Archive for Sunday, March 18, 2007

Health leaders: Too many are uninsured

March 18, 2007


Fear, illiteracy, the stress of poverty.

For years, politicians and policymakers have talked about the need to expand health coverage to those who are uninsured.

But for years, there have been programs in place for low-income Kansans that provide free or low-cost health care, and yet thousands of people who are eligible for those programs don't sign up for them.

Last week, legislators asked workers on the front line of delivering health care to the poor, why?

Krista Postai, chief executive officer of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, a clinic in Pittsburg, said it takes a lot of effort. "One person, one child at a time ... that's how it's done."

State health leaders say there are an estimated 40,000 Kansas children who are uninsured and potentially eligible for Medicaid or HealthWave, the state's health plans for low-income people.

"That's too high," said Andrew Allison, deputy director and acting Medicaid director. "We feel we can do better than that."

Getting those children in a health plan with routine medical care will save money by reducing emergency room care, health officials said.

But Postai said enrolling applicants is often difficult.

She said the paperwork necessary to get HealthWave or Medicaid is often confusing. The rules change. Sometimes the adults in the family are illiterate.

Because poor families frequently move, they may not receive their renewal forms.

And, she said, new federal rules requiring proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate, have created obstacles.

At her clinic, she said, a recent retiree from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has volunteered and handles each application on a personal basis.

"Basically, she just chases them," Postai said, adding that giving a person a slick brochure about a program won't accomplish the task.

In two months, this volunteer went through 131 patients and so far has gotten 46 covered by HealthWave or Medicaid, Postai said.

Postai said she intends to use "every trick I learned from timeshare salesmen in Branson" to get children enrolled for health care.

Pat Cameron, with Inter-Faith Ministries of Wichita, said there are other programs that many low-income people are eligible for and don't take advantage of.

Cameron said only 57 percent of eligible Kansans apply for and receive food stamps, and about 15 percent eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit do not apply for it.

Cameron's group will launch the Kansas Benefit Bank later this year that will help people apply for benefits, including health care.

Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, said the agency has requested about $1.2 million for outreach programs. She lauded local programs that have provided personal assistance with the enrollment process.

Meanwhile, Postai said she lives in fear that children who could receive free or low-cost health care don't because their parents don't know it's available.

"I never want to wake up and read a child died in Pittsburg, Kansas, because his family couldn't afford health care," she said.

How medicaid and healthwave work

Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (in Kansas, it is called HealthWave) are federal- and state-funded programs that provide health care.Medicaid provides health and long-term coverage to low-income children, their parents, elderly and people with disabilities.For example, infants living in families with an income up to 150 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free health care. That annual income level would be $24,900 or less for a family of three.HealthWave is available to Kansas children who are not eligible for Medicaid and live in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty limit, which is $33,200 annually for a family of three.There is a fee to purchase HealthWave coverage.In Kansas, there are about 145,000 Medicaid beneficiaries and about 35,000 HealthWave beneficiaries.People wanting information about Medicaid and HealthWave can call (800) 792-4884.The Web site for the programs is application can be found at: mailing address is P.O. Box 3599, Topeka 66601, and the fax number is (800) 498-1255.


skinny 10 years, 11 months ago

I think the main issue here is if you can not afford health insurance for your children, you should not be having them!

Staci Dark Simpson 10 years, 11 months ago

No insurance for people like us either. We make too much to qualify. My husband makes ok money but works for a small business whose insurance costs are outrageous. $1000/mth for our family. I could buy a second home with that money. Luckily I have enough to pay for Dr visits but if something catastrophic happened I guess we would just have to die. I have researched many insurance companies and they are either expensive or don't provide decent coverage for the price. Somebody needs to do something because a lot of middle class that fall above poverty levels don't have insurance either.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

The public education system should teach that health insurance is one of the basic requirements of adulthood with the same fervor it advocates the use of condoms and birth control.

