Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lawmakers question need for health plan

Some seek enrollment boost for current program

January 18, 2007


Kansas health officials Wednesday pushed for support of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' proposal to expand health care coverage for children, but were asked why thousands of children eligible for current programs weren't in it.

"Before we expand entitlements, we should increase enrollment in existing programs," said Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia. "That would be much cheaper and more efficient."

But health policymakers said enrollment problems have always existed in programs for low-income Kansans and that expanding coverage would probably help get some of those children in the system.

"In terms of policies, this is our No. 1 priority," said Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

The recommendation by Sebelius was trotted out before the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee for an informational hearing.

Sebelius has proposed spending $4 million in state funds to increase the income eligibility limits for people to have their children who are up to 5 years old covered under HealthWave, which is designed to provide low-cost insurance to low-income Kansans.

Under the plan, families earning up to three times the federal poverty limit would pay a sliding scale of premiums for health care coverage for their children.

Three times the federal poverty limit would be up to $49,000 per year for a family of three. Depending on income, premiums would range from $20 per month per family to $150 per month per child.

Officials said they expected the plan to serve 2,000 children in the first year of operation.

But that is below the estimated 15,000 children younger than 5 who are uninsured. Of that number, 10,000 are believed to be eligible for HealthWave or Medicaid, which serves even lower-income Kansans.

Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, asked if it wouldn't make more sense to make sure those who are currently eligible get into the programs.

Andrew Allison, acting Medicaid director, and Nielsen said they planned to work in both areas: expanding eligibility and getting people enrolled through increased marketing and making the process easier.

Allison said there are many reasons why some people do not enroll their children into the health care systems.

Many are swamped with other duties and problems, while others don't want government assistance, he said.

Meanwhile, advocates for children and the uninsured urged passage of the plan.

Cindy D'Ercole, of Kansas Action for Children, said expanding coverage would help children succeed and save money in the long run.

"Children with a medical home are less likely to rely on the emergency room and other costly forms of care," she said.

Karla Finnell, executive director of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, said from 2000 to 2006, wages increased 16 percent, but health insurance premiums increased 78 percent.

"It is simply becoming more and more difficult to afford health care insurance that ensures access to care," she said.


werekoala 11 years, 3 months ago

Um, how about doing both? Promote enrollment AND provide universal coverage for kids under 18.

But it's not really about that - it's about a republican party with marching orders from on high not to encourage any sort of socialized health care, no matter how good of a proposal it is, as it endangers the profits of some of the party's biggest donors. So of course they grasp at straws to find objections - at this point what else do they have?

Heck, the Bush admin even recently denied Medicare/Medicaid the ability to negotiate drug prices with the drug companies. That's right - a way to keep prices down, and save billions of tax dollars a year, te exact same method used by every other public or private organization to lower costs therough volume discounts - all this was abandoned because it might interefere with the drug company's ability to profit off the government. As it stands now, the drug company names the price of a drug, the government pays it, no questions, no attempt to get a better deal.

If you're not livid about this, you haven't been paying attention.

geekin_topekan 11 years, 3 months ago

Quantity,not quality?What kind of proposal is that?

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

Geekin - I never saw anything in the article about "quality". The point they were trying to make is that there is an option out there for some folks and they are not taking advantage of it. Probably because it is not "FREE". When you have to pay (even a small amount) for something and be a little responsibile, it can really become a hassle to investigate into it. Make it free and they will stand in line. As I see it, that's what folks want with universal care anyway?

salad 11 years, 3 months ago

I just want adequate health insurance that doesn't cost $500/month (or more) for a family. Responsible people don't enjoy being screwed by the insurance industry on a regular basis. The market isn't responding, so I think government has to step in and so something. By the people for the people, isn't that right?

salad 11 years, 3 months ago

What, too good to wait in line? That's life, get used to it. I don't think it's morally right that millions of americans are priced out of basic health care. Yeah, we might have to wait in line once in a while. I can deal.

drake 11 years, 3 months ago

Do any of you Socialists ever wonder why we have the best health care in the world? Are we just smarter than every other country in the world?

We have a free market economy with the incentive of huge profits. This and this alone is why almost all new cures for diseases and new drugs are developed right here in the USA.

When is the last time that you saw a new drug developed in your beloved Cananda? England? Australia?

Socialized health care may provide care to everyone but at the expense of quality. Very few doctors are willing to spend up to 15 years in school to get a government job at a government clinic. Why else would millions of Canadians come to the US and pay for healthcare when they could just go to their local quack for free?

Again, take away the incentive and the quality of care will suffer.

bunnyhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

it's oh so easy to sit in your comfy chairs in the legislature and postulate about incremental changes toward universal health coverage when you yourself have all the health insurance you could ever need!!!!!!!!!!!!

marie antoinette was acused of saying of the poor, 'let them eat cake'...........i say it's time to say of our legislators, let them eat the same stale crumbs they and their corporate cronies think the rest of us should eek by on!!!

drake 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey bunny,

Since when is it the Governments responsiblity to provide for you?

JumporFall 11 years, 3 months ago

I have a job. I also have a family. I spend $300 a month just to cover my child. My spouse does not have medical insurance, as I can not afford to have $500 taked out of my pay every month.

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

I can only guess that those that support "socialized medicine" are also okay with the industry being immune to law suits? Malpractice? Tough! If it is going to be governement funded and run, take what you get. You think it is bad now, just wait until the government gets ahold of it. It's time for Harry and Louise to come out of retirement. I still say that many folks can afford healthcare insurance. They just don't make it a priority in their lives. Sacifice something else in your daily lives to pay for it. If you truly can't afford it, there is a program in place for you. It is called Medicaid.

Tom McCune 11 years, 3 months ago

"We" don't have the best health care in the world. Affluent Americans have the best health care in the world. Elderly and destitute Americans have marginal health care through Medicare, Medicade, and related programs. The working poor have zilch. The public health statistics in the US are worse than several other advanced countries.

Lots of new drugs have been developed in Germany and England by companies like Bayer and AstraZeneca.

To all of you:

I hope you never become chronically ill. I hope the laws never change to allow your carrier to screw you like they used to do in the bad old days and would gleefully do again if legal. I hope your insurance company never goes broke. I hope your insurance company never withdraws from the Kansas market because they aren't making enough money here. I hope you never need to get new insurance with a pre-existing condition.

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

I had an insurance company go broke on me and I also had one leave the State of Kansas market. I had to get new insurance with a pre-existing condition too. It can happen. You just gotta go look for it. That is one of the reasons I like BCBS. They took me with a pre-existing condition, called CANCER! I will no doubt remain pretty loyal to those folks because of that.

Adrienne Sanders 11 years, 3 months ago

Eke, you guys. You eke out a living, not eek. Eek is what you yell when you see a mouse.

More to the point- I understand the legislature's point here. I know several folks who work in social services; all have told me that people will call and complain that their benefits have lapsed, when all they had to do to continue them was fill out a form! This includes parents letting their children's free or reduced-cost insurance lapse.
What can you do about neglectful and/or ignorant parents who are elegible for such benefits but don't take advantage of them? Promote enrollment, as mentioned in the article above. That much needs to be done regardless of whether the overall program is expanded.

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