State News


The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Division of Health Care Finance aims to improve Kansans’ health by increasing the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of health services and public health programs. Little information is publicly available on the division’s current efforts – for example, although the agency produced a series of reports using data from the state’s all-payer claims database, the group appears to have been inactive since 2011. In 2014, the state piloted a “health home” program that put community mental health centers in charge of coordinating care for Medicaid patients with severe mental illnesses, however the program ended before producing significant results. 

In 2018, Kansas enacted legislation to bar pharmacy benefits managers from prohibiting or penalizing pharmacists for informing patients of lower cost options. The state has introduced, but not passed, legislation to increase price transparency and has no protections against surprise medical bills as of 2021. 

Kansas ranked 35 out of 47 states plus DC, with a score of 26.3 out of 80 possible points in the Hub's 2021 Healthcare Affordability State Policy Scorecard.

Kansas | Jun 21, 2022 | News Story | Health Costs

Kansas Policies Leave Patients at Risk of Medical Debt

Kansas policies leave patients vulnerable to high medical bills, according to KCUR. Based on the Medical Debt Policy Scorecard, Kansas has limited policies reducing how often people incur medical debts and zero policies increasing patients’ ability to resolve debt out of court. The researchers suggest that Kansas can improve protections by requiring hospitals to tell patients about charity care and preventing hospitals from sending bills to collection agencies while patients are still negotiating amounts or making incremental payments, among many other strategies.

Kansas | Jan 20, 2021 | News Story | Consumer Voices

"The Birthday Rule" Can Create Large Medical Bills for New Parents

"The Birthday Rule" can generate large, unexpected medical expenses for emergency infant healthcare, according to a bill investigation by Kaiser Health News. When a baby is born covered by employer-based insurance from both parents, the child's primary coverage must be with the parent whose birthday falls earlier in the calendar year. If the early-birthday parent's coverage has a high deductible or is out of network for the infant intensive care services provided, parents may be charged thousands of dollars. Most states have adopted this regulation, and parents have no choice in which coverage their baby has apart from removing the child from the inferior coverage or dropping it altogether.

Kansas | Dec 15, 2020 | Report |

Telehealth Policies Improve Access to Care in Kansas

Kansas has passed a number of policies to increase telehealth utilization as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the Kansas Health Institute. Researchers identified several actions that state policymakers have taken, including: requiring payment parity for telehealth services; expanding services allowed under telehealth; allowing services to be provided via telephone, in addition to live video; and expanding allowed “originating” sites to include patients’ homes in addition to nursing facilities. Additionally, the Governor enacted multiple executive orders with provisions pertaining to telehealth, including licensure. Some of these provisions were later codified, allowing out-of-state physicians to treat Kansas patients via telehealth without securing a Kansas license, provided certain requirements are met. In the months and years ahead, Kansas policymakers must decide which changes should continue and whether additional changes are needed to encourage the appropriate use of telehealth.

Kansas | Nov 23, 2020 | News Story | Equity Population Health Social Determinants of Health

Black Babies in Kansas Are Twice as Likely as White Kids to Die Before Their First Birthday

Black and Native American babies in Kansas died at almost twice the rate as white infants in their first year of life from 2013-2017, according to KCUR. The data, published in a report from the National Collaborative for Health Equity, suggests that race plays a major role in a community’s health. Factors believed to increase infant mortality in Kansas communities of color, specifically, include a higher percentage of residents living in areas with a high density of liquor stores and a higher frequency of robberies and homicides, the stress of which can damage the health of expectant mothers and their babies. One possible solution is to increase the number of black physicians practicing in these communities, as studies show that mortality rates for black babies can drop by half when they are cared for by a black physician.

Kansas | Oct 22, 2020 | News Story | Surprise Medical Bills Affordability

Kansas Is Among A Shrinking Number of States That Don't Protect People from Surprise Medical Bills

With no protections in place, Kansans remain among the most vulnerable in the country to surprise medical bills, reports KCUR. Studies cited in an issue brief by the Kansas Health Institute found that Kansas had the second highest rate of out-of-network charges for inpatient hospital care in 2016. Ultimately, one in four Kansas patients received out-of-network services through an in-network hospital. Another study analyzing claims from 40 states found that Kansas ranked fifth for out-of-network charges billed to emergency room patients. Despite ample evidence, the state has yet to take action to address surprise medical bills. A 2020 proposal to establish partial protections failed in the Legislature, in addition to a proposal to require doctors and hospitals to give patients better cost estimates prior to care. 

