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. Reporter Katie Hiler 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.

covermissouri.org

In Missouri, an estimated 835,000 people don't have health insurance – that's about 14 percent of the state's population. But in the next couple of years, that figure is going to change. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld most of the federal health care law, about half a million Missourians will join the rolls of the insured – either through Medicaid, the private insurance market, or with the help of subsidies provided by the federal government. The percentage of uninsured will drop to five percent of the population.

Missouri Medicaid expansion up in the air

Jul 4, 2012
whitehouse.gov

After last week's Supreme Court decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama declared victory. But there was one major gray cloud -- or silver lining, depending on your point of view -- leaving open the question of Missouri's participation in the expansion of Medicaid envisioned by the federal health care law.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care law in a ruling this morning. Among Missouri officials, and on the streets of downtown Columbia this afternoon, reaction was mixed.

New dental school targets Missouri's dentist shortage

Jun 27, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

About 20 percent of Missourians live in areas where there aren't enough dentists, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In Kirksville, the A.T. Still University is tackling the problem by building a new school of dentistry, which, in a few years, will be graduating dozens of new dentists each year.

Wally Gobetz / Flikr

The U.S. Senate passed a new half-trillion dollar farm bill today, funding programs from farm subsidies to food stamps for the next five years. Both of Missouri's senators voted yes on the bipartisan bill.

Community health centers get new federal dollars

Jun 20, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Three community health centers in Missouri are getting new funding from the federal government. The grants announced today aim to help expand care for the medically underserved.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In the next few days, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the federal health care law. Even if the court upholds the law, one key component will be under fire here in Missouri come November. On the ballot will be a measure targeting the law's required online marketplaces, or health insurance exchanges, where individuals and small businesses can buy plans. 

KOMU News / Flikr

In 2011, Missouri law enforcement busted about five meth labs each day on average – almost double the number of any other state. The state spends more than $2 million dollars a year on cleanup of these labs, and millions more on incarceration, child care, and drug treatment.

Leah Shafer / Flikr

For the past decade, Missouri has claimed the dubious distinction of the most meth busts of any state in the nation. In this week's Health & Wealth update, reporter Kyle Deas has the first in a two-part-series on Missouri's unique meth addiction.

Pumkpins, melons and corn

May 30, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Columbia has lots of community gardens, and several school gardens. But school-community gardens? On Tuesday at Ridgewood Elementary, the school and community worked together to start planting the city's first community garden at a public school.

'Cocaine? No thanks!'

May 23, 2012
Boone County Courthouse
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Back in the late 1980s, while the nation was in the grips of the war on drugs, some courts started experimenting with alternative sentencing programs they hoped would be cheaper and more effective than incarceration.  This week, the most recent batch of offenders graduated from the Boone County drug court, which is seen as a national role-model.

7000 miles bicycling and banjo-ing against war

May 16, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Afghan war veteran Jacob George is a self-proclaimed hillbilly farmer from the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. After three tours as a combat engineer, he now spends his days bicycling around the country protesting U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. He recently passed through Missouri on his way to protest the NATO summit taking place in Chicago next week.

Stories from prison: roar!

May 15, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In Missouri state prisons, about 60 percent of inmates have kids. That's 18,000 moms and dads behind bars – and tens of thousands of kids on the other side. To help those parents and kids connect, volunteers make their way through the metal detectors at Missouri state prisons with big tubs of blank tapes and CDs, stamped envelopes, and lots of children's books. 

Long distance running, one state at a time

May 9, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Planning a road-trip this summer? In this week's Health & Wealth update, the best way to see the country might be to run across it.

If you tax them, they will quit

May 2, 2012
tobaccofreekids.org

You have probably heard the statistic: Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation – just 17 cents a pack, compared to the national average of $1.46. In this week's Health & Wealth update, public health advocates want to raise Missouri's tobacco tax to deter people from smoking, and to help offset the costs that tobacco incurs.

Three interviews on health disparities

Apr 30, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

At the health equity conference in Columbia last week, between the steady stream of PowerPoints and pie charts, I had the chance to talk with some smart folks who spend their time thinking about health disparities and how to end them:

Health equity: zip code, not genetic code

Apr 27, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Health experts gathered in Columbia today to discuss ways to address disparities in health and access to health care.

