Politics & Issues
Fri March 21, 2014
The Rundown: Scams, Schools And Doctor Shortages
We know that you listen to us on air and check our website for news and information about our region. We hope that you look at our website every day, but we know that's not always possible. So, once a week, on Friday, we will highlight some of the website's top stories of the week.
Back to Basics
This week we kicked off our series on chronic absenteeism and its impact on scholastic achievement. Next week we'll look at the problem in Riverview Gardens district as well as its efforts to solve the problem.
It's a problem that's both obvious and invisible. You can have all the school improvement plans you want, but students can't learn if they're not in class. With that in mind, St. Louis Public Radio is starting a project that looks at the impact of chronic absenteeism — defined as missing 10 percent or more of a school year for any reason — on learning.
Check out our interactive map of every school district in Missouri. Click on your district to find out the number of students who missed enough school time last year to be considered chronically absent for individual school districts.
Do not call
Spend the morning or afternoon at home and you'll be surprised how many of these robocalls you'll get — even if you are on the Do Not Call list. It's difficult to stop these scammers because of the money to be made with these scams.
Rachel and the robocallers are still at it — pestering America with their automated messages. Still luring victims to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on credit card interest-rate reduction scams. Still giving away “free” home security systems that come with hefty monitoring fees. Officials from the Federal Trade Commission say that, even though they’ve stopped billions of these phone calls, the agency still gets about 150,000 complaints a month at its Do Not Call Registry website.
Add tax return scams to the ever-growing list of ways crooks are ripping off people, warns Michelle Corey, president of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau. Tax scams are just one of the schemes that the BBB is warning St. Louisans about. Some are seasonal, like disreputable home repair companies that sweep through the Midwest after damaging storms. Others are updated versions of oldies, like bogus lotteries and sweepstakes that target senior citizens.
In St. Louis, we're used to having two terrific medical schools, several award-winning hospitals and a wide array of primary-care doctors and specialists. In outstate Missouri, the situation is more dire, especially for the uninsured.
Notwithstanding the state’s prominence as a training ground for outstanding physicians worldwide, it struggles to attract enough doctors to rural areas. In 2011, studies found that 40 percent of Missouri’s population live in rural communities, but only 25 percent of the state’s physicians practice in those areas. The number of medical providers in Missouri fell short in relation to some other states. Missouri had roughly 116 primary care doctors per 100,000 people compared to the U.S. rate of 128.
The doctor shortage is one reason nurse practitioners have become the fastest growing segment of the primary care workforce. Their numbers have grown an average of 9 percent a year, compared to 1 percent for primary care physicians. Along with about 5,000 practicing primary care doctors, Missouri has more than 4,000 N.P.s. Some clinic owners feel N.P.s could help address the doctor shortage and should be given more freedom to take on even more medical responsibilities.
Universities, including the University of Missouri, are developing programs and approaches to train doctors to work in rural areas.
Only two states — Utah and South Dakota — have a 72-hour waiting period to have an abortion, and Missouri may be poised to be the third. That may be the impetus for a court challenge.
For at least 35 years, Missouri has been one of the major battlefields in the ongoing fight over reproductive rights, contraception and abortion. Based on the last few weeks in Jefferson City, not much has changed. The Missouri House recently approved a bill to mandate a 72-hour waiting period before a woman could obtain an abortion. The state’s current waiting period is 24 hours.
Let there be light
It's hard to have a functioning democracy if people don't know what's going on in the government. Transparency is essential if governments are to be held accountable to the public. But that doesn't mean that government agencies and departments are eager to share.
Sunday was the start of "Sunshine Week," a time to celebrate the idea of open government and open records. But in Missouri, you might want to hold off on popping the champagne. Missouri's sunshine law, which allows the public to ask government officials for things like emails, documents and other records, doesn't have much teeth.
North Side Story
St. Louis on the Air interviews the controversial developer Paul McKee and Midge McKee about their plans to transform north St. Louis.
Redevelopment of hundreds of acres of north St. Louis has been a discussion topic for more than a decade, ever since developer Paul McKee began acquiring property to fulfill his vision for the region. That vision includes improving infrastructure, building homes, and developing commercial properties in the area bound by Natural Bridge Avenue to the north, Interstate 64/Highway 40 to the south, North Grand Boulevard to the west and North Tucker Boulevard to the east. He projects that the redevelopment will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs.
Politics & Issues