Health & Wealth Desk

Wednesday mornings during Morning Edition, and Wednesday afternoon during All Things Considered

KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a short weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

In 2011, Maureen Sweeney was working as a registered nurse in labor and delivery at a Cleveland-area hospital. She helped hundreds of women, many minors in their early teens, deliver their children.


No one at the hospital in Fulton, Missouri (population 12,790) had ever heard of a management consultant named Jorge Perez until he showed up at its potluck in September.


Officer Ron Meyers drove down a dirt road 20 minutes outside the small city of Chillicothe, Ohio. As he passed each home, he slowed down and squinted, searching for an address. Out here, the house numbers are written on the front of homes in marker or in faded numbers clinging to old mailboxes. There’s no GPS.


After 20 years of selling and using meth, 38-year-old Andy Moss turned his life around. He got off drugs and got a good job. Next step: he wanted to fix his teeth, which had disintegrated, leaving nerves exposed.


When Sarah Scantling went into labor this summer, she had to drive 30 miles and across state lines.

Three years earlier, the only maternity ward where she lives in Pemiscot County, Missouri closed down. Scantling had to choose between a handful of other hospitals in the region between 20 and 70 miles away. She chose to give birth in the hospital in Dyersburg, Tennessee.


Fencing surrounds a patch of grass that used to be a neighborhood in the center of Herculaneum, Missouri. A sign in the grass reads, "No Trespassing. Lead Contamination."
Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Bill Haggard is the mayor of Herculaneum, Missouri, a town of 4,000 about a 30 minute drive south of St. Louis. He’s also the fire chief, president of the historical society and a retired teacher, among other distinctions, although he identifies first as a “lifelong resident.”

For more than a century this town was built up around the lead smelter that sat along the Mississippi River. Today, though, most of the houses remaining in the hollowed out center of town are marked in spray paint with a bright orange ‘X.’

“If they have an ‘X’ on them they’re coming down,” Haggard says while driving by houses slated for demolition.

For five years now, the Missouri legislature has considered legislation to create a prescription drug monitoring database that would allow pharmacists and physicians to look at their patient's prescription history for signs of misuse of narcotics. And for five years, Missouri pharmacists like Erica Hopkins have watched those efforts fail with disappointment.


Nurse Catherine “Bizz” Grimes moves like her name sounds: at a frenetic pace. She darts across the hall from the prenatal diagnosis clinic at Indiana University Health University Hospital in Indianapolis, sits down at her cubicle, puts on her headset over curly white blonde hair and starts dialing.

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

Family Health Center

The Family Health Center in Columbia will have a new CEO as of July 1.

The new CEO is Jack Kelly, who has served as the Chief Operating Officer for the organization for nearly seven years. 

Kelly said he was originally inspired to work in community healthcare after being a nursing home administrator for nearly 30 years.

Next year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will leave the individual health care marketplace in Missouri that was set up under the Affordable Care Act. And when it does, about 18,000 patients in 25 western Missouri counties will lose their health insurance. If those enrollees sign on to Healthcare.gov this fall to buy a replacement plan, they may have no options to choose from.

That's because those 25 counties could become "bare."

For the hundreds of rural hospitals struggling to stay in business, health policy decisions made in Washington D.C. this summer could make survival a lot tougher.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City announced on Wednesday that it will not offer individual plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges next year The move will affect about 67,000 people across 30 counties in Missouri and two counties in Kansas

“Through 2016 we have lost more than  $100 million [on ACA plans],” the company’s CEO Danette Wilson said in a release. “This is unsustainable for our company.”


The Affordable Care Act did a lot to expand HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention for people at highest risk for the disease. Many gay men and other men who have sex with men gained health insurance and new infections went down. The estimated number of annual HIV infections in the United States declined 18 percent among gay and bisexual men between 2008 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Two-year-old Ryan Lennon Fines is sitting on his family’s couch flipping through a picture book of emergency vehicles. He’s looking for the motorcycle, but first he stops on the page with an airplane.

“That’s an air ambulance,” his father Scott Fines tells him, “you’ve been on one of those.”

When Ryan was born on Christmas day 2014, his mouth wasn’t connected to his stomach. It’s a condition known as esophageal atresia. After three months in a NICU in St. Louis the family flew to Boston, where Ryan had surgery.

In the current debates over health care, one topic rarely gets mentioned: dental health benefits. That’s because dental health has historically been separated from the rest of medicine. But today, that separation leaves many Americans with no way to prevent or treat debilitating dental health problems.

Author Mary Otto tells the story of the rampant disparities in dental health in the United States and how those play into other disparities of race, class and income in her new book, Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.


As the outreach counselor for Battle High School in Columbia, Missouri. Dana Harris’s job is connecting students with services when they have mental and emotional troubles such as ADHD, anxiety or depression.

