Alex Smith

Alex Smith began working in radio as an intern at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. A few years and a couple of radio jobs later, he became the assistant producer of KCUR's magazine show, KC Currents. In January 2014 he became KCUR's health reporter.


pixabay / flickr Creative Commons

A Shawnee County District Court judge has temporarily blocked an ordinance that raises the tobacco-buying age in Topeka to 21.

The ruling comes after two Topeka businesses, with the assistance of the Kansas Vapers Association, filed a lawsuit this week challenging the regulation. The ordinance was scheduled to go into effect Thursday. The businesses claim the mandate conflicts with state law, which allows the sale of tobacco to people 18 and older.

Alex Smith

A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town’s reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped.

The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste.

“I think some of our best steakhouses chased the quality of the beef to the bottom,” Kotar says.

Jasleen Kaur / flickr/Creative Commons

More people signed up for Obamacare in Kansas this year than last, even though the open enrollment period was cut in half.

In the enrollment period that ended last week, 98,919 people selected plans in Kansas compared with 98,780 last year.

While the increase is slight, it’s a surprise, given the reduced time period and the Trump administration’s reduced promotion efforts.

Alex Smith / Harvest Public Media

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading. Businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

It is a town that, like many towns in rural areas of Missouri and other Midwest and Great Plains states, is recognized by the federal government as having a shortage of health care providers.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas City is leaving the federal insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The move will affect 67,000 customers in Missouri and Kansas.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will not sell insurance plans on the exchange starting in 2018 in its 30 county area in western Missouri plus Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. The company has lost $100 million on exchange plans.

Charlie Shields, CEO of Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City says the current debate about replacing the Affordable Care Act, has insurers really worried.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Pretty Prairie, Kansas, population 680, had a moment in the spotlight during the confirmation hearings for new Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran mentioned Pretty Prairie as an example of a community that’s struggling because of EPA regulations that Pruitt could ease.

But residents of the tiny south-central Kansas town are also concerned about how federal budget cuts might affect their ability to pay for a new water treatment system.

Alex Smith

On Tuesday, the Olathe bar shooting survivor being hailed as a hero joined the chorus of people calling on President Trump to denounce the targeting of two men because of their race.

Ian Grillot, 24, who tried to stop a gunman when he opened fire at Austins Bar & Grill last Wednesday, says he believes the shooter singled out the two Indian victims because of their ethnicity and hopes President Trump will address the incident.

On a chilly winter morning, dozens of truck driver trainees file into a classroom at the headquarters of Prime Inc., a trucking company based in Springfield, Mo.

At the front is Siphiwe Baleka, an energetic former swimming champion in his mid-40s. He delivers grim news about trucker health to the new recruits.

"If you haven't started to think about this, you need to start right now," Baleka says. "You are about to enter the most unhealthy occupation in America."

Alex Smith / KCUR

Last week’s election results stunned a lot of people who get health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress say they want to scrap the law, but what might replace it remains unknown.

That has left many Kansas and Missouri families in limbo, unsure what will become of their medical care.

Alex Smith, Heartland Health Monitor

For many people who’ve lived through oppression or violence in foreign countries, Kansas City is the promised land. Every year, hundreds of refugees resettle in the area and start new lives. But starting over has become increasingly difficult for many of these newcomers, as well as for the organizations that help them. Alex Smith, reporting for Heartland Health Monitor, has the story.