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Archive for Monday, January 5, 2009

Despite high price of legislation, area legislature wants healthcare for working poor to be on agenda

January 5, 2009

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Anthony Brown said the difficulties confronting the Kansas Legislature in the coming session was underscored by a message Republican members received last week from Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal.

“(He) said, ‘Don’t introduce a bill unless you have a good idea it would be worked and passed,’ ” said Brown. That’s because it costs about $4,000 for printing and other expenses related to introducing a bill, the Eudora Republican said.

A state revenue shortfall of $1 billion for the $13 billion 2010 fiscal year budget will limit what the Legislature can do, Brown said.

With Republican committee assignments announced this month, it appears Brown will be in the middle of the action. Brown, who was elected to his third term to the 38th House District seat in November, was appointed to the House Taxation Committee and named chairman of the Financial Institutions Committee.

Brown does plan to introduce at least one piece of legislation this year. The legislation would expand health care coverage to the working poor, or those people who don’t qualify for state assistance but are without employee provided health insurance.

The concept is for insurance companies to provide low-cost insurance for a temporary period of six months to two years for those without health insurance for six months or who have never had insurance, Brown said.

To make the temporary policies affordable, the state wouldn’t require the companies provide all the 30-plus mandated coverage items required of other policies, Brown said. Without identifying which might be relaxed, Brown said examples of mandated coverage items are colon and breast cancer screening.

“The plan is to offer stripped down mandates, not get rid of them all” he said.

The goal is to make available to the working poor a policy that would provide co-payments for basic wellness items like visits to the doctor and for catastrophic illnesses, Brown said. Another goal is to get those buying the policies in the habit of acquiring health insurance once they experienced its benefits, he said.

Brown said he discussed the plan with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, medical professionals and lobbyist to help pave the way in the coming session. All are supportive, he said.

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