Kansas | Sep 26, 2020 | Report | Health Costs Price Transparency

Analysis of Secret Prices at Kansas Hospitals Shows Striking Variation

An analysis of employer claims data by RAND found stark differences in the prices private health plans pay for inpatient and outpatient services at Kansas hospitals, reports KCUR. Prices at the University of Kansas Hospital and Overland Park Regional Medical Center were among the highest in the country, while prices at Lawrence Memorial Hospital were lower than those observed across the state and nationally. Additionally, private health plans paid more than twice the Medicare rate for hospital care in 2018. Unwarranted variation in healthcare prices, combined with a lack of transparency, makes it difficult for employers to make educated decisions when shopping for health plans to cover their employees. 

Kansas | Jul 21, 2020 | News Story | Surprise Medical Bills Consumer Voices

What It Took for This Coronavirus Patient's $80,000 Air Ambulance Charge to Go Away

A COVID-19 patient from rural Kansas received an $80,000 medical bill after his insurance company declined to pay for the air ambulance needed for him to receive treatment, reports KCUR. While the insurer eventually covered the bill, the situation shed light on widespread confusion over patient protections in light of COVID-19. The current patchwork of federal laws, state laws and company policies mean patients may well be shielded from COVID-related medical bills, but they will likely have to figure out which protections apply to them and push to assert their rights.

Kansas | Jul 8, 2020 | News Story

Increasing Healthcare Workforce Capacity in Kansas During COVID-19

Like many states, Kansas has experimented with a variety of strategies to expand its workforce capacity to care for patients with COVID, a blog by the Kansas Health Institute describes. Kansas’ efforts have included: expanding scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants; expediting the process for inactive or retired physicians to receive licensure to assist with COVID; and allowing early graduations from state medical schools so senior medical students can enter the workforce. 

Kansas | Feb 27, 2020 | News Story | Drug Costs

A Kansas City, Kansas, Ruling Allows Millions to Join a Lawsuit Over the High Cost of EpiPens

In a major victory for consumers, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, is allowing a lawsuit over EpiPen price hikes to move ahead, according to KCUR. The lawsuit will determine whether drugmakers sought to monopolize the EpiPen market after they dramatically hiked the price of the device, triggering consumer fury and a congressional investigation. The judge’s ruling also allows consumers to sue for damages under state antitrust laws. 

Kansas | Feb 9, 2020 | News Story | Health Costs Affordability Consumer Voices

County in Rural Kansas is Jailing People Over Unpaid Medical Debt

Kansas families struggling to pay exorbitant healthcare costs are falling prey to predatory collection practices by law firms representing local providers, according to CBS News. In rural Coffeyville, residents with unpaid medical bills must appear in court every three months for a "debtors exam." Failure to appear may result in jail time and bail money is commonly used to pay debt collectors and healthcare providers, rather than being returned to defendants when they appear in court.

Kansas | Jan 7, 2020 | News Story | Surprise Medical Bills

Getting Health Care in Kansas? Your Odds May Be Worse Here That You'll Get a Surprise Bill

Americans frequently get slapped with costs for out-of-network services in situations where they weren’t able to shop for an in-network option, but research suggests Kansans may be especially vulnerable, according to KCUR. A Kaiser Family Foundation study put Kansas in the five worst states for how often patients received services from out-of-network providers during emergencies or inpatient care at an in-network hospital in 2017. Half of states — red and blue alike — have passed some level of consumer protections against surprise bills, but Kansas has not. While these protections don’t apply to all patients, they are a first step towards reducing avoidable, and potentially devastating, financial harm. 

Kansas | Dec 27, 2019 | News Story | Rural Healthcare

Kansas Sees Shortage of Psychiatrists and Other Mental Health Providers

Mental health centers in Kansas are forced to rely on out-of-state doctors willing to work remotely due to a shortage of mental health providers in certain areas of the state, according to KCUR. Like many states, Kansas is seeing an increase in patients seeking mental health treatment, but there aren’t enough doctors, nurses and therapists to treat them. Providers say the problem is worse in the state’s least-populated rural areas, where clinic jobs can stay open for years at a time. Only nine of 105 Kansas counties have enough psychiatrists and they are mostly in urban areas.

