Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

The federal health insurance marketplace opened Nov. 1 for 2016 coverage. An effort called Cover Kansas has been branching out all across the state to help Kansans find a plan that best suits their needs. Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson paid a visit to one of their outreach events in Dodge City.

The number of people without health insurance is going down in both Kansas and Missouri, but not as fast as in many other states. One of the main reasons is that neither state expanded its Medicaid program.

Robert St. Peter, president of the nonprofit think tank the Kansas Health Institute, says new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show a clear distinction between those states that expanded Medicaid and those that didn’t.

Mercy Hospital Independence

The hospital that has served the residents of Independence, Kansas, for nearly a century is closing its doors. Officials say several factors are to blame for the hospital’s financial struggles. But they say one stands out: Gov. Sam Brownback’s rejection of Medicaid expansion.

Jim McLean of the KHI News Service has more on how the closure of the southeast Kansas hospital could change the expansion debate in the state.

Bigstock Images

Some advocates for seniors and Kansans with disabilities are calling for changes in the state’s privatized Medicaid program. As Jim McLean of the Kansas Health Institute reports, they want a more independent process for resolving disputes over services.

More from Dave Ranney at the Heartland Health Monitor.

A recent ruling by a federal appeals court could affect whether some elderly and disabled Kansans continue to receive the services they need to remain in their homes and stay out of nursing facilities.

This is another case that pitted the Obama administration against states led by conservative Republicans.

Bryan Thompson

The federal government is providing more than $4 million this year to open six new health centers in Kansas. These clinics offer comprehensive primary care to everyone, whether the patient has insurance, or not. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson reports, they can be a lifeline for people who struggle to pay for health care.

Andy Marso / KHI

Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday he’s unconvinced Medicaid expansion is an answer to the financial woes of rural Kansas hospitals and suggested they should innovate instead.

During a news conference Friday, Brownback was asked about a Reuters story on the improving financial fortunes of public hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act versus the stagnation of hospitals in states that did not.

The governor said he had seen another report recently that “went the other way.”

The University of Kansas Hospital is teaming up with 14 small hospitals and medical centers in the western part of the state to make improvements to rural health care.

A three-year, $12.5 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center has enabled the hospital to create the Kansas Heart and Stroke Collaborative, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

Dave Ranney, Heartland Health Monitor

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.

Newly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed to almost triple the state cigarette tax — a prospect that won quick support from groups that fight cancer and heart disease.

The job of inspector general for the state's managed care Medicaid program has been open for nearly a year.

The post has been empty since Phil Hermanson resigned in June 2014, just months after he was hired to lead KanCare, an umbrella program for three private managed health care companies.

The lack of a leader for the $3 billion program has drawn attention from lawmakers.