‘No Mercy’ Explores the Fallout After a Small Town Loses Its Hospital

‘No Mercy’ Explores the Fallout After a Small Town Loses Its Hospital

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Midwesterners aren’t known for complaining. But after Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed, hardship trickled down to people whose lives were already hard. In Chapter 1, we meet Pat Wheeler, who has emphysema. Her husband, Ralph, has end-stage kidney failure, and the couple are barely making ends meet as they raise their teenage grandson. Pat is angry with hospital executives who she said yanked a lifeline from residents. “I don’t understand how they can just so blatantly close the hospital. I mean, I understand dollars and cents,” Wheeler said. “But at the same token, where’s the humanity? You know, what are people like us supposed to do?” she said.
Many others felt the same. Fort Scott City Manager Dave Martin felt betrayed. And former, longtime hospital worker Roxine Poznich said: “You just don’t know the pain that the employees were in — not just for themselves, but for the community. I mean, there were lots and lots of tears that I saw. And it was just very sad because those people, they were my family,” she said.
Each season, “Where It Hurts” takes you somewhere new — to an overlooked part of the country to explore cracks in the American health system that leave people frustrated — and without the care they need.
The story begins in Fort Scott, Kansas. Rural. Deeply Christian. And sicker than other parts of the state. When Mercy Hospital shut its doors, the town’s sense of identity wavered. Season One “No Mercy” is about the people who remain, surviving the best way they know how. Host and investigative journalist Sarah Jane Tribble spent more than a year revisiting southeastern Kansas, where she grew up, to document the sparking tensions, anger and fear many people felt as they struggled to come to terms with the hospital’s closure.
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“Where It Hurts” is a podcast collaboration between KHN and St. Louis Public Radio. Season One extends the storytelling from Sarah Jane Tribble’s award-winning series, “No Mercy.”
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Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.USE OUR CONTENTThis story can be republished for free (details).

