Science and Technology

Two years after a tornado tore through Joplin, excavation work continues on yards that revealed high levels of lead after being disrupted by the storm.

The Joplin Globe reports most of the lead found in the yards was discovered where a tree was uprooted. Other mine waste was exposed where foundations and driveways were before the tornado.

The city says of the 1,091 yards sampled for lead in Joplin's disaster zone after the May 22, 2011, tornado, 426 needed the excavation of lead-contaminated soil. As of last week, 182 of those properties had been excavated.

USDAgov / Flickr

A quarantine of wood products from Perry County is likely, after the discovery of an insect that kills ash trees.

Pete Zarria / Flickr

A former mining town in southwest Missouri wants to turn land polluted with zinc and heavy metals into a prime nature attraction.

Webb City Administrator Carl Francis says the city has applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for about $3 million in funding for the 1,500 acre project. He says it would lessen the effects of the contamination and could change a previously barren area into wetlands.

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.
File / KBIA

 Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill that now requires insurance counselors or navigators to be licensed by the state.

The counselors are required to get the license in order to help consumers search for their insurance options on an online marketplace called a health insurance exchange. The exchanges are set to start on October 1st  of this year as part of the Affordable Care Act.  

KBIA file photo

  For the third year in a row, the American Hospital Association has named MU Health Care as one of the “Most Wired” hospitals in the country.

The recognition is given to hospitals that work to adopt the newest health-care information technology. Spokesperson Bryan Bliven says as the technology continues to evolve, the benchmarks of the Most Wired list changes every year.

“The gait is always rising,” Bliven says. “It’s very good to keep the designation and it’s a challenge each year and we’re really happy to meet it for the third year in a row.”

Adam Procter / flickr

 

The University of Missouri is hosting an upcoming international conference on low-energy nuclear reactions.

US Navy/Wikimedia / Creative Commons

A law that takes effect Aug. 28 will give physicians assistants more freedom to provide care in areas of Missouri with a shortage of doctors.

Currently, physician assistants must be supervised by a doctor located within 30 miles of where they practice. And a doctor must be present 66 percent of the time they are caring for patients.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the new law will allow the supervising doctor to be up to 50 miles away. The doctors also will have to spend only half of a day on site for every 14 days the physician assistant practices.

KBIA file photo

Drowning deaths have risen dramatically in both Missouri and Kansas this year.

State officials say that before this weekend, 24 drownings had been reported this year in Missouri, four more than all of last year. And in Kansas, 12 drownings had been reported before this weekend, double the average for an entire year.

The Kansas City Star reports officials in both states say the pleasant summer weather likely has contributed to the increase, with more people venturing out to the states' waterways.

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. 


loop_oh / Flickr

  Some MU engineers are teaming up with colleagues at Duke University to develop a low-cost toilet for developing countries with water shortages.

Energy House
File Photo / KBIA

A Missouri program that is now entering its 25th year has provided more than $100 million in loans for energy efficiency projects around the state.

This Department of Natural Resources program helps finance energy-saving measures such as improved insulation, windows, lighting and heating and cooling systems. The loans are available to public schools and colleges, local governments, water and sewage treatment facilities and some hospitals.

The department says $102.7 million in low-interest loans has been awarded through the fund since its creation in 1989.

United States Geological Survey

The United States Geological Survey, or USGS, is taking to the sky this week with a low-flying airplane that will map the subsurface of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The plane will collect aeromagnetic data in Missouri’s Bootheel and small slivers of northeastern Arkansas and northwest Tennessee.

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.

saharaaldridge.blogspot.com

A new Missouri law creates a checkbox on Missouri income tax forms that allows taxpayers to contribute a minimum of $1 of their tax return to fund pediatric cancer research.

“Sahara’s Law” was introduced by Cape Girardeau Republican Senator Wayne Wallingford, and it’s named after Sahara Aldridge. 

“She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and she fought that battle for 17 months, going through chemotherapy and radiation and even some alternate treatments,” Wallingford said. “But sadly she passed away when she was 13.”

The University of Missouri in Columbia has wrapped up its first week as a smoke-free campus.

The ban on smoking, which took full effect on July 1, had been in the works since 2009 when Chancellor Brady Deaton announced a plan to become a smoke-free campus within five years.

As part of the transition, the school began allowing smoking only in designated areas in 2011. The Smoke-Free Mizzou website says the move was meant to give smokers time to quit or "make necessary adjustment to their smoking patterns."