Contraception debate moves to the Missouri House

Apr 25, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Debate continues in the Missouri legislature over the Obama administration's "contraception mandate," which will require health insurance to include coverage for birth control. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a House committee hears testimony on a largely symbolic bill, opposing the mandate.

Rising autism rate means more parents getting help

Apr 4, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 88 children in the United States has autism, almost double the rate ten years ago. In this week's Health & Wealth update, while more children are being diagnosed with the disorder, more parents are getting the help they need to treat it.

Payday loans: credit option or debt trap?

Apr 3, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Missouri is fertile ground for payday lenders. With some of the loosest regulations in the nation, we are among the states with the most payday lending stores per capita. In this Health & Wealth report, the payday lending industry in Missouri fights for its life, as activists aim for the November ballot to try to rein in these lenders they say trap the working poor in a cycle of debt.

Missouri awaits Supreme Court ruling on health reform

Mar 28, 2012
David Sachs / SEIU

Health care reform is in the cross-hairs at the U.S. Supreme Court this week. In this Health & Wealth update, as the nine justices hear oral arguments on Obama's 2010 health reform, implementation of some aspects of the law are on hold in Missouri.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Sixty-two percent of working-age women have jobs, but they still earn just 74 cents on the dollar, compared to men. But that disparity varies by region; in some rural counties, women earn fully half what men do. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a new report on how women in Missouri are faring in health, work, education, and civic engagement. With a state legislature that's three-quarters men, will lawmakers do anything about the disparities?

Politicians tussle over health care for the blind

Mar 14, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Governor Jay Nixon told reporters yesterday that lawmakers in Jefferson City are trying to balance the state budget on the backs of some of the state's neediest: poor blind people. But members of the House budget committee said cuts to health care for blind Missourians are necessary to pay for higher education, which the governor wants to trim. 

Why 10,000 steps might save your life

Mar 7, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Everyone knows exercise helps you lose weight, build up muscles, and fit in the swimsuit next summer. But why, exactly, does it lower your risk of diabetes? In this Health & Wealth update, MU researchers look into the relationship between inactivity and spikes in blood sugar that can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Bill would require coverage of eating disorders

Feb 29, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In 1995, Rick Stream's 18-year-old daughter died in bed. For several years she'd been struggling with bulimia and that night her heart finally heart stopped beating, weakened from low potassium levels. Now, Stream is a state representative, and he's sponsoring a bill in the Missouri House that would require health insurance companies to cover treatment for eating disorders -- treatment he says could have saved his daughter's life if his insurance had paid for it.

New program eases debt for rural medical students

Feb 22, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

The average medical school student graduates with close to $160,000 in debt. That heavy burden is one reason why there is a long-running shortage of primary care doctors in rural America. More and more graduating students choose higher-paying specialties over rural primary care. In this weekly update, a new pilot program helps medical students pay off loans as soon as they start residency, so it's easier to choose a lower-paying, but possibly more fulfilling career path.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Today the U.S. House of Representatives is debating a Republican-backed transportation bill, which would authorize $260 billion for the next five years. More money would go to highways, but at the expense of stable funding for public transportation, and the elimination of pedestrian and cycling programs. In this Health & Wealth update, among the proposed cuts is a pilot project in Columbia that's responsible for many of the new bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks around town.

'Obamacare' opposition helps Santorum in primary

Feb 8, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Rick Santorum trounced Mitt Romney yesterday in Missouri's "beauty contest" presidential primary. The state's delegates won't be chosen until caucuses on March 17, but the vote added to Santorum's momentum as he also swept Minnesota and Colorado. In this week's Health & Wealth update, how conservative opposition to Obama's Affordable Care Act may have helped Santorum in the Show-Me State.

Andy Dandino / USDA

Following up on President Obama's State of the Union address last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is touring the country, touting his boss's job-creation efforts in rural America -- Missouri was his latest stop. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a conversation with Secretary Vilsack: we talk rural jobs, USDA office closures, and the fate of the farmer's safety net in the face of natural disasters and shrinking budgets. 

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Ever since Mormon prophet and founder Joseph Smith revealed the Book of Mormon in 1830, his followers have struggled for acceptance. If you want to understand the "why" behind this rocky relationship, the rolling farmland of northwest Missouri might be the best place to start -- the birthplace of the human race, according to Joseph Smith, and the place where Christ will first step down in the second coming. 

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