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

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.

For Artist Inspired By Illness, ‘Gratitude Outweighs Pain’

After surviving two double lung transplants, Dylan Mortimer, a Kansas City artist, turns his battle with cystic fibrosis into joyous, whimsical art. Now Mortimer buys glitter by the pound and uses it to create mixed-media collages and sculptures for hospitals, private collectors and public spaces.