Kaiser Health News covers health care in the Midwest out of our bureau in St. Louis.

The Nation’s 5,000 Outpatient Surgery Centers Could Help With The COVID-19 Overflow

A coalition of anesthesiologists wants to repurpose the country’s more than 5,000 surgery centers to serve as emergency overflow amid the coronavirus pandemic. The centers have trained medical staff largely sitting idle, anesthesia machines that could be turned into ventilators, and empty medical space. But obstacles such as federal payment rules, logistics and some skepticism are getting in the way.

Looking For Answers After Coronavirus Contact? Welcome To The Gray Zone

The COVID-19 outbreak has spawned confusion among health officials, doctors and the public, especially for people who fall into the gray area for testing and deciding whether they need to quarantine themselves. Where to turn for answers about isolation and quarantine varies by locale. All this means agencies are sometimes delaying needed advice and giving people incorrect information.

Listen: How Paramedical Tattoos Provide Healing

KHN Midwest correspondent Cara Anthony spoke with “The 21st” host Jenna Dooley about an Illinois tattoo artist who is changing lives by inking nails on finger amputees, mocking up belly buttons after tummy tucks and fleshing out lips after dog attacks.

Five Years Later, HIV-Hit Town Rebounds. But The Nation Is Slow To Heed Lessons.

In February 2015, an unprecedented HIV outbreak fueled by intravenous drug use hit the small city of Austin, Indiana. Under pressure, then-Gov. Mike Pence reluctantly allowed a syringe exchange. Five years later, HIV is undetectable in most of the outbreak patients. Still, the lessons haven’t been learned nationwide. Fewer than a third of the 220 counties deemed by the federal government as vulnerable to similar outbreaks have active syringe-exchange programs.

Ink Rx? Welcome To The Camouflaged World Of Paramedical Tattoos

Doctors specialize in the science of healing, but tattoo artist Eric Catalano specializes in the art of it. The single father of three does up to eight reconstructive medical tattoos for free each “Wellness Wednesday” in his small Illinois shop, drawing in nails on finger amputees, mocking up belly buttons after tummy tucks and fleshing out lips on a woman mauled by a dog.

Conservative Indiana Adopted Needle Exchanges But Still Faces Local Resistance

Indiana was ground zero for shifting ideas about needle exchanges after a small town had an HIV outbreak in 2015 brought on by needle-sharing. But even as other parts of the country start to embrace needle exchanges amid the ongoing opioid epidemic, the sites remain controversial in Indiana. Only nine of the state’s 92 counties have them, after a series of closures and reopenings.

Patients Stuck With Bills After Insurers Don’t Pay As Promised

Insurance companies often require patients to have medical procedures, devices, tests and even some medicines preapproved to ensure the insurers are willing to cover the costs. But that doesn’t guarantee they’ll end up paying. Some patients are getting stuck with unexpected bills after the medical service has been provided.