Under the Microscope

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KBIA's weekly look at science, technology, and health in Missouri and beyond. Find us on iTunes

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Jake Godin for Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we'll hear why a popular grass for feeding cattle may be doing more harm than good, and learn about the popularity of food hubs.
Alan Cleaver / flickr

For about two decades, Wendell Potter spun carefully crafted public relations messages for Humana and Cigna, the insurance companies where he worked. He recalls convincing consumers that high-deductible insurance plans would be good for everyone; telling them that by paying more, they’d have more skin in the game of their own health.

“I frankly just got so disillusioned and, ultimately, disgusted with what I was doing,” Potter said.

He said through his own research, he knew high-deductible plans were not the best insurance coverage for those with middle-class income.

“The median household income in this country is just barely $50,000,” Potter said. “A family that’s earning $50,000, if they’re in a plan with a high deductible, they face bankruptcy or foreclosure [if something happens]. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have lost their homes and have to declare bankruptcy because they have been in these kinds of plans. They think they have adequate coverage and they don’t.”

In 2008, Potter left the insurance industry and became a consumer advocate. He testified in Congress against high-deductible plans. In 2010, he published a book detailing the ways public-relations practices of the insurance industry affect American health care. 

Now, Potter writes columns and travels around the country to debunk what he calls are “myths” about the Affordable Care Act. The law imposes stricter rules on insurance companies. They can no longer refuse coverage for consumers who have a pre-existing condition, for example. Companies also have to spend at least 80 percent of every dollar of a consumer's premium for patient care and quality improvements, not profits or administrative costs. 

On a recent visit to Columbia, Potter sat down with KBIA's Harum Helmy to chat about health care reform and the insurance industry's response to it. 


Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we'll discuss ag runoff and community supported agriculture.

Fried Dough / Flickr

On this week's show, we'll take a closer look at smoking bans in Missouri.

Health care reform put on hold as lawmakers wrap up session

May 16, 2013
Jennifer Davidson / KSMU

Rain is drizzling on the roughly 40 people standing in line outside the Good Samaritan Care Clinic in rural Mountain View, Missouri. Some have been standing for hours. At 5:30 pm, the clinic doors swing open, and the patients flood into a clean, bare bones waiting room.

Laura King

On this week's show, we'll discuss why regret might not always be a bad thing

Photo courtesy of Regina Holliday

When Regina Holliday’s husband, Frederick Allen Holliday II, went to the hospital in 2009, he was already at the end stages of kidney cancer.

Tony Webster / Flickr

There’s a certain allure to crime scene forensics. What else could explain the immense popularity of the CSI television franchise.

Lukas Udstuen / KBIA

Debbie Lose-Kelly says she spends her entire life in avoidance of the everyday chemicals like fragrances, shampoos or laundry detergents. She lives with severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity — an illness that most in the medical community aren’t convinced is an actual disease.

Spencer Thomas / Flickr

This week, we'll hear about efforts to increase the amount of ethanol added to gasoline, and learn about out the potential benefits of owning a dog.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This week, we'll examine the Affordable Care Act's impact on farmers, and hear how one enzyme manufacturer was able to grow its business.

Computer Chess LLC

Andrew Bujalski is a longtime filmmaker. This year, the True False Film Festival includes Bujalski’s latest film – Computer Chess. It’s a fictional movie set 30 years ago. It focuses on Chess Software Programmers competing in a weeknd tournament.

Bujalski is best known for creating the “mumblecore” genre with his 2002 film “Funny Ha Ha.”

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This week, we’ll hear from Harvest Public Media’s Science of the Seed Series.

Lance Cheung / USDA

This week, we'll hear how some winter wheat farmers are faring in the new year, and talk to a researcher that helped set a new ballooning record in Antarctica.

Laura Siegler / Harvest Public Media

In Manhattan, Kan., the site of National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is still just a huge hole in the ground nearly a year after the initial ground-breaking.

But there has been some progress. In December, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which will operate the huge animal disease lab if it is ever completed, got title to the land when the city of Manhattan officially deeded over the 47-acre site. It’s a move that supporters hope will breathe new life into the beleaguered lab.

Laura King

On this week's show, we'll discuss why regret might not always be a bad thing.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show we’ll hear about new food safety regulations and how they could impact grain producers, and learn about a study that looked at online avatars and personal health.

Courtesy Ken Terpenning

On this week’s show, we’ll hear about problematic US horsemeat showing up in Europe, and hear from one researcher about ways to convince people to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we’ll hear about changes in the ethanol industry and talk to the recipient of a prestigious science fellowship.

Telling stories about science

Dec 7, 2012
Lee Jian Chung / KBIA

The University of Missouri has awarded $25,000 to a group of scientists, journalists and other communicators on campus who want to make their research more accessible to the wider public. To do this, some graduate student researchers are looking to the art of storytelling to help describe their work.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we’ll learn about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ag census , and hear about the importance of getting a flu shot.

The science of food

Nov 22, 2012
Vanderbilt University / Flickr

This week, families across the country will gather around the table to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Dust Bowl memories offer present warning

Nov 15, 2012
Photo courtesy kansasmemory.org, Kansas Historical Society

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s left an indelible mark on the Midwest and on history. It is the drought against which all others are measured. And it was a man-made disaster that could still offer lessons today.

Elana Gordon / Harvest Public Media

In recent years, there has been a concerted push at the local and national levels to make healthy food more widely available, particularly in low-income areas. This is one focus of Food Day, which food groups and advocates celebrated across the U.S Wednesday. But while programs and systems are gradually putting fresh food front and center, changing eating habits can be even more complicated.

bookgrl / Flickr

On this week's show, we'll hear about a fight over school lunches and learn how one New Bloomfield school was able to introduce new technology into the classroom.

monkeysnaps / Flickr

This week, we'll hear about an MU researcher's investigation of violence, and learn about population growth in a certain species of armadillo.

stethoscope
vitualis / Flickr

A wealth of factors are leading to poorer health outcomes within Missouri’s LGBT community.

Hilary Stohs-Krause / Harvest Public Media

This week, we’ll hear how some farmers are using hydroponics technology to save on water, and revisit an interview with biologist Edward O. Wilson.

Gina Cook / KBIA

On this week’s show, we’ll learn about renewable energy in Fulton, hear about a new discovery in HIV research, and listen to a report on MU’s South Farm showcase.

stoneystone68 / Flickr

On this week's show, we'll hear about how the drought is affecting Missouri's deer population, and hear a profile from the Harvest Public Media series My Farm Roots.

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