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.

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. 

Who's at fault when an emu attacks?

Jan 25, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Agriculture and tourism are two of Missouri's biggest industries. But when the two activities meet -- think wine tastings or hay rides -- legal complexities ensue. On this week's Health & Wealth update, farmers in Missouri want the legislature to pass a law clarifying who is liable if someone gets hurt in the corn maze.

foodpolitics.com

In this extended interview with food and nutrition writer Marion Nestle, we discuss Michelle Obama's anti-childhood obesity campaign, what food companies are doing to fight it, and how to get kids to eat their broccoli.

The exercise commonly known as 'jumping jacks'

Jan 18, 2012
kids jumping
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In all the political coverage lately, you may have missed Missouri House Bill 1063: it would make "the exercise commonly known and referred to as 'jumping jacks'" the official exercise of the state of Missouri. In this week's Health & Wealth update, could getting more kids jumping help reduce childhood obesity?

Another roadblock for Missouri health exchange

Jan 11, 2012
missouri capitol
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Last session, Republicans in the Missouri Senate blocked the creation of a state-run health insurance exchange. The online insurance marketplace is required under Obama's health reform law, but has become a political football in states like Missouri, with a Republican-controlled legislature. In this week's Health & Wealth update, Republican senators move to put one more roadblock on the path to a state exchange.

Smoking in the LGBT community

Jan 4, 2012
Willem van de Poll / flikr

Missouri has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation -- at 21 percent, it's double the rate in states like Utah and California. But some segments of the population smoke even more. In this week's Health & Wealth update, I talk with MU researchers who have found that the smoking rate among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Missourians is much higher than in the population at large.

Missouri's health slips to 40th in the nation

Dec 28, 2011
americashealthrankings.org

Each year, the United Health Foundation ranks states' health. And almost every year, Missouri drops in the rankings. This year, the Show Me State fell from the 39th spot, to 40th. In this week's Health & Wealth update, why we're getting less healthy and what we can do about it. I speak with Thomas McAuliffe, policy analyst with the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Dollars, doctors, and drug companies

Dec 21, 2011
propublica.org

In this week's Health & Wealth update, a story about both health and wealth: drug companies have paid doctors in Missouri close to $19 million over the past few years, according to data compiled by the investigative nonprofit, ProPublica. KBIA's Jessica Pupovac has been looking into the financial relationships between Missouri doctors and drug companies, and I sat down to talk with her about what she's found out.

Telemedicine: Adventures in time and space

Dec 14, 2011
nih.gov

In April 1924, Radio News Magazine ran a splashy futuristic cover story: "The Radio Doctor – Maybe!" Kids sit around a new-fangled doohickey and say "ahhh" for a distant doctor on  a video screen. In this weekly Health & Wealth update, the future is now! Telemedicine is expanding to rural hospitals across the country.

Lydia Mulvany / KBIA

Health is generally poorer in rural Missouri compared to urban areas, yet there is a distinct shortage of primary care physicians in rural Missouri. KBIA’s Jacob Fenston has reported that the shortage is only expected to worsen over the next ten years as the elderly population expands.

This graphic shows some of these inequalities--click through for more detail.  Created by Lydia Mulvany.

World AIDS Day marks 30 years

Dec 7, 2011
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

This year marks a grim birthday: it was thirty years ago that the first AIDS victims were officially diagnosed. Though the rate of new HIV infections in the US has stabilized in recent years, the percentage of those in rural areas has been on the rise. In this weekly Health & Wealth update, World AIDS Day.

Growing doctors in rural Missouri

Dec 6, 2011
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In rural Missouri, there are roughly half as many primary care doctors per person, compared to urban parts of the state.  That's a problem, when you consider that rural residents are also older (about three years, on average) and poorer (about five percent more live in poverty). In this Health & Wealth report, small towns in Missouri are facing the shortage by "growing their own" doctors and nurses, starting as early as middle school.

medicare.gov

For seniors and people with disabilities, now's the time to sign up for or review Medicare coverage. This year, Medicare's open enrollment period ends a lot earlier than usual. 

