Kaiser Health News | St. Louis Public Radio

Kaiser Health News

No Quick Fix: Missouri Finds Managing Pain Without Opioids Isn’t Fast Or Easy

Feb 13, 2020
Missourians buying health insurance on the federal exchange likely won't see the sky-high rate increases that have becoming common in recent years in 2019. But experts say the marketplace's woes are far from over.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri began offering chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy for Medicaid patients in April, the latest state to try an alternative to opioids for those battling chronic pain.

Yet only about 500 of the state’s roughly 330,000 adult Medicaid users accessed the program through December, at a cost of $190,000, according to Josh Moore, the Missouri Medicaid pharmacy director. While the numbers may reflect an undercount because of lags in submitting claims, the jointly funded federal-state program known in the state as MO HealthNet is hitting just a fraction of possible patients so far.

Spoiled Food And Drug Deals Gone Wrong: SNAP Recipients Want Change At Corner Stores

Nov 16, 2019
Charlie's Convenient Market in Washington Park is known as the "Orange Store" among neighbors. The corner store just outside St. Louis is an authorized SNAP retailer. 11/15/19
Michael B. Thomas | Special to Kaiser Health News

EAST ST. LOUIS — The parking lot was dark when Marie Franklin and her husband, Sam, last stopped at a corner store near their home. The couple didn't want much from the market that night. But they still strategized before Sam, 49, went inside.

"My husband wouldn't let me go in," Marie Franklin, 57, recalled. "About four or five guys were hanging around the door."

For her, the scene felt all too familiar in a city where it's getting harder to find a safe place to buy milk.

Missouri Firm With Silicon Valley Ties Faces Medicare Billing Scrutiny

Jul 23, 2019
Healthcare illustration
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

In many ways, Essence Group Holdings Corp. is a homegrown health care success story.

Founded in St. Louis, it has grown into a broader company backed by a major Silicon Valley investor. Essence now boasts Medicare Advantage plans for seniors with some 60,000 members in Missouri and across the Mississippi River in Illinois. It ranks among the city's top 35 privately held companies, according to the St. Louis Business Journal. And market research firm PitchBook Data values the company at over $1.64 billion.

But a recent audit by the federal Health and Human Services inspector general, along with a whistleblower lawsuit, have put the St. Louis health care standout under scrutiny. Medicare officials also are conducting a separate audit of Essence.

What Closing Missouri's Last Abortion Clinic Will Mean For Neighboring States

May 28, 2019
Planned Parenthood supporters marched silently past the organization's Central West End clinic as anti-abortion activists prayed during a 2017 demonstration.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

As the last abortion clinic in Missouri warned that it will have to stop providing the procedure as soon as Friday, abortion providers in surrounding states said they are anticipating an uptick of even more Missouri patients.

At Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois, just 10 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Deputy Director Alison Dreith said Tuesday her clinic was preparing for more patients as news about Missouri spread.

“We’re really scrambling today about the need for increased staff and how fast can we hire and train,” Dreith said.

Why Missouri's The Last Holdout On A Statewide Rx Monitoring Program

May 21, 2019
U.S. map illustration
LYDIA ZURAW | KHN ILLUSTRATION / GETTY IMAGES

Missouri retained its lonely title as the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program — for the seventh year in a row — after the legislative session ended Friday.

Patient advocates, politicians, experts and members of the medical community had hoped this would finally be the year Missouri would create a statewide electronic database designed to help spot the abuse of prescription drugs. After all, Republican Gov. Mike Parson had pushed for it and, more important, its longtime opponent was no longer in office to block it.

Karolyn Schrage, executive director of the Choices Medical Services clinic in Joplin, Mo., says that pregnant women, young men and teens are part of the rapidly growing number of syphilis patients she sees. 4/18/19
Bruce Stidham | KHN

When Karolyn Schrage first heard about the “dominoes gang” in the health clinic she runs in Joplin, Missouri, she assumed it had to do with pizza.

Turns out it was a group of men in their 60s and 70s who held a standing game night — which included sex with one another. They showed up at her clinic infected with syphilis.

That has become Schrage’s new normal. Pregnant women, young men and teens are all part of the rapidly growing number of syphilis patients coming to the Choices Medical Services clinic in the rural southwestern corner of the state. She can barely keep the antibiotic treatment for syphilis, penicillin G benzathine, stocked on her shelves.