Kansas | Oct 17, 2019 | News Story | Health Costs

Health Insurers Have to Give Back $1.4 Billion, and Kansans Get Large Checks

Sunflower, a subsidiary of Centene, will be required to issue more than $25 million in health insurance rebates to nearly 19,000 Kansans who purchased Ambetter individual health plans, reports KCUR. The rebates are required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which specifies that insurers must spend a certain proportion of what they collect in premiums — usually 80 percent — on their members’ healthcare. The rest can go toward the company’s own costs and profits. Sunflower’s hefty refund puts Kansas’ average rebate at more than $1,000, or seven times the national average. The state’s insurance department, which regulates premiums, has asked Sunflower for information about how it landed so far above the ACA threshold.

Kansas | Sep 16, 2019 | News Story | Rural Healthcare Surprise Medical Bills Consumer Voices

Air Ambulances Woo Rural Kansans with Memberships That May Leave Them Hanging

Air ambulance companies have begun advertising memberships to rural Kansans in the wake of recent hospital closures, prompting concerns that the companies are exploiting vulnerable patients, reports KCUR. Although the membership programs promise to protect customers from out-of-pocket expenses, the contractual fine print often undermines the advertised intent. For example, privately insured patients who purchase memberships would still receive a bill and must work through their insurance company’s claims, denial and appeal processes. Additionally, air ambulance companies can end memberships at any time without obligation to notify the customer. North Dakota and Montana ban or heavily regulate the memberships in attempt to better protect consumers.

Kansas | Aug 19, 2019 | News Story | Rural Healthcare

After a Rural Hospital Closes, Delays in Emergency Care Cost Patients Dearly

More than 110 rural hospitals have closed nationwide since 2010, with profound consequences for the communities they served, according to Kaiser Health News. In Fort Scott, Kansas, ambulances responded to more than 80 calls for service and drove more than 1,300 miles for patients to get care in other communities during an 18-day period when the local emergency department was closed. In addition to delaying treatment for patients needing emergency care, the travel time prevented the crews from serving local needs and caused emergency vehicles to wear out faster. Increased reliance on air ambulances also causes problems for rural communities–though they can transport patients quickly, the dispatch system is not coordinated in many states and regions across the country. Moreover, many air ambulance companies do not participate in insurance networks, which can cost patients dearly.

Kansas | Aug 13, 2019 | News Story

Kansas Medicaid Insurer Aetna on Even Thinner Ice with State Officials

Kansas has threatened to cancel insurer Aetna’s Medicaid contract if the company fails to resolve a number of long-running problems, reports KCUR. The state’s written complaint to Aetna in July stated that doctors and others struggle to secure provider credentials from the insurer, and that discrepancies in Aetna’s records mean Kansas can’t judge the adequacy of the company’s provider network for the state’s 100,000 Medicaid recipients. Additionally, providers claim they sometimes don’t get paid because Aetna demands advance permission for certain basic procedures and that the company hasn’t put together a complete directory of physicians and specialists. Aetna has reported that it has fixed several issues and that many of the other problems “are well on their way to compliance.”

Kansas | May 13, 2019 | News Story | Drug Costs

Lawsuit: Sick People in Missouri, Kansas Paid Higher Prices for Generic Drugs Due to Price-Fixing

Missouri and Kansas have joined 41 other states and Puerto Rico in a lawsuit accusing generic drug makers of conspiring to manipulate and drive up prices for more than 100 generic drugs, reports KCUR. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut, alleges that generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceuticals significantly raised prices on more than 100 generic drugs beginning in July 2013 and colluded with competing companies to carve up markets and raise prices on at least 86 of those drugs. Missouri’s Attorney General called the alleged conspiracy “one of the most damaging and far-reaching price fixing schemes in modern history, with certain companies inflating prices by nearly 1,000%.”

Kansas | Apr 20, 2019 | News Story | Affordability

Patients Fed Up with Fee-For-Service Doctors are Finding a Way around the Insurance Industry

Patients in the Kansas City region who are fed up with the bureaucracy of the health insurance industry are ditching the copays and high deductibles for a different way to get primary care, reports KCUR. Instead of using the traditional system, patients are turning to “direct primary care” clinics consisting of doctors who offer membership-based healthcare services, rather than accepting insurance. At one clinic, patients pay a monthly fee for unlimited routine visits and direct phone/email communication with their provider. Although their services are limited to primary care, these clinics offer a lifeline for patients who cannot afford the high cost of health insurance.

