Midwest Healthcare News May 24, 2016

Midwest Healthcare News

  • More Kids Getting Healthcare Coverage

    Michelle Andrews

    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.

  • Tuberculosis May Be Making A Comeback

    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.”

  • Autism coverage mandates fall short

    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.

  • Prescription Databases Used To Cut Down On Opioid Abuse

    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.

  • Medicaid Expansion Advocates Turn To Kansas State Elections

    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.

  • Is Zoom+ The Kaiser For Millenials?

    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.

  • Shortages Of Hospital ER Drugs Continues To Grow

    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.

  • Delving Into The High U.S. Maternal Death Rate

    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.

  • Kansas Allows Physicians To Practice Across State Lines

    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.

  • Bundled Payments Often Means Free Surgeries For Patients

    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.

  • Supreme Court Deals Blow To Subrogration

    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.

  • Missouri, Kansas Laggards In Public Health Spending

    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.

  • Missouri Is Only State Not Tracking Prescriptions

    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.

  • Community Clinics Help Patients With Out-Of-Pocket Costs

    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.

  • Kansas Struggles With Medicaid Backlog

    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.

  • Ohio Struggling With Fentanyl Overdoses

    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.

  • IRS Knows Who Lacks Insurance -- But Isn't Telling

    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.

  • Kansas Nursing Homes Subject To Crackdown

    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.

  • Healthcare Mortgages Could Finance Pricey Care For Patients

    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.

  • Kansas authorizes EPO plans

    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.

  • Opioid Epidemic Raises Concerns About Expectant Mothers

    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.”

  • Value-Based Pricing Reaches Part D

    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.

  • Kansas Gets Federal Money To Combat Opioid Abuse

    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.”

  • End-Of-Life Discussions Expand

    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.

  • Rural Towns Rattled By Hospital Closures

    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.”

  • States Mull Sanctioning Of Heroin Use

    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.

  • Concealed Guns Will Soon Be A Reality At KU Medical Center

    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.

  • Poll Shows Large Majority Of Kansans Want To Expand Medicaid

    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.

  • States For Pushing For Greater Price Transparency For Drugs

    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.

  • Retail Clinics May Be Driving Up Health Spending

    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.

  • Americans Cool to Sanders' Single-Payer Proposal

    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.

  • Power Couples Exacerbate Rural Doctor Shortage

    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.

  • Funding Cuts Make It Difficult For Poor Kansas Women To Obtain Health Services

    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.”


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