Bryan Thompson

Contributing Reporter

Bryan Thompson joined the Kansas Health Institute in 2015 after more than 35 years in radio news. For the last 15 years he has worked with Kansas Public Radio, where he produced the award-winning series, “Kansas Health: A Prescription for Change,” and collaborated with the KHI News Service. Prior to his work at KPR, Bryan served as news director for commercial radio stations in El Dorado, Liberal and Salina. Bryan has partnered with NPR and Kaiser Health News through their “Health Care in the States” initiative. He was selected by the National Institutes of Health for its Medicine in the Media training program and by the Association of Health Care Journalists for its yearlong Midwest Health Journalism Fellowship. Bryan is a graduate of Wichita State University.

healthcare.gov

Federal health officials say headlines about anticipated premium increases on the Obamacare health insurance marketplace overlook an important point: Most Americans, including two-thirds of Kansans, will still be able to find a plan with a premium of $75 a month, or less.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

The economy of western Kansas is based on the Ogallala Aquifer. But that ancient underground water supply is being rapidly depleted. The Kansas Water Office is teaming up with forward-looking farmers in an effort to demonstrate that new irrigation technologies can reduce the demand on the aquifer without sacrificing crop yields.

From mid-May through the end of August, a sound is heard almost non-stop in farm fields all across western Kansas. It’s the sound of an irrigation pump pulling water from deep underground to nourish thirsty crops. Tom Willis owns several of these wells.

Jasleen Kaur, flickr Creative Commons

A review of health system performance nationwide shows some improvement in Kansas—but not much.

The report by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund covers three dozen indicators of access, quality, cost, and health outcomes. Like the rest of the country, Kansas saw more measures improving than declining—but the majority showed little or no change.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says rural Americans are gaining health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act at rates outpacing their urban counterparts.

Mark Andes was living and working in McPherson last year when he began having some pretty scary symptoms.

“I was getting dizzy, and falling to my left, and started getting weak," he says. "I couldn’t even hardly tear a piece of paper.”

National Resource Defense Council

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 public water systems—including 68 in Kansas—are in violation of EPA rules meant to protect the public from lead in the water they drink. But as Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson reports, that may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The NRDC’s Erik Olson says those are just the systems that have been flagged. Many others—like Flint, Michigan—don’t show up in the federal data base.

Courtesy KDADS

Attorney Bill Rein has been named to head the troubled state mental hospital at Larned, in central Kansas. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson explains, the facility has long-standing problems hiring and keeping an adequate workforce.

Interim Secretary Tim Keck, of the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services, calls Rein the right person at the right time for the challenges facing Larned State Hospital.

cdc.gov

Saline County residents peppered state and local health officials with questions about lead exposure at a public meeting Tuesday evening in Salina. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment organized the meeting after tests by local doctors this year found elevated lead levels in the blood of 32 Saline County children — most of them from Salina.

One audience member asked during the meeting whether officials were investigating the Exide Technologies plant on Salina’s southern edge, where batteries are manufactured.

healthcare.gov

Federal health officials plan to focus on enrolling young adults in the Health Insurance Marketplace when open enrollment begins again this fall. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson explains, that will protect them from the costs of unexpected illness or accidents, and make insurance more affordable for everyone else.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals are struggling to stay open as the communities around them shrink. Some have an average census of one or two patients a day. But one small hospital in southwest Kansas is drawing patients from a 90-mile radius. Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson sat down with the administrator of that hospital to find out how his operation is growing at a time when one in three rural hospitals is at risk of closing.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University has been awarded a federal grant to help get more eligible children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. The “Connecting Kids to Coverage” grant is almost a million dollars.

K-State plans to target Latino and immigrant children in four rural counties in the state. They’ll use bilingual ambassadors to help enroll kids at schools and health centers.

The Kansas grant is part of $32 million provided through a recently enacted bill to reauthorize Medicaid and CHIP.

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