Kansas | Mar 8, 2019 | News Story | Medical Harm

Three Kansas City Area Hospitals Get Dinged by Medicare for High Complication Rates

Three Kansas City-area hospitals are among 17 in Missouri and seven in Kansas that are being penalized by Medicare this year for high infection and patient-injury rates, reports KCUR. Truman Medical Centers, Research Medical Center and Belton Medical Center will see their Medicare payments reduced by one percent because of high rates of complications, as part of the Affordable Care Act’s effort to improve patient care. The article lists the 24 Missouri and Kansas hospitals that have been penalized this year (out of 800 general hospitals nationwide).

Kansas | Nov 8, 2018 | Report | Medical Harm

Most Kansas City Area Hospitals Do Well in a New Patient Safety Report

Seven of 20 Kansas City area hospitals got A’s in the Leapfrog Group’s Fall 2018 report card on patient safety, while nine got B’s and four got C’s, according to KCUR. Kansas ranked 24th in the nation, with nearly a third of its hospitals receiving an A grade. Missouri ranked 34th, with about 23 percent of its hospitals receiving an A grade. Kansas moved up three notches from Leapfrog’s last survey in Spring 2018; Missouri dropped 21 notches. New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Massachusetts and Texas were the highest rated states. The lowest rated were Connecticut, Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Delaware and North Dakota.

Kansas | Jun 11, 2018 | Report

Trouble Paying Medical Bills? Large Survey Shows it’s Common in Kansas and Missouri

One of the largest surveys of Missouri and Kansas healthcare consumers ever conducted shows that medical debt is a top concern, according to The Kansas City Star. The survey found that 33 percent of Kansas children and 28 percent of Kansas adults lived in a household that struggled to pay medical bills in the last year. In Missouri, difficulty paying medical bills was even more common, with 38 percent of kids and 34 percent of adults living in struggling households. Almost 20 percent of respondents in both states said they had faced financial consequences from medical debt, either asking family and friends for help, seeking personal loans or getting hounded by debt collectors. These results support findings from an earlier study conducted by the Urban Institute.

Kansas | May 24, 2018 | News Story

Kansas Enacts New Telemedicine Law With Anti-Abortion Language

Kansas’ governor signed a controversial bill to expand telemedicine services under the condition that the state’s anti-abortion ban is upheld, according to mHealthIntelligence. The new law establishes coverage parity for telehealth services that are the same as those delivered in-person. However, it also includes a non-severability clause, which will nullify the coverage expansion should the state’s abortion ban eventually be struck down. While abortions by telemedicine are now banned or severely restricted in more than 20 states, similar legislation has been defeated in at least two states (Utah and Idaho) over the past couple years.

Kansas | Feb 15, 2018 | Report

Kansas and Missouri Cost Containment Initiatives Report

A new report by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City analyzes the results of five local initiatives aiming to improve patients' healthcare experience, lower the cost of care per person and improve health outcomes and access to care. Multi-stakeholder collaboration, building relationships with the target audience and achieving buy-in from organizational leadership were identified as key factors contributing to the initiatives' success. Challenges included barriers to data collection and educating and training staff. These initiatives highlight the potential for collaborative, patient-centered efforts to reduce unnecessary ER use and preventable hospitalizations and provide important insights to help inform Kansas and Missouri lawmakers as they explore strategies to reduce healthcare costs. 

Kansas | Oct 13, 2016 | News Story

The Kansas Healthcare Collaborative Will Lead Kansas Patient Safety Improvement Efforts

The Kansas Healthcare Collaborative—a coalition of providers founded by the Kansas Hospital Association—will continue to lead statewide hospital patient safety improvement efforts. The partnership between the Health Research & Educational Trust and 31 state hospital associations is geared toward reducing patient harm and readmissions.

Kansas | Mar 16, 2016 | Report

New Rankings Shed Light on Where Kansas Counties Could Improve Health

New health rankings list Johnson County as the healthiest in Kansas and Wyandotte County as the least healthy, according to the Kansas Health Institute. Two analyses show the rank of counties by health outcomes and by health factors. An analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation identified meaningful gaps where policymakers can address the variation occurring among counties.

Kansas | Mar 16, 2016 | News Story

CMS Chooses Eligible Regions for New CPC+ Initiative and Enlists Primary Care Practices

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City has been chosen to participate in the Kansas Comprehensive Primary Care Plus Initiative, according to Health Leaders Media. The initiative will launch in January 2017.