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.

Challiyan / Flickr

You’ve probably heard it before: rates of smoking and tobacco use in Missouri are some of the highest in the nation. Roughly 1 in 4 Missourians over the age of 18 smoke tobacco and the state ranks 50th for workplace exposure to second-hand smoke.  But what isn’t clear is why Missouri has consistently ranked so low compared with other states. I spoke with Traci Kennedy, Executive Director of Tobacco Free Missouri, who says it’s because lawmakers have made it particularly easy to be a tobacco user in the state.

Katie Hiler / KBIA

The Affordable Care Act’s online health insurance marketplace has been open for business since October 1 and technical issues that plagued the website early on have mostly been resolved. Yet Missouri residents have been slow to sign-up for health insurance under the new law. According to the nonprofit group Kaiser Family Foundation, only 40 percent of Missourians eligible to enroll have actually chosen a plan. I spoke with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about why signing up is important for Missouri residents, particularly in rural areas.  

Courtesy of Cynthia Hill

When her ex-husband would beat her, survivor Deanna Walters says her family used to ask her "Why don't you just leave him?" 

If only the answer were simple. And for long-time advocate for domestic abuse survivors Kit Gruelle, if only no one would ever ask that question. 

nomadsoul1 / dreamstime

At his sixth State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon renewed his push to expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the low-income population, in Missouri. He was careful, though, not to mention the “e” word itself. Instead, the governor called lawmakers to work on reforming the program.

“I look forward to working with all of you to bring affordable health coverage to working families in Missouri, and reform Medicaid the Missouri way,” said Nixon.

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris, South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

Harum Helmy / KBIA News

    

On an afternoon in early December, 60-year-old Columbia resident Jeannie Wyble sits in a small cubicle at Columbia’s Family Health Center, telling Aaron Swaney, a HealthCare.gov application counselor, about the heart attack she suffered in 2002.

“I quit smoking when I had my heart attack,” Wyble said. “Smoked my last cigarette on the way to the ER, never smoked another one.”

At the time, Wyble was still insured through her husband’s union plan. But after the heart attack, the insurance company began increasing her monthly premium. Wyble says at one point, she had to pay almost $500 a month.

“And then when we found out they were going to jump even more again the following January,” Wyble said. “It was very clear to us that we couldn’t pay my premiums anymore and that mine would just have to be dropped. In effect, [the insurance company] decided to get rid of me, and it worked. They did. They got rid of me.”

Alan Cleaver / flickr

 

As an Affordable Care Act navigator, Kate King has been traveling to counties throughout central Missouri spreading awareness of and getting Missourians enrolled in HealthCare.gov.  

King works with the Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging, which serves a 19-county area, 17 of them rural. The agency is part of a nonprofit alliance that received $750,000 in federal grants in August to help with Healthcare.gov outreach. 

 

The first thing you need to know about a meat shoot is that they don’t shoot animals.

“That’s not a crazy question, you know, we get that a lot,” said DeeDee Lakas, laughing a bit. “Do you shoot the meat? No, you shoot the target.”

Bridgit Bowden / KBIA News

 


The USDA estimates that more than 2 million people live in rural food deserts, or low-income communities more than 10 miles from a grocery store.  

Four years ago, the last grocery store in Pilot Grove, Mo., closed its doors, turning the town into a rural food desert.  The town had only a convenience store from which to bu food.   

That is, until 23 community investors came together to open Tyler's Market, a fully-stocked grocery store.  On the market's first day open, Pilot Grove residents gathered at the store.  

 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This is the an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

 

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

 

While doing research for the Harvest Public Media series “In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse,” reporters Abbie Fentress Swanson and Peggy Lowe called roughly two dozen institutions to get statistics about the children of immigrant and refugee workers at American meatpacking plants. Swanson said she called federal agencies, researchers, unions, and immigration advocacy groups. But she couldn't find anyone who kept data on how many of these children live in the U.S., not to mention their health, education or economic status.

“They’re not on anyone’s radar,” Swanson said. “They’re not being tracked or followed, they’re kind of an invisible population in this country.”

Joel Sager
Joel Sager

A little known part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency is one of the main sources of mortgage credit to low-income families in rural America.

Alan Cleaver / flickr

The Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplace has its problems, but the service also has potential to help improve rural health. Jon M. Bailey, the director of rural research and analysis at the Center for Rural Affairs, went as far as putting it this way:

“The new health insurance marketplaces were practically created for rural people.”

Compiled by Kelsey Proud, St. Louis Public Radio / Flickr

Starting on October 1, Missourians will be able to shop for health insurance through a new online marketplace. It’s one of the biggest changes in health insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

But there’s still a lot of confusion about how the exchanges will work.

St. Louis Public Radio's Véronique LaCapra spoke with the Missouri Foundation for Health’s Ryan Barker to try to get some answers. Here's an excerpt from their conversation.

How will Missourians access the new health insurance options?

My Farm Roots: Providing from the land

Sep 25, 2013

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

My Farm Roots: Always a farmer

Sep 18, 2013

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

In 1986, Becky Doyle was helping her husband run the family’s hog farming operation. She also had a sidelight business of marketing gift baskets made from Illinois products. But that wasn’t enough: Doyle decided she would make a run for the Illinois House.

