Missed opportunities for a healthier Kansas

Topeka Kansas Capitol

The 2016 legislative session thus far has had little or no impact on improving the health of underserved and/or uninsured Kansas citizens.

With Governor Sam Brownback and House Speaker Ray Merrick standing in firm opposition to even discussing Medicaid expansion, Kansas continues on as one of 19 states that has not accepted the millions of dollars available for expansion. Every medical provider group in the state supports expansion and approximately $1 billion has been lost thus far by refusing to find a Kansas solution to providing health insurance for those left in the Obamacare gap.

Speaker Merrick is so afraid of having a full House discussion and vote on Medicaid expansion that he has prevented any and all bills that could possibly be amended to include expansion from coming to the House floor for debate. That alone has shut down the opportunity to move important health-care legislation forward.

Kansans deserve better; allowing the democratic process to proceed is the least our legislative leadership could do. The session has not ended, and although it is unlikely that the Bridge to a Healthy Kansas plan for Medicaid expansion will move forward, we must remain hopeful and vigilant and let our leaders know that this makes sense for the citizens of Kansas.

The House Health and Human Services Committee has passed one bill that is a small attempt to increase care for the uninsured in Kansas. HB 2615 allows one hour of continuing medical education (CME) credit to be given to physicians and dentists for each two hours of care provided to indigent patients. Physicians may claim up to 20 hours of CME, and dentists, up to six hours. The hope is that more providers will provide indigent care if they can get “credit” for it.

While I supported the bill, I do not believe that it will even remotely make up for the failure to expand Medicaid in Kansas.

The most pressing problem facing Kansas today is lack of revenue due to the catastrophic income tax reductions directed by our governor. With continuing missed revenue projections, we are rapidly approaching a negative balance in our State General Fund. Our state constitution does not allow for a negative balance, so resolution is accomplished by the governor making cuts to the current budget.

We have already cut over a billion dollars out of our spending the past few years, and many of you have felt the impact of those decreasing state dollars.

Bottom line: the upcoming elections this August and November are critical. We must get out the vote to elect legislators who will fix this revenue fiasco.

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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.


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