Archive for Monday, June 4, 2007

State takes pulse of health care

Major reforms to control costs due this year

June 4, 2007


— A small army of politicians, policymakers, advisory boards and representatives of special interest groups is maneuvering to produce a major state health care reform package by Nov. 1.

By the numbers

Here are some statistics from a Demographic Survey of Uninsured Kansans, which was conducted by Barb Langner:¢ Percent of Kansans who do not have health insurance: 10.5 percent.¢ Percent of Douglas County residents who do not have health insurance: 9.3 percent.¢ Largest age group of Kansans without health insurance: 19- to 24-year-olds; 19.8 percent don't have coverage.¢ Largest percentage of uninsured Kansans by race or ethnicity: Hispanic; 26 percent don't have coverage.¢ Percent of employed Kansans who report their employer offers health insurance coverage: 80.6 percent.

"It will be the leading issue of the coming legislative session," said state Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, a physician and chairman of a legislative committee that oversees the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

As in other states across the nation, Kansas officials are trying to get a handle on the growing numbers of uninsured - totaling approximately 290,000 in Kansas, or 10.5 percent of the state's population - and skyrocketing health care costs.

Proposed solutions span the entire political spectrum from privatizing current government programs to putting government in charge of providing most health coverage.

Up to this point, Kansas lawmakers and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius have voted unanimously to establish the Kansas Health Policy Authority and embark on a path toward making insurance more affordable and available for Kansans.

But Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, noted at a meeting last week, "It's going to start getting harder."

Nielsen said Kansans will need to take more responsibility for their own health care through lifestyle changes.

"Obesity and tobacco control are clearly at the top of the list," she said.

But if Kansans are required to be more responsible, she said, the government needs to provide them with more information so consumers can essentially comparison shop for the most cost-effective treatment and insurance.

"It's important for people to have skin in the game," she said.

Barnett said any health reform package must address the increasing costs of care caused by doctors practicing "defensive medicine" to avoid lawsuits.

"We're still skirting the nitty-gritty of what's driving costs," he said.

And House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said he has heard concerns from insurance agents that their interests are not represented on the various advisory councils working on the plan.

He said the insurers think the advisory groups were selected "to get a certain result."

But Nielsen said the Health Policy Authority was getting input from all stakeholders.


DaveR 10 years, 7 months ago

Having tried various health modalities over the years, i find that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to be superior to the primitive pills & surgery docs. And cheaper. Problem is, these people are still extremely rare. Alternative medicine is coming, one way or another. It would be useful to encourage TCM.

lawrencian4change 10 years, 7 months ago

Unless completely taken out of context, Ms. Nielsen's remark about Kansans needing to take more responsibility for their health care is offensive. My family is the pillar of good health, but we still can't afford any kind of health insurance. Policies must change. Why should my healthly family be subject to extremely high premiums to help pay for the costs of individuals who are chronically ill? Why would I be "pooled" into that group? The policy does not make sense.

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