Sebelius pleased with health package

Recommendations include cigarette tax, smoking ban, family insurance

? Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Friday she was “very enthusiastic” about a $160 million health care reform package.

And she said the 21 recommendations – including a 50-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, a statewide ban on smoking in public places and family health insurance for children until age 25 – from state health officials should be considered together instead of individually.

“We focus on prevention and wellness,” Sebelius said. “We also look at expanding coverage for Kansans, and we fundamentally begin to transform the system with health information and health technology.

“Picking and choosing will not be nearly as effective as trying to launch it all simultaneously,” she said.

On Nov. 1, the Kansas Health Policy Authority delivered a long-awaited report to Sebelius and lawmakers.

The report recommended options to promote personal responsibility, pay for preventative health care, and expand health insurance coverage. Kansas has nearly 300,000 uninsured residents.

“Enacting these recommendations will transform the Kansas health system, lower costs and make Kansas a healthier state,” said KHPA executive director Marci Nielsen.

The recommendations have met mixed reviews from lawmakers, some of whom have complained that the sheer number of proposals weighs the package down and opens it up for attack on numerous fronts.

But Sebelius said she considered the proposal a comprehensive strategy.

“Do you want to stay healthy or do you want to get healthy? Do you want your kids to be better, do you want electronic records – those to me aren’t either or. You really have to do them all simultaneously,” she said.