Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sebelius makes universal health coverage a state goal

But few specifics offered in State of the State speech

January 11, 2007

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Gov. Kathleen Sebelius acknowledges Marni Vliet, president of the Kansas Health Foundation, during her State of the State speech. Sebelius proposed universal health care for Kansans and a significant expansion of early childhood opportunities in her speech Wednesday in the House of Representatives at the Statehouse in Topeka. Pictured behind Sebelius is Steve Morris, Senate president.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius acknowledges Marni Vliet, president of the Kansas Health Foundation, during her State of the State speech. Sebelius proposed universal health care for Kansans and a significant expansion of early childhood opportunities in her speech Wednesday in the House of Representatives at the Statehouse in Topeka. Pictured behind Sebelius is Steve Morris, Senate president.

— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday set a bold destination - providing health care for every Kansan - but no road map on how to get there.

"We must commit ourselves to the goal that all Kansans will have health insurance, and we must begin now," Sebelius said in her State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature.

But the Democrat starting her second four-year term provided no timeline nor details on achieving universal health care.

Sebelius also pushed for renewable energy, business tax cuts and increased preschool programs, and she voiced concern about global warming.

"Kansas can be a leader in setting a new course and making a new commitment," she said.

Republican leaders said they were ready to deal with Sebelius, but generally said her speech lacked specifics.

On the issue of providing universal health care, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said: "That may be irrational. I don't think that is anything that Kansas wants."

Universal health care

Approximately 300,000 Kansans, nearly one in 10, have no health insurance. And studies show health costs have increased five times faster than wages in the past six years.

"That's having a huge impact on Kansas families," Sebelius said.

She said she will recommend funds to provide health coverage for all children up through age 5 and to provide home-based services for needy Kansans on waiting lists.

But, she added, "It's time to go further."

She said lawmakers, health officials, she and the public need to work together to "achieve universal coverage."

Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, who is serving on a health care task force, said the state must improve its health care system, but he doubted coverage for everyone could be attained in the short term.

"Maybe that's a worthy goal, but it's certainly not something that will happen overnight," Pine said.

"There are other things we can do, like making sure senior citizens can stay in their homes as long as they can," he said.

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said universal health care should be considered a long-term goal that will require work by the newly formed Kansas Health Policy Authority.

"I'm not expecting anything big on health care for a couple of years. There are certainly some things we can do in terms of children zero to 5," he said.

In her bid, Sebelius puts Kansas among many states trying to come up with ways to reduce health care costs and increase coverage.

On Monday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a sweeping plan to cover California's 6.5 million uninsured. And Massachusetts recently approved a universal health care plan.

2007 State of the State address

49abcnews video: Governor Kathleen Sebelius' 2007 State of the State address. Enlarge video

Energy proposals

On energy, Sebelius set targets, calling for a 20 percent reduction in electric consumption and an increase in wind generation of 20 percent by 2020.

She announced signing an executive order to make state government, including regents universities, more energy efficient.

She said she will promote wind energy by recommending funds for transmission lines to move electricity from wind farms to customers.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, one of the energy experts in the Legislature, said Sebelius' comments sounded good but lacked substance.

"There was not necessarily a lot of information," Sloan said.

On one hand, she called on Congress to reduce climate changing emissions, but on the other failed to endorse clean coal-burning technologies in Kansas, he said.

Deferred maintenance

Sebelius also touched on numerous other issues confronting the state.

By the end of the month she said she will provide a multiyear plan to address the $727 million worth of repairs at state colleges and universities.

She said she will recommend a "significant" increase in scholarships to help students with tuition.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, left, applauds Attorney General Paul Morrison, right, with Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh during Morrison's introduction. The three were in attendance Wednesday for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' State of the State speech.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, left, applauds Attorney General Paul Morrison, right, with Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh during Morrison's introduction. The three were in attendance Wednesday for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' State of the State speech.

Sebelius also proposed an office of rural opportunity to spur development in rural areas.

"There is no reason for the future of rural Kansas to be one of faded signs and empty storefronts," she said.

She said assets at Kansas University, Kansas State University and other institutions make the state "well-positioned to become a leader in bioscience research."

For their part, Republicans, who hold sizable majorities in the House and Senate, listened to Sebelius but said they have their own ideas, too.

"We want to listen and be open-minded, but we Republicans are not content to sit quietly and wait; we have moved to action," said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

Senate Republicans have moved to lock in the final year of the $466 million, three-year school funding increase and organized several task forces to address a number of issues, including public schools, health care, higher education and energy.

Morris said the caucus will come up with proposals to:

¢ Enhance preschool programs and math and science education;

¢ Address repair projects at college campuses and relieve the burden of higher tuition;

¢ Formulate an energy policy and increase production of renewable fuels;

¢ Establish an "animal health corridor";

¢ Increase access to affordable health care.

