Heartland, KAMU testify for Kancare expansion at the Capitol

Heartland Community Health Center CEO, Jon Stewart, presents his testimony for Kancare expansion in front of the Kansas House Vision 2020 Committee.

Heartland Community Health Center CEO, Jon Stewart, presents his testimony for Kancare expansion in front of the Kansas House Vision 2020 Committee. by Sean Hatch

In what can be seen as a flicker of hope for Kancare expansion in 2015, the Kansas House Vision 2020 Committee has started holding hearings with an eye toward developing a “Kansas solution” to Medicaid expansion. The Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Sloan (R-Lawrence), held its second Kancare expansion hearing on Wednesday, January 21. Representatives from Heartland Community Health Center and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU) were invited to present their testimonies.

Heartland CEO, Jon Stewart, made the case that expanding Kancare, Kansas’ state run Medicaid program, would help reduce unnecessary and expensive emergency room admissions and would be an investment in community health centers, like Heartland.

“Even in a clinic like ours, where there is a sliding fee that makes quality care affordable, uninsured people often avoid seeing a doctor until it’s an emergency. They are afraid of the costs that will come back and be hung on their necks,” Stewart said.

To illustrate this, Stewart told the story of Darla, a single mother of two who works a part-time, minimum wage job to provide for her family. Darla’s kids qualify for Kancare, but under the program’s current regulations, Darla does not. Darla brings her kids to Heartland for their care and her kids’ provider started asking her why she didn’t make an appointment to get the free cancer screenings she needed.

“After our provider continued to urge her to schedule an appointment, she said, ‘Why? What good does it do if I find out I have cancer and I don’t have the money to do anything about it?’” Stewart recalled.

Stewart recognized that some of the resistance from House Republicans is based on a refusal to accept government funding.

“When your neighbor’s house is on fire you need a garden hose. At that point, it’s not time to worry or argue about who owns the garden hose. Right now, there are people in our state who are in desperate need of affordable health care and this investment in Kancare can help extinguish health problems before they rage into fires.”

Denise Cyzman also presented her testimony before the Committee and sought to calm fears about the federal government imposing overly strict regulations on the state if it expanded its Medicaid program.

“What we have learned from experience is that this isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ scenario. By working together, states like Michigan and Iowa created expansion models that were a result of compromise reflecting all perspectives. These are two of the models Kansas can examine as part of the dialogue to create a Kansas solution,” Cyzman said.

Currently Kansas has some of the strictest regulations on Medicaid in the country. According to Cyzman, expanding Kancare could benefit 169,000 Kansans and provide approximately 4,000 jobs by 2020.

“Currently, our citizens are already paying federal taxes for Medicaid expansion. We are, in essence, a donor state, paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, like New York and California; not allowing Kansas to reap any of its benefits,” Cyzman said. “This is our time to give Kansans – hard working Kansans – the healthcare they need and deserve allowing us to strengthen our families, communities, and great state.”

Comments

Layne Moore 2 years, 10 months ago

I support Medicaid expansion and I hope these hearings produce the needed result. It's a process. I also support the efforts of Heartland and KAMU, two organizations that really do work hard for good things in Kansas. Jon Stewart is an eloquent speaker and this cause is better to have him on the front line.

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