Bryan Thompson

Bryan is the health reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

AAFP

Federal officials estimate that more than 1.3 million Kansans now have private health insurance that includes preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost. Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson has more.

To meet the standards set by the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must offer a range of preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient--things like an annual wellness check-up, cancer screenings, and recommended immunizations.

The idea is to encourage people to catch serious health conditions like cancer or diabetes as early as possible.

Bryan Thompson

There are a lot of small, rural hospitals in Kansas. Without them, many residents would have to travel long distances for care. And in many small towns, the hospital is one of the largest employers - making it vital to the local economy. But declining populations, combined with changes in the way hospitals are paid for services, are making it more difficult for many to survive. Heartland Health Monitor's Bryan Thompson has more.

http://kansaspublicradio.org

Millions of veterans nationwide now have a card that's supposed to improve their access to health care. As Bryan Thompson explains, there are doubts about whether the VA is really serious about the new Veterans Choice program.

The Choice program is meant to let veterans get care from private providers if they live at least 40 miles from a VA healthcare facility, or if they face longer than a 30-day wait for an appointment. At a recent hearing, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran told Secretary Robert McDonald the VA seems to be putting its own welfare ahead of what’s best for veterans.

Bryan Thompson

Five months after its grand opening, a massive new-generation ethanol plant in the southwest corner of Kansas is undergoing final adjustments, as it prepares to begin full-scale production. 

The plant, built by a Spanish company with financing from the U.S. Department of Energy, is designed to produce clean-burning fuel—from the bits and pieces of crops left in farmers’ fields after harvest.

Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson has more on the new Kansas plant and the environmental claims being made about it.

KPR

Nearly 400 dental professionals gathered in Salina this weekend to provide free dental care to those in need. Bryan Thompson has more on the 14th Kansas Mission of Mercy.

Salina orthodontist Cindy Reed says some of the 1,400 patients started lining up Wednesday afternoon—even though the free clinic didn’t begin until Friday morning.

“They’re very, very needy," Reed says. "They’re also very, very grateful.”

CDC

Already, flu and pneumonia have been a factor in more than 500 deaths in Kansas. More from Bryan Thompson.

People older than 64 or younger than five are being hit the hardest.

The CDC is advising people with chronic conditions, pregnant women, senior citizens, and small children to take antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, if they become infected.

Dr. Mike Munger, at St. Luke’s South Primary Care, in Overland Park, says the drugs need to be taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms to minimize the severity of the flu.

KS Water Office Presentation

A lot has changed in the three decades since the idea of building an aqueduct from the Missouri River to western Kansas was first studied and shelved. For one thing, the water shortages that were mere projections then are now imminent.

That reality, as Bryan Thompson reports, has prompted state officials to dust off the study and re-examine the aqueduct idea.

New health rankings show Kansas stuck at 27--the same slot that it occupied last year. But KPR’s Bryan Thompson reports there was a time--not that long ago--when the state ranked much higher than the middle of the pack.

The United Health Foundation rankings are a snapshot of 30 health measures ranging from clinical care to behavior and environment to state policy.

“Kansas has had a steady decline, from about ten or eleven in that initial 1990 rank to rank 27th in this most recent year’s report,” says Dr. Rhonda Randall, the foundations chief health advisor.

healthcare.gov

Premiums in the federal health insurance Marketplace are slightly higher, on average, than last year-but not in Kansas. More from Bryan Thompson.

A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services says the cost of the so-called “benchmark” silver plan is up an average of two percent nationwide. But In Kansas, the benchmark plan is actually five per cent lower this year.

Kansas Insurance Department spokesman Bob Hanson says that’s because Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas has added a new HMO marketplace plan with premiums lower than last year’s benchmark silver.

A battle over air pollution from power plants is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Bryan Thompson has more...

Kansas and 20 other states contend the EPA should have considered the costs of a 2011 rule. That rule forces coal-fired power plants to install new equipment to remove mercury and other toxins from their exhaust.

An appeals court held that they didn’t have to consider the cost, but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the states’ challenge. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says it’s a very narrow challenge, and one the agency will win.

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