Science and Technology

Crowd packs field hearing on 'Blueways' designation

Aug 1, 2013
Jennifer Davidson / KSMU

The term “Blueways” has some Ozarks residents seeing red.  At least, that was the case at a Congressional field hearing Monday in West Plains over the “National Blueways Program.” 
Christopher S. Penn / Flickr

Ameren Missouri customers can expect to see a slightly lower bill after state regulators determined the utility owes its electric customers slightly more than $26 million for failing to include some revenue in its calculations.

The Missouri Public Service Commission approved an order Wednesday for the St. Louis-based company to refund the money to customers. But Ameren Missouri won't be sending out checks. Instead, the $26.3 million will be applied by adjusting a fuel charge that customers otherwise would pay.

Missouri's lone nuclear reactor remains shut down while workers and officials continue to investigate what caused a small fire at the Callaway County plant Friday night.

Ameren Missouri spokesman Cleve Reasoner said it'll be several days before the plant is back online.

National, state car seat recommendations differ

Jul 29, 2013
treehouse1977 / Flickr

Missouri law requires kids to be in rear-facing car seats at least until the age of one.  But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children stay rear-facing until age two.   "Because pediatric patients, their neck muscles are not strong enough to withstand forces on an impact when they're forward facing until they're at least two-years-old," Lana Martin, a trauma nurse clinician at CoxHealth in Springfield, said. Under Missouri law, kids less than four-years-old or less than 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat.

Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.

jfcherry / Flickr

The Missouri Department of Insurance has filed an emergency rule for the licensing of people that will help state residents search for health plans on an online marketplace. Legislation signed this year by Gov. Jay Nixon creates state requirements for the helpers, who are called navigators.

People applying for a state license will need to pass an examination. The cost for applying will be $25 for individuals and $50 for an entity. Licenses will be valid for two years. Requirements for a navigator license will include being age 18 or older, living in Missouri or keeping a business in the state. Those wanting to be navigators also should not have committed any acts that would grounds to refuse an insurance producer license.

m_schipp22 / Flickr

On this week's show, we'll hear about a recent breakthrough in soybean science, and learn about the use of medicinal leeches in one Missouri hospital.

Updated 10:52 a.m., 11:33 a.m., 11:53 a.m., 12:11 p.m., and 4 p.m. May be updated further.

Virginia Johnson, one half of the famed Masters and Johnson research team on human sexual behavior, has died at the age of 88, her son Scott tells St. Louis Public Radio.

Johnson was a resident of The Altenheim senior living community in St. Louis. The facility has also confirmed her death.

morrissey / flickr

Cooper County Memorial Hospital in Boonville is in trouble. It lost more than $1 million dollars last year and has been running a deficit since 2007.

Hazel Motes / flickr

 

 

Missouri state appeals court has ruled that a jury should decide whether a former subsidiary of Monsanto that manufactured toxic chemicals is responsible for illnesses caused by the widespread use of those chemicals in everyday products.

Center for Disease Control

 

Federal health investigators have confirmed that ticks carry a new virus that sickened two Missouri men.

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.

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