A Lawrence physician, who is involved in medical politics at the international level, is closely watching how the state handles health insurance.
"It's going to be a contentious issue," said Donald Hatton, 64, who soon will hold a top post with the American College of Physicians. He has been an internist with the Reed Medical Group in Lawrence for 32 years.
"There are 300,000 Kansans that have no insurance and about 46 million nationwide; it is a problem that we need to address," he said.
Hatton in April will become president-elect of the ACP, which represents about 120,000 internal medicine physicians in the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Central America, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
As part of his duties, he helps to form the ACP's national medical policy positions that are presented to Congress and to state legislators.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius came out in favor of universal health care coverage for Kansans last week - a policy that the ACP has favored for some time, Hatton said.
While Sebelius' plan had no specifics, Hatton said the ACP has proposed a seven-year national plan to Congress that gradually brings about new programs that are part of Medicaid, plus tax credits or subsidies that allow certain groups of people to enter insurance pools.
Hatton said he hasn't seen a formal Republican response to Sebelius' call for universal health care.
But Hatton said he expected Kansas GOP legislators to back a proposal similar to a plan proposed by Sen. Jim Barnett, an Emporia physician who ran against Sebelius in the fall.
Barnett's proposal suggested there be a state clearinghouse where people could buy their own health care insurance that could be carried with them if they changed employers, Hatton said.
Hatton said the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which has been in operation since July, could be the agency that helps the state's health coverage issue.
At the national level, Hatton noted that U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., told an audience at Lawrence Memorial Hospital a few months ago that she thought progress toward increasing access to medical care could be done quickly - in about six to nine months.
However, Hatton said he thought a national program would first need to start out with trial, pilot programs before a national system could be put in place.
"If we have something in the next three or four years, I would be pleased," he said.
Hatton said he has been involved in medical organizations and medical politics since he was in medical school at Kansas University.
He has been active in the Kansas Medical Society throughout his career and is still on that group's executive committee.
Two years ago, he was elected governor of the Kansas chapter of the ACP and is currently in the third year of a four-year term. The ACP board of governors meets four times a year in Philadelphia to consider a variety of issues, ranging from consumer health care policy to education requirements for internal medicine physicians, he said.
Hatton said he was honored to become president-elect of that board and will travel to Philadelphia a few times a month. However, he said he will continue his full-time medical practice.
"Most of the time, I will be right here doing what I'm usually doing," he said.
Kansas health insurance
- Health officials say universal coverage plan not pie in sky (01-13-07)
- Sebelius makes universal health coverage a state goal (01-11-07)
- GOP resists governor's health coverage plan (01-03-07)
- Checkup finds Kansas healthier (12-06-06)
- Chat about Douglas County's uninsured with Nikki King (12-04-06)
- Health Care Access sees disturbing patient trend (12-04-06)