Comments

Mr_Missive 9 years, 4 months ago

If you like FEMA and the Postal "Service" you will love government controlled Health Care.

KS 9 years, 4 months ago

Way to go Kathy! And just who do you think is going to pay for this healthcare?

Cool - Where do you plan to get your energy?

samsnewplace 9 years, 4 months ago

It's a wonderful idea but funding is the issue here.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

"On energy, Sebelius set targets, calling for a 20 percent reduction in electric consumption and an increase in wind generation of 20 percent by 2020."

A 30% reduction (considering easily half our electricity is wasted now) in consumption, and a 1000% increase in wind generation would indicate a better understanding of our economic and climatic realities.

Phillbert 9 years, 4 months ago

When it comes to efficiency, the health insurance industry makes FEMA look like a well-oiled machine.

preebo 9 years, 4 months ago

I am hopeful that she will follow the plans she set forth last night. If we are able to pursue the goals and reach certain measures in the next few years, Kansas could be on pace with states like Massachusetts and California in terms of progressive state operations. Here's to the next four years, Madam Governor, may they be as bright as possible.

Centrist 9 years, 4 months ago

What Sebelius is proposing is merely a "safety net" approach to insurance for kids aged 0-5. All it means is that they will have some sort of insurance coverage and benefits. It does not mean "government controlled healthcare".

What is so great about the "private" system we have now? It SUCKS!!

I don't know of any other product or service industry in which you don't know what you're going to pay until the end, or can't at least get a quote, or an idea. The health care 'system' we have now is atrocious; it's more about GREED every step of the way by 'professionals' who can charge whatever they like without recourse. If you don't pay your bill, it goes to collections, simple as that. But they can charge what they like!

The health care 'industry' needs to become a health care 'service' - and at state level, all it will mean is more assistance to those who need it. Simple.

As someone who has lived overseas and has experienced the 'safety net' approach on many levels, I applaud Gov Sebelius for actually giving a damn, unlike most of the private sector who just want to make a bunch of cash on the misery of others.

And NO, I'm not a 'liberal' ... so don't start! :)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

"It's a wonderful idea but funding is the issue here."

We spend way more on healthcare (or more accurately the industry that sucks money out of it) than any other country in the world. Funding is not an issue-- the political will to take this cash cow out of the hands of a very corrupt insurance industry is the issue.

Centrist 9 years, 4 months ago

bozo .... please back up your statement that the U.S. spends more per capita on healthcare than anyone else.

I think if you look at figures from other parts of the world, you will be greatly surprised.

Jamesaust 9 years, 4 months ago

Centrist -

The data is available everywhere. Here, for example (summarized in Exh. 1): http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/chcm010307oth.cfm I thought everyone already knew this. No wonder its so easy for demagogues to pull the wool over so many eyes.

Of course, what implications one gets from this data varies considerably. For some, it is an indictment of "a very corrupt insurance industry" (somehow). For others, a predictable consequence of a (relatively) young, free nation that provides medical innovation to the rest of the world.

There's no argument, however, that health care in the U.S. is extraordinarily inefficient and is provided unevenly. But (a) what's the cure, and (b) is the cure worse than the disease? Hmmm.....first, do no harm.

Phillbert 9 years, 4 months ago

Health Spending in the United States and the Rest of the Industrialized World http://www.cmwf.org/publications/publications_show.htm?doc_id=283969

"The latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which compare trends among 30 industrialized countries, show that the U.S. spent $5,267 per capita on health care in 2002 - 53 percent more than any other country."

The study described in the article shows that the principal factor for the disparity in U.S. health costs compared to other industrialized nations is the higher price of medical treatments here, despite the fact that we don't get a higher level of service.

Higher incomes are a factor, but high prices here are not because other countries have waiting lists for care (only some do for some services) and the U.S. doesn't, or because of malpractice insurance costs in the U.S.

Are you greatly surprised now?

Jamesaust 9 years, 4 months ago

I should note that the problem with government involvement in the decisions lies right there in this story -- competing demands for money for infant health care and in-home care for the (often) elderly.

Unfortunately for the babies, they don't vote! [Lazy, apathetic babies.]

And as with any urge to "control costs" denial of medical treatment is unavoidable. The "balancing" of these two competing demands (one a necessity, the other a preference) will therefore be POLITICAL not MEDICAL. And the premise of socialized medicine - that only government can be the neutral "Decider" - will be undermined.

Crispian Paul 9 years, 4 months ago

I say Good for her. In other industrialized countries with universal healthcare, there is more preventtaive healthcare, fewer emergency room visits and less work and school absenteeism....

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