Pictures of Money / Flickr

 Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans without insurance must pay a penalty when they file their federal tax returns. But recent efforts to repeal the ACA have caused some confusion. KBIA’s Michaela Tucker spoke with University of Missouri Extension Professor Andrew Zumwalt to clarify, before this year’s tax season is over.

 

 

When filing taxes, Americans can fall into three categories for the ACA tax penalty. If you have health insurance, there is no penalty. If you don't have insurance, you pay the penalty. The third category is you have a penalty, but are exempt from the payment. Zumwalt said exemptions include having income below the poverty level, being incarcerated, living outside the country and having unaffordable coverage.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

The Boone County Hospital Board of Trustees announced Thursday it’s considering five operating proposals for the hospital’s future.

The Hospital is currently in a lease agreement through the year 2020 with St. Louis-based BJC Health Care. A new operating agreement with BJC is one of five options Boone Hospital’s Board of Trustees is considering for its future.

Six years ago, 53-year-old Corla Morgan noticed blisters forming on her neck and back.

“I couldn’t sleep because when I took my shirt off, if my shirt touched my skin, the skin just peeled off,” Morgan says. “I was in really horrible pain.”

Darvin Bentlage says his health insurance plan used to be the same as all the other cattle farmers in Barton County, Mo.: stay healthy until he turned 65, then get on Medicare. But when he turned 50, things did not go according to plan.

“Well, I had a couple issues,” he says.

He’s putting it mildly.


In a letter sent to Congress Wednesday, the American Medical Association said it could not support the American Health Care Act "as drafted." The bill was released Monday evening as congressional Republicans' replacement for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. 

Ahead of the association's decision, KBIA sat down to talk healthcare reform with Dr. David Barbe, president-elect of the American Medical Association and a practicing physician in rural Mountain Grove, Mo. 


This story has been updated on March 7, 2017.

Missouri State Senator David Sater is looking for ways to reduce the amount of money his state spends on Medicaid, because, as he sees it, “the Medicaid program is eating out lunch right now.”

His idea? To voluntarily cap the amount of Medicaid funding coming from the federal government. 


Veterans Hospital Opens New Patient Education Center

Feb 22, 2017

The Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital began hosting classes at its new Patient Education Center on January 29. The center is a space within the hospital designated for classes that target veterans’ health. 

Although the majority of the classes were already being offered, the new center makes them more accessible. Additionally, the center is outfitted with a kitchen that makes classes such as a healthy cooking class possible.


Courtesy of Dr. Nabil Al-Khalisi

How hard is it for an Iraqi to get a visa to the United States? Ask Dr. Nabil Al-Khalisi, a French-born Iraqi doctor with a track record of working with Americans and British in Baghdad.

Al-Khalisi says he spent over a year trying to get a visa to leave Iraq and had even arranged to be smuggled out of the country in a pickled-cabbage barrel before receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in the U.S. in 2010. He requested political asylum, which he received after a two-year vetting process. Today he's a diagnostic radiology resident at the University of Missouri — Kansas City. 


Monash Univeristy / flickr

Health care policy has come back into public discussion in a big way, and we want to add your voice to the conversation. Over the coming months, we’ll be featuring interviews with health care providers, experts and everyday Missourians about their health hopes, needs and concerns moving forward.


When Joe Morris had a heart attack last Easter and had to be rushed to the ER, it was the first time he’d been to the doctor in more than 40 years — since high school.

Back home in the small community of Neosho, Mo., Morris needed follow-up care to manage his heart disease and diabetes, but he didn’t have a doctor — or insurance.


stethoscope
Vitualis / Flickr

Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that using alcohol to fall asleep may actually be keeping people awake.

Dr. Mahesh Thakkar is a professor and neurology researcher at the MU School of Medicine. He’s been studying alcohol’s affect on human sleep for many years. He says that 20 percent of US adults have used alcohol  - at some point  - to help them fall asleep.

But, he said, “it is a pseudo-sleeping drug.  It will produce sleep for a very short time, but then it will keep you awake all night.”

Mizzou Columns
David Chicopham / Flickr

A group of researchers from the University of Missouri have found that individuals with autism need more support as they transition into adulthood.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Social Work, MU researchers spoke with young people with autism, as well as their caretakers about the challenges they face as they enter adulthood. 

“One caregiver described this as they just felt like they hit a brick wall,” Jennifer First said.

Caroline Brown, a sophomore at the University of Missouri got a fever over Thanksgiving break. Soon it became painful to bite down, and her cheek began to swell. A trip to her physician confirmed it – Caroline had the mumps.

“Mumps kind of sounds like this archaic thing,” Brown said. “We get vaccinated for it - it just sounds like something that nobody gets.  So I just didn’t think that it was possible that I would get it.”


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