Archive for Friday, July 22, 2005

More Kansans doing without health insurance

12 percent lack coverage, according to report

July 22, 2005


Beth Bockover found a lump on her breast recently, a discovery that would send most women immediately to a doctor.

But Bockover - like a rising number of Kansans and Douglas Countians - doesn't have health insurance.

Thursday afternoon, she found herself visiting a nurse practitioner at Health Care Access, a Lawrence clinic that provides medical care for those who can't afford it.

"Without this place, I wouldn't do anything about it because I couldn't. I can't afford it," Bockover said of her pending tests and treatment. "And I'm a single mother, so I've got rent, bills and groceries to pay for every month."

A drywall worker and mother of three, Bockover is far from alone. Nikki King, the clinic's director, said Health Care Access was on track to see more than 1,300 individuals this year - up from 907 in 2004.

New figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday also suggest a rise in the number of uninsured local and state residents. The bureau reported that 12.1 percent of Douglas Countians and 12 percent of Kansans lack coverage; both figures were lower than the national average, but higher than previous estimates.

State officials said the report signified the urgency of the health care problem.

Nurse Betsy McCafferty checks Kyle Waddell's blood pressure at Health Care Access, 1920 Moodie Road as a  follow-up to a bout with pneumonia. Waddell is part of the 12.1 percent of people in Douglas County without health insurance.

Nurse Betsy McCafferty checks Kyle Waddell's blood pressure at Health Care Access, 1920 Moodie Road as a follow-up to a bout with pneumonia. Waddell is part of the 12.1 percent of people in Douglas County without health insurance.

"When you've got 300,000 of your citizens who are uninsured and don't have access, that's not acceptable," said Charlene Bailey, a spokeswoman at the Kansas Insurance Department.

Rising numbers

King said a previous study showed less than 10 percent of Douglas and Shawnee countians, combined, lacked health insurance. And a 2001 study by the Kansas Insurance Department suggested that 10.5 percent of state residents were uninsured.

Barbara Langner, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at University of Kansas Hospital, oversaw that state study. She said methodology might account for the discrepancy between her report and the Census estimates.

But she added, "I think the problem is more serious."

Recent surveys of small businesses in Kansas show many are struggling to provide health insurance to employees - and that some workers are getting squeezed out of benefits as a result.

"I think we probably have more uninsured today than we did four years ago when we had the survey," Langner said.

That doesn't surprise King, who sees evidence every day that the number of uninsured local residents is growing.

"We know the population is there, and they do want a quick appointment when they find us," King said.

The new numbers may underestimate the problem. In 2004, an organization called Families USA suggested that 26 percent of Kansans lack health insurance. The organization at the time said the Census estimates count only people who have spent a year without insurance - overlooking those who might lack coverage for just a few months.

Taking action

State officials say they're working to tackle the issue.

Bailey said the insurance department was sponsoring a Health Care Cost Containment Commission to bring health costs under control. On the table: tax incentives to small businesses that provide insurance and streamlined processes for doctors to receive credentials from insurance companies.

"The (vast majority of) people who are uninsured aren't sitting at home," Bailey said. "They're working Kansans - hard-working Kansans."

Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the state was also working to enroll 40,000 children in the Medicaid and Health Wave programs and provide prescription assistance for low-income Kansans, among other efforts.

King said the health care provided by her clinic might help alleviate the problem. Seventy percent of clients, she said, have jobs but can't afford coverage.

"If we can increase our capacity to see more patients, they're going to stay healthy, stay employed," she said, "and maybe get better jobs so they can get better insurance."

Staff writer George Diepenbrock contributed to this report.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Taxpayer funded insurance would be the best solution. Number it would drive economic growth as it would provide incentive for new better paying employers. Number two it would reduce the cost of medical care due to the number of people under one company's umbrella. Number three additional savings would be realized due to reducing the paper work which typically adds about 30% to policy holder = less paper.

Number four with all taxpayers under one policy would create a lucrative buy for any insurance company. This policy could be put up for bid frequently thus keeping cost of coverage reasonable.

LesterBurnham 12 years, 8 months ago

The option from merrill would provide at least some medical benefits to the entire population. However, the quality of healthcare would go down the drain. Canada has systemwide government funded healthcare. Of course to pay for this, Canadians on average pay about 55% income tax, almost twice what Americans pay. In Canada, the good doctors leave and come to the United States since here the market sets the salary, rather than a Canadian government that can't afford the better doctors. You also have to wait for operations years beyond the wait here in the United States. A simple knee tendon surgery that takes a person less than a month here with good insurance, usually takes 2-3 years to get done in Canada since their government healthcare cannot accomodate all citizens quickly.

Of course here in this country if you become disabled when your young or both your parents die of cancer at age 30, then insurance can become quite unaffordable and the better quality healthcare isn't for you.

We probably should have a better system here in the United States, but I don't want it to be like Canada.

For now.. if I plan on being a poor or disabled, I'm going to Canada. Otherwise, I'll stay right here in this country.

Manson 12 years, 8 months ago

I think that free market makes insurance more affordable. If we were to follow canada's policy the tax payer cost is much more than what one would pay here in the US. Back to square one.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Canada could be used as a guideline. We should model coverage close to the same as our federal legislators minus some things such as unecessary cosmetic surgery. Doctors in this country will still make plenty.

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