My Farm Roots: Looking back fondly

Sep 4, 2013

 

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

More than once while I was listening to Paul Horel's stories about farm life in Iowa, I felt like I was at a family reunion. With his glasses and balding head, mild Midwestern accent, and talk about plowing and politics, he could easily have been my uncle.  

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Amy Konishi says when her obituary is written it’ll read, “All she knew was work.”

My Farm Roots: Wings

Aug 21, 2013

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Kelly Hagler, 25, is among the millions of young people who have left rural communities for the bright lights of the city, in this case Chicago.

But Hagler has not left completely.

Here’s what she told us last year when we asked people to share their “My Farm Roots” stories through the Harvest Network:

“The drought and fear of not making contract yields, mixed with the pressure of new house expenses, is aging my already Old Man,” she wrote. “It's also so strange to be detached from them. It's something that few other non-farming families have to deal with: The guilt of leaving behind older parents to work the farm, all because you're trying to make your own living where more opportunities exist.”

Harum Helmy / KBIA News

This week for the show, I went to the Missouri State Fair and all you’re getting is this audio postcard.

First, I talked to Marlys Peck, who, along with her family, has been selling corn dogs at the fair for more than 41 years. Every year, Peck and her parents spend the state-fair week under the same tree near the historic Womens Building. 

Harum Helmy / KBIA News

Walk into Columbia’s Museum of Art and Archaeology between now and Aug. 11, and you’ll find some pretty intense, large-scale woodcut prints depicting rural Missouri life staring back at you.

In one print, naked women straddle a monster truck. Another depicts a brother and sister getting married to each other. One print has an entire town going berserk with excitement over the opening of a fast-food chain restaurant, and in another, customers at a shop try on a used denture... and put it back on the shelf. 

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm RootsHarvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.
  

Trent Johnson didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was always enamored with the cowboy lifestyle.

My Farm Roots: A song in her heart

Jul 24, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Jackie Dougan Jackson keeps a pretty thorough log of her life. The 85-year-old retired college professor lives in Springfield, Ill., and has lived there for more than 40 years. However, she has devoted a lot of time to her first 22 years, when she lived on a family farm near Beloit, Wisc.

Jackson has written a couple of books of what she calls “creative nonfiction,” which she calls the “Round Barn” series, based on a distinctive feature on the family farmstead.  In those books she relates tales from the farm life of her childhood, from her “grama’s” depression to tall tales told at the dinner table.

“I feel as if I’m a native Turtle Township, (Wis.,) person,” Jackson said. “I began collecting stories (about the farm) actively in 1967, I have them in handwriting and transcribed.  I’ve been writing about farming in Wisconsin from 1900-1972”.

Jackson’ family owned both a dairy farm, starting in 1911, and then got into growing seed corn when hybrid corn was developed in the 1930s.

Along with saving stories from the past, she keeps items from the past as well. She is glad to show you a milk bottle and a milk cap from Dougan’s Dairy, her father’s early-century operation, which eventually closed as home delivery phased out.  She can also display a bag of Dougan’s Hybrid Corn from the old days when seed corn was groundbreaking ag technology. 

pinprick / FLICKR

 Update: Gov. Jay Nixon signed SB 262 into law on Friday, July 12. 

A bill that was pushed by the state's insurance agents association could create a barrier in getting Missourians enrolled in time for the new online health insurance marketplace  one of the key parts of the health care reform law.

Casey Fleser / Flickr

This week, a sweet story from a library in Oregon County, just north of the Missouri-Arkansas state line.  

Rachel Reynolds Luster is the librarian at the cozy, one-room library in Myrtle, Missouri:  population around 150. There’s one gas station and a small post office, but no grocery store or bank.

Upon reporting to work on day one, she realized there was going to be one major challenge: there were hardly any modern books.

hospital room
Fotos GOVBA / flicker

  Compared to their urban counterparts, rural hospitals serve a population that tends to be older, sicker, uninsured and have less income. Rural hospitals provide a lot of uncompensated care and run on more narrow profit margins.

To stay open, these hospitals depend on special federal designations that give them a higher rate of reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. For example, when a hospital designated as a critical access hospital, Medicare reimbursements can make up to a third of its entire revenue

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, a series from KBIA Radio's partner Harvest Public Media that chronicles Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Missouri's lax regulations on meth-lab cleanup

May 29, 2013
Leah Shafer / Flikr

 


   Missouri’s meth problem is no secret. In 2012, the Show-Me State has the highest number of meth-lab seizure in the country.  But beyond the busts — Missouri has no statewide regulation on what to do with former meth labs. 

On AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad,’ meth cooks prepare a batch in a trailer in the desert or a dirty and  abandoned house. But this image of secrecy and seclusion isn’t always true. Timothy Sigmund is a real estate attorney from Jefferson City. He says many meth labs aren’t where pop culture might suggest they are.

“Apartment buildings, nicer homes,” Sigmund says. “It can be happening in many different places, and it doesn’t matter. It’s not that it’s some run-down shack in the middle of the woods.”

 

This week on KBIA’s talk show Intersection, host Ryan Famuliner sat down with State Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) and Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) to discuss the legislative session that ended on Friday. One of the main things on the show’s agenda was, of course, Medicaid expansion – or lack thereof.

Famuliner asked the panelists why the expansion failed to pass. 

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