Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2008

Healthcare challenges ahead

June 5, 2008

In recalling our hopes for the 2008 legislative session, health care reform kindled fond thoughts. Kansas was poised to move to the front of the health reform pack - or so we thought.

This optimism was a direct result of the 2007 session, in which the Legislature voted unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 11, a bill to create the Premium Assistance Program. Premium Assistance, not really all that revolutionary in nature, would have helped about 24,000 currently uninsured people if it had been enacted.

Few taxpayers know that the citizens of Kansas paid about $1 million in design costs for this program; a program that will now be delegated to the legislative scrap heap, another indication of benign neglect towards the poorest of the poor Kansans.

Let's face it. Most people would agree that our current health care system is an expensive, bureaucratic mess. But one thing is certain; Kansas cannot sustain this structurally flawed system for many more years. Getting a handle on health care costs, quality of services and access to care is the key to preserving a competitive edge for Kansas employers and employees.

It is obvious that health reform needs funding. It is meaningless without it. However, there were initiatives presented this year that would not have cost Kansans a dime to implement and were not approved also. The statewide smoking restriction in public places would have had a tremendous impact on Kansans' health outcomes. Yet it also was left for another time.

What was accomplished in the final days of this session was not health reform, in spite of the bloated claims accompanying the equally false and pretentious title of the final legislation passed. There are huge health care challenges that lie ahead. Kansans know that our health care system is broken and that comprehensive reform is needed.

It is time to rise up and demand serious changes that challenge the status quo. Meet with and ask your legislators their thoughts on the future of health care in Kansas. Relate your own personal stories and concerns to them. Urge them to stop meaningless, token and incremental reform options that do little for our currently failing system.

Let your legislators know that we cannot afford to walk away from meaningful health reform and urge them to take a stand. The time for action is now.

Corrie L. Edwards

Executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition

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