low wages and odd hours, 2 million Americans are home care workers, helping to dress, feed, and bathe the elderly and disabled within their homes. They are in high demand: The U.S. population is aging, and more seniors want to stay in their homes instead of moving to nursing homes.
But Adverse Supreme Court Ruling Could Help Its Business
Jun 2, 2015 By Phil Galewitz
The Affordable Care Act was expected to be a boon for eHealth Inc., the nation’s largest online health insurance broker. After all, the law required most Americans to have coverage, provided government assistance to afford it and allowed Internet brokers to sell Obamacare policies.
Legislature Mulling Ways to Fill in Budget Gaps
Jun 2, 2015 By Andy Marso
Kansas hospitals were surprised by a plan that surfaced late last week to solve the state budget crisis by ending a sales tax exemption for some nonprofit organizations.
The Senate voted down the plan 30-9 after several hours of debate. But with the state facing a budget gap of nearly $800 million and the Legislature looking for $400 million in new taxes, there’s a chance lawmakers could take another look at it.
Consumer Groups to Look At Premium Increases
Jun 2, 2015 By Jordan Shapiro
A Missouri consumer advocacy group plans to take on the tedious task of reviewing health insurance rates with the goal of identifying and challenging hefty price hikes.
Missouri is one of the few states that does not allow its insurance regulators to review and approve health plan prices before they can be sold. As a result, local health advocates are planning for the first time to conduct that review themselves.