It’s a tried-and-true campaign strategy. Candidates go on the attack, claiming their opponent will do harm to Medicare. After all, people 65 and older are good about making it to the polls on Election Day. These voters are also generally motivated to protect the federal health insurance program for seniors. It’s no surprise, then, that in an ad released this month, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign played the Medicare card.
Molly Wiese estaba perpleja. Sus padres y hermanos viven en el sur de California, y Wiese, abogada de 35 años, ha viajado cada Navidad desde que se mudó a Minnesota en 2007. Por la pandemia, Wiese pensó que esta vez sería más prudente quedarse. Pero en junio, el padre de Wiese fue diagnosticado con cáncer en estadio 4 y la familia teme que éstas sean sus últimas fiestas. ¿Debería volar con su esposo y sus dos hijos pequeños a California, poniendo a su padre inmunodeprimido en riesgo de COVID-19? ¿O quedarse en casa y perderse la oportunidad de crear recuerdos de estas fiestas?
During the final presidential debate, President Donald Trump claimed that 180 million people would lose their private health insurance to socialized medicine if the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, is elected president. “They have 180 million people, families under what he wants to do, which will basically be socialized medicine — you won’t even have a choice — they want to terminate 180 million plans,” said Trump.
In the second and final debate of the 2020 presidential race, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sparred over Trump’s handling of the pandemic and Biden’s plan to reform health care. In stark contrast to the first debate, there was more policy talk. There was also less interrupting. Trump said a COVID-19 vaccine is “ready” and will be announced “within weeks,” shortly before conceding that it is “not a guarantee.” Biden said Trump still has no comprehensive plan to deal with the pandemic, even as case counts continue to climb. “We’re about to go into a dark winter, and...
COVID-19 cases are surging in rural places across the Mountain States and Midwest, and when it hits health care workers, ready reinforcements aren’t easy to find. In Montana, pandemic-induced staffing shortages have shuttered a clinic in the state’s capital, led a northwestern regional hospital to ask employees exposed to COVID-19 to continue to work and emptied a health department 400 miles to the east.
Molly Wiese was truly stumped. Her parents and siblings live in Southern California, and Wiese, a 35-year-old lawyer, has returned home every Christmas since she moved to Minnesota in 2007. Because of the pandemic, Wiese thought it would be wiser to stay put for once. But in June, Wiese’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and they feared this could be his final holiday season. Should she fly with her husband and two young sons to California, putting her immunocompromised father at risk of COVID-19? Or stay home and miss out on making treasured holiday memories with her parents and...
KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner discussed the impact of the election and the upcoming Supreme Court challenge on the Affordable Care Act with New Hampshire Public Radio’s “The Exchange” and WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” on Wednesday. Rovner also spoke with Newsy’s “Morning Rush” on Thursday about the roles of health care and COVID-19 in the presidential campaign.
This story also ran on Fortune. It can be republished for free.
Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud. For the first time in a long time, there is some good news about the coronavirus pandemic: Although cases continue to climb, fewer people seem to be dying. And there are fewer cases than expected among younger pupils in schools with in-person learning. But the bad news continues as well — including a push for “herd immunity” that could result in the deaths of millions of Americans.
Frente a una pandemia, un desempleo sin precedentes y unos costos inciertos para los tratamientos de COVID-19, las aseguradoras que venden planes médicos en los mercados establecidos por la Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio (ACA) reaccionaron, en general, con sólo aumentos modestos de las primas para 2021. “Lo que resulta fascinante es que las aseguradoras, en general, no proyectan el impacto de la pandemia en sus primas para 2021”, dijo Sabrina Corlette, profesora del Centro de Reformas de Seguros de Salud de la Universidad de Georgetown, en Washington, D.C
Si realmente queremos detener la propagación del coronavirus a medida que se acerca el invierno y esperamos una vacuna, aquí una idea: el gobierno debería pagar a los bares, y a muchos restaurantes y lugares de eventos, para que cierren durante algunos meses. Puede sonar radical, pero tiene sentido científico e incluso tiene un precedente político. Pagamos a los agricultores para que no cultiven algunos campos (en teoría, para proteger el medio ambiente), así que ¿por qué no compensar a los propietarios para que cierren sus negocios para proteger la salud pública?
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In an election year dominated by a chaotic presidential race and splashy statewide ballot initiative campaigns, Californians are being asked to weigh in on the value of stem cell research — again. Proposition 14 would authorize the state to borrow $5.5 billion to keep financing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), currently the second-largest funder of stem cell research in the world. Factoring in interest payments, the measure could cost the state roughly $7.8 billion over about 30 years, according to an estimate from the nonpartisan state...
If we really want to stem the spread of the coronavirus as winter looms and we wait for a vaccine, here’s an idea: The government should pay bars, many restaurants and event venues to close for some months. That may sound radical, but it makes scientific sense and even has a political precedent. We pay farmers not to cultivate some fields (in theory, at least, to protect the environment), so why not compensate owners to shut their indoor venues (to protect public health)?
Facing a pandemic, record unemployment and unknown future costs for COVID-19 treatments, health insurers selling Affordable Care Act plans to individuals reacted by lowering rates in some areas and, overall, issuing only modest premium increases for 2021. “What’s been fascinating is that carriers in general are not projecting much impact from the pandemic for their 2021 premium rates,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Although final rates have yet to be analyzed in all states, those who study the...
If Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, health is likely to play a high-profile role in his agenda. Just probably not in the way he or anyone else might have predicted. Barring something truly unforeseen, it’s fairly certain that on Jan. 20 the U.S. will still be in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic — and the economic dislocation it has caused. Coincidentally, that would put a new President Biden in much the same place as President Barack Obama at his inauguration in 2009: a Democratic administration replacing a Republican one in the midst of a national crisis.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed to have saved 2 million lives from COVID-19 through his actions to combat the disease. Recently, he made the assertion during the NBC News town hall on Oct. 15 that replaced the second presidential debate. “But we were expected to lose, if you look at the original charts from original doctors who are respected by everybody, 2,200,000 people,” Trump said. “We saved 2 million people,” he added.
Donella Pogue has trouble finding dentists in her rural area willing to accommodate her 21-year-old son, Justin, who is 6 feet, 8 inches tall, is on the autism spectrum and has difficulty sitting still when touched. And this summer, he had a cavity and his face swelled. Pogue, of Bristol, New York, reached out to the Eastman Institute for Oral Health in Rochester, which offers teledentistry. Dr. Adela Planerova looked into his mouth from 28 miles away as Pogue pointed her laptop’s camera into her son’s mouth. Planerova determined they did not need to make an emergency one-hour drive to her...
In mid-March, Karla Monterroso flew home to Alameda, California, after a hiking trip in Utah’s Zion National Park. Four days later, she began to develop a bad, dry cough. Her lungs felt sticky. The fevers that persisted for the next nine weeks grew so high — 100.4, 101.2, 101.7, 102.3 — that, on the worst night, she was in the shower on all fours, ice-cold water running down her back, willing her temperature to go down. “That night I had written down in a journal, letters to everyone I’m close to, the things I wanted them to know in case I died,” she remembered.
Journalists from KHN and the Guardian have identified 1,318 workers who reportedly died of complications from COVID-19 they contracted on the job. Reporters are working to confirm the cause of death and workplace conditions in each case. They are also writing about the people behind the statistics — their personalities, passions and quirks — and telling the story of every life lost. Explore the new interactive tool tracking those health worker deaths.
Just 15 days ahead of the election, Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney laid out his ideas on how he’d handle the COVID-19 pandemic if elected governor. Details were few, but the Democrat’s plan became one of only a handful being offered by candidates in the 11 U.S. governor’s races about how they’ll approach what’s certain to be the dominant issue of their terms, should they win.

 

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