Rural post offices hoping for a break

Nov 30, 2011
Austin Fax / KBIA

The US Postal Service is hemorrhaging money – over the past year, it lost more than $5 billion. To staunch the negative cash flow, the postmaster general is looking at closing nearly 3,700 post offices – the vast majority in rural America. In this week's Health & Wealth update, KBIA's Austin Fax checks in to some very small towns where post offices may be on the chopping block.

Rural women diagnosed later

Nov 23, 2011
Faustine Williams

Women in rural Missouri are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a late stage than women in urban or suburban counties. In this weekly Health & Wealth update, the urban / rural disparity in breast cancer detection. 

Should Medical School Be Free?

Nov 21, 2011
mskcc.org

Heck yeah!! So should lunch. But two researchers say making medical school free could send more young doctors into primary care and rural practice, thus solving one of the big challenges facing health care today. And they've got a way to pay for it too.

Missouri Health Premiums Below National Average

Nov 18, 2011

Missouri families pay close to twenty percent of income on health insurance premiums. If that sounds like a lot, stay away from Mississippi. Families in that state pay the highest percentage of their income toward health insurance: 28 percent. This, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund.

It's Rural Health Day!

Nov 17, 2011
celebratepowerofrural.org

To celebrate, experts from non-profits and government agencies are holding a live webinar on some of the challenges and rewards of providing health care to rural America.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Backers compare health insurance exchanges to Travelocity or Expedia. Websites where you can quickly compare prices and features to get the best deal. But detractors oppose them as a federal intrusion into the health care market. In this weekly Health & Wealth update, Missourians debate the merits of Obama's health reform law, as state lawmakers try to decide whether to authorize an exchange.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Six months ago, an EF5 tornado plowed through the center of Joplin, leaving about one-fifth of the city's population without a home. Now, people are slowly getting back to normal. For some, normal means lacing up the running shoes and hitting the streets.

Senators Get an Earful on Health Reform

Nov 11, 2011
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Missouri state senators listened to over 3 hours of impassioned testimony on health care reform yesterday. The hearing was supposed to be on the rather mundane question of whether Missouri should set up an online health care exchange starting in 2014, or let the federal government do so. But the hearing quickly became a forum for debating the merits of health reform itself. After the jump, two interviews with senators on the committee: a Democrat representing one of the state's most liberal districts, and a Republican who has been at the forefront of Missouri's pushback against "Obamacare."

Audrain Voters Plump for Public Health

Nov 9, 2011
Garrett Bergquist / KBIA

Missouri is ranked 50th among the states in funding for public health, spending about one third of the national average. Audrain County spends even less, just $7.90 per person. In this weekly Health & Wealth update, voters in Audrain went to the polls yesterday and approved a new property tax that will keep the county's struggling health department afloat. I spoke with reporter Garrett Bergquist, who has been driving around Audrain talking to voters.

Political Points vs. Sound Policy?

Nov 4, 2011
governor.ks.gov

Republican lawmakers in red states are in a pickle. The Affordable Care Act requires each state to set up a health care exchange designed to bring down insurance costs for consumers. Republicans want no part of anything related to Obama's health care reform law, which they see as a federal intrusion on states rights. But if state lawmakers don't set up an exchange, the federal government will. In September, Republican senators in Missouri prevented the state from accepting $21 million of federal money to lay the groundwork for an exchange. Next door, the Sunflower State is in a similar quandary, reports Bryan Thompson of Kansas Public Radio.

Full Interview with Lt. Governor Kinder

Nov 3, 2011
TeamKinder

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder takes aim at "Obamacare," and Democratic rivals. We discuss his legal challenge to what he calls "the federal health control law," and why he thinks his lawsuit will likely end up before the Supreme Court. We also cover some political turf: Kinder compares his style of leadership with that of Governor Jay Nixon. Missourians, says Kinder, "want a fighter, not someone who will lie down and just take dictation from our federal masters."

Health Reform Moves Toward the Supreme Court

Nov 2, 2011
ltgov.mo.gov

Missourians have never been in love with health reform. A year ago, Missouri was the first to pass a state law prohibiting an individual insurance mandate. It was a largely symbolic rejection of the Affordable Care Act, but now, more serious obstacles are looming. Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder is one of dozens of officials from around the country challenging "Obamacare" in the courts.

In this weekly Health & Wealth update, the Affordable Care Act moves toward the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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