Sarah Fentem

Sarah Fentem reports on sickness and health as part of St. Louis Public Radio’s news team. She previously spent five years reporting for different NPR stations in Indiana, immersing herself deep, deep into an insurance policy beat from which she may never fully recover. A longitme NPR listener, she grew up hearing WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, which is now owned by STLPR. She lives in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, and in her spare time likes to watch old sitcoms, meticulously clean and organize her home and go on outdoor adventures with her fiancé Elliot. She has a cat, Lil Rock, and a dog, Ginger.

The number of people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program reached a five-year low in December, falling to 846,554. That’s 130,000 fewer people — including 100,000 children — on the rolls since January 2018.

Democratic lawmakers and other critics said the large drop in enrollment is a sign that the state agency in charge of administering the program is culling people unfairly and leaving them without needed medical services.

Missouri had the highest increase in the rate of uninsured children in the nation over the two-year period that ended in 2018, according to a study from Georgetown University. 

In 2018, 5.3% of Missouri children under age 6 were uninsured, up from 3.6% two years earlier. Nationwide, uninsured rates in that age group rose to more than 4%.

Not having health coverage could have severe consequences for young children, pediatricians said. Without health insurance, kids miss doctor’s appointments that can identify health problems and provide preventative care such as vaccinations.

The petition to put a Medicaid expansion in Missouri to a statewide vote has garnered more than 25% of the needed signatures to place the measure on the November 2020 ballot, according to campaign officials.

The effort to extend eligibility for the state-sponsored health insurance program to those making up to $18,000 a year also has received support from several high-profile state organizations, including Washington University and BJC HealthCare.

People in rural areas have more unnecessary hospital visits and are more likely to die from chronic conditions than people in cities because they have little access to specialists, according to a study by St. Louis researchers.

Researchers from St. Louis University, Washington University and Harvard studied nationwide survey and claims data from thousands of Medicare patients with chronic conditions.

The chief doctor at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic testified during a high-profile regulatory hearing on Wednesday that the abortions performed there are safe and that the facility has an above-average record of successful procedures.

State health officials earlier this year decided not to renew the license for Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic, citing concerns about patient safety.

The four instances of patient care that caused state regulators alarm were in line with acceptable legal and medical standards of care, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services. The clinic performs thousands of procedures a year, she said. 

Pages