KDHE secretary advises KU pharmacy students to get to know their legislators

The secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told a group of Kansas University pharmacy students they should be their own advocates and make their voices heard as the state works to fix a gap between Medicaid funding and expenses.

Bob Moser told the group of students and administrators on Monday the funding gap is widening for Medicaid costs —enrollment is going up by about 4.6 percent per year, while costs are increasing at about 7.4 percent per year, he said.

“We have to address this cost growth, or it’s going to affect other programs,” he said.

Costs are growing in large part because the population is aging, he said, and more people are becoming disabled, which qualifies them to receive Medicaid funds.

Moser said his office is focused on efforts to integrate “whole-person” care into the system and to involve health care managers in the care of patients to help them take medications on time, refill prescriptions and keep appointments, among other efforts.

He encouraged pharmacy students to involve themselves in the policymaking process by meeting with legislators.

He talked about working as a physician for 22 years in the western Kansas town of Tribune. He was often called upon to testify at state legislative hearings on a variety of topics.

“They value what health care providers have to say,” he said of legislators. “But they may not seek you out, necessarily.”

He encouraged students to make appointments with legislators, to be brief and come prepared with two or three talking points, leave with a business card and follow up with a thank-you note.

“Develop that relationship,” he said. “Whether you voted for them or not doesn’t matter.”

Donating big dollars to campaign war chests isn’t necessary, he said. But, especially at the national level, pairing with an organization with a political action committee can help get you in the door to see a legislator rather than working with staff.

“(Money) does get you access,” he said. “Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.”

Still, students shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to make their voices heard.

“It’s amazing what you’ll be able to do,” he said.

By Andy Hyland

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