Courtesy of Boone Hospital Center

BJC HealthCare has named Jim Sinek, a long-time hospital executive, as Boone Hospital’s new president. Sinek has served as a hospital CEO for about 14 years. He comes to Columbia from Faith Regional Health Services, a 200-bed facility in Norfolk, Neb., two hours northeast of Omaha.

At Faith Regional, Sinek recently oversaw the addition of a new 5-story patient tower and the implementation of an electronic medical records system. Boone Hospital's Vice President of Human Resources Michelle Zvanut said those experiences made Sinek stand out in the pool of applicants.

Health money
Tax Credits / Flickr

People enrolling in Missouri's Medicaid health care program soon could do so online instead of through paper applications.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the state has awarded a $147 million contract to a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,-based company called EngagePoint to set up the new system. About 90 percent of the money is coming from the federal government.

An audit by the Federal Office of Inspector General says Missouri should pay back more than $21 million in federal Medicaid payments made to a state-operated children's hospital in St. Louis County.

The audit found that Hawthorn Children's Psychiatric Hospital failed for five years to fulfill regulatory requirements to qualify for the federal Medicaid reimbursements.

A written response from Missouri Department of Social Services disagreed with the findings.

Independence, Mo., going green with lighting

Jun 27, 2013

A new hue will brighten the city of Independence, Mo., over the next three to four years. 

The 81st annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors happened in Las Vegas this past weekend.  At the conference, Independence announced its plans to partner with Philips Lighting on an energy and maintenance saving project.

horse
gnuru / Flickr

Missouri horse owners are on alert for signs of a rare horse disease after an outbreak in 12 horses in Nebraska earlier this month.

Equine infectious anemia, or EIA, is a viral disease spread by biting insects and the sharing of medical needles between horses. While the virus is related to HIV in humans, EIA can only be contracted by horses, donkeys, and mules.

Dr. Phillip Johnson is a professor of equine medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri. He says the most common outcome for an infected horse in North America is euthanasia.

File photo / KBIA

Missouri is facing a shortage of primary care doctors, and the strain could grow as more people soon gain health insurance under the federal health care law.

The state had just under 74 active patient care primary care doctors per 100,000 residents, according to 2010 figures from the Association of American Medical Colleges. That ranked Missouri 35th in the nation and put it behind the national per capita average of more than 79 active primary care doctors per 100,000 residents.

Teddy Nykiel / KBIA

A former health insurance company executive says he left the comforts of a padded career of corporate jets and high rise offices to speak out against unfair insurance practices.

tlsmith1000 / Flickr

Another Kansas City suburb has signed on to receive Google Fiber, the search giant's high-speed Internet service.

USDAgov / Flickr

The tree-killing emerald ash borer has been found in two more southern Missouri counties, prompting the Missouri Department of Agriculture to place quarantines on the movement of ash wood products in those counties.

Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

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

chickens
Grace Hood / Harvest Public Media

 

Last year, one of the country’s largest Community Supported Agriculture share providers went bankrupt. Grant Family Farms in Northern Colorado launched an organic CSA back in 2007 with 127 members and peaked with more than 5,000 in 2012.

A Monsanto researcher is one of the winners of the 2013 World Food Prize.

Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley will share the international honor with Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta and Belgian plant scientist Marc Van Montagu.

KBIA file photo

Thirty-five MU Health Care employees will see their hours reduced in the coming year. At Boone Hospital Center, seven employees’ hours will be cut, while 13 full- and part-time employees will lose their jobs.

In Boone Hospital’s case, the layoffs came in a system-wide package. The hospital’s parent company, St. Louis-based BJC Healthcare, recently announced it is cutting 160 jobs from its hospitals. This is the first time BJC has ever made system-wide layoffs. June Fowler, vice president for corporate and public communications at the company, said several factors led to the layoffs.

“BJC is experiencing reductions in our reimbursement for the healthcare services that we provide,” Fowler said.  “We’ve also seen a decrease in inpatient hospitalizations.”

MU Nuclear Research Reactor
University of Missouri

The University of Missouri’s Research Reactor has successfully completed its annual drill.

The reactor staff worked with public-safety and health professionals yesterday to simulate a scenario involving a small fire and radiation exposure to two individuals.  The police and fire departments participate in the drill every other year.

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