Buying health insurance should come right after rent and well before a new car, HD TV, iPods, cell phones, cable, internet, and beer.

An 18 year old can purchase a very good health plan for less than $50 per month.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

cool, the medical information bureau has been in existence at least 40 years.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

I do not believe the government should provide health insurance for anyone, for free, unless it provides health insurance for everyone, for free.

Of course, it won't be free. It will just be hidden in your taxes, and will ultimately cost twice what it would have if done privately.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 11 months ago

Health insurance could be provided for EVERYONE in this country for less money than we are currently spending for a system that leaves at least 1/3 of the population either totally or inadequately covered.

"Of course, it won't be free. It will just be hidden in your taxes, and will ultimately cost twice what it would have if done privately."

Of course it wouldn't be free. But the system we currently have has myriad hidden costs, and is obscenely expensive, in more ways that just monetarily. And while your taxes would go up, for most people, they would merely be replacing the current expenditures on health insurance premiums, and for most people, the net expense would go down, not up.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

Bozo, I look back over several decades at the performance of FEMA, the VA, the failure to maintain public buildings, the gluttony of public institutions of higher education, the waste in the Dept of Defense, the waste in the Dept of Education, the waste in government at each and every turn, and for the life of me cannot see any hope that government could do a good job as the sole provider of health care for this nation.

Before the government promises to pay for every citizen's health care, the government should find a way to curb the cost of health care. This means reigning in the health care providers and pharmaceutical companies. If that could be done, perhaps ordinary citizens could afford to pay their own way.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 11 months ago

In almost every instance you cited above of government incompetence, the main culprits are a combination of corruption fueled by privatization/corporate partnerships and things like no-bid contracts and revolving doors between corporations and their regulators; and the willful sabotage of those organizations (FEMA is a good example) by ideologues wishing to destroy government institutions. The current private healthcare system certainly illustrates well that the private sector is not immune to gluttony and waste.

"This means reigning in the health care providers and pharmaceutical companies."

This, of course, should be the main intent in any revamping of the healthcare system. And if we want good government, no matter its size and scope, it'll mean that voters need to begin paying much closer attention to those they elect, and the actions that they take.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

If government funded health care systems were the answer, then all of us in Lawrence would be able to receive low cost care from Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Instead, our taxpayer supported hospital is leveraging its budget surplus to expand and upgrade to luxury status. Why? Because its leaders claim there are not enough patients in Douglas County to use the services it already offers, so the hospital needs to distinguish itself from the competition in order to attract more customers.

There are plenty of sick people in Douglas County, certainly enough to fill the hospital. The problem is, many of them cannot afford to go there.

More government bureaucracy is not the solution to the out of control health care system.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, Pogo, I concur with your comments, as well.

I can't decide whether to laugh or cry when I see government employees compare themselves to other government employees when demanding to be paid more, as if that is any measure of worth.

mom_of_three 10 years, 11 months ago

"I think the main issue here is if you can not afford health insurance for your children, you should not be having them!"

My sister had health insurance when her kids were born. But due to divorce and deadbeat dads and some bad job luck, she had trouble with health insurance for the kids. But luckily the kids qualify for the Kansas healthwave coverage. It isn't the greatest, but it's better than nothing.

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

"Posted by skinny (anonymous) on March 18, 2007 at 9:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think the main issue here is if you can not afford health insurance for your children, you should not be having them!"

That was sarcasm, right?

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

Free advice to young adults: Purchase your own health insurance the day you are no longer considered a dependent on your parents' employer group health insurance plan. Keep it in place, always; if your employer offers health insurance, decline to participate.

Do not become a slave to your employer for health insurance. When your children are born, purchase health insurance for them. Do not rely on your employer to provide your children with access to health care. Look out for yourself, and your own.

In the health insurance market place as it stands in the USA, dependence upon employer provided health insurance is another form of slavery.

Avoid it at all costs.

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