Via Christi’s goal is to help the communities we serve achieve 100-percent access to care through coverage for all.
While there still is much work to be done, the Kansas Legislature took some positive actions during the 2018 session in addressing some important health care issues from both a policy and budget standpoint, including:
▪ Requiring health insurers to provide the same level of coverage for telemedicine services as in-person visits.
▪ Adding Kansas to the states participating in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact.
▪ Creating a board and program that addresses palliative care.
The telemedicine bill will improve access to needed health-care services, particularly for those living in rural Kansas. Adding Kansas to the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact will allow nurses living near our state’s borders to practice in both states under a single set of uniform licensure requirements. The palliative care legislation will bring together experts, including health-care providers and patients, to better address the comfort care needs of patients living with incurable conditions.
The state budget includes appropriations that will be extremely beneficial to our state’s health-care system: a 4-percent increase in hospital reimbursement under KanCare, our state’s Medicaid system, beginning in Fiscal Year 2019; enhanced state funding for the Wichita Center for Graduate Medical Education; and additional funding for the treatment of behavioral health and substance abuse disorders.
WCGME, established in 1989, is a partnership among Via Christi, Wesley Medical Center, University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, Salina Regional Medical Center and the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita. Graduate medical education is vital for the future of our health-care system and WCGME serves as an effective provider of specialized graduate medical education services enabling us to recruit and retain high quality physicians to Kansas. Physicians who receive their residency training through WCGME also provide care to undeserved patients in Wichita and rural Kansas. Lastly, having graduate medical education in our state helps us recruit and retain physicians for communities throughout Kansas.
Legislators also passed bills that will improve access and care for patients needing treatment for behavioral health conditions and substance abuse disorders. For example, it included a less bureaucratic, timelier model of funding for our state’s community crisis centers, including Sedgwick County’s ComCare; additional funding for substance abuse services; first-year funding for a Mental Health Intervention Team pilot program that includes community mental health centers and school districts, including Wichita; and a provision in the reauthorization of the Kansas Lottery Act that would provide additional funding earmarked for behavioral health treatment.
Via Christi is part of a community collaboration comprised of local law enforcement, health-care providers and other community organizations working to develop a more integrated and effective system of care for addressing our community’s behavioral health needs and substance abuse issues. Our legislature’s actions to help us develop such a system through policy changes and additional state funding is a much-appreciated boost to our vision of a more patient-centered, clinically integrated behavioral health-care system for Kansans.
The Legislature took steps to make healthcare more accessible and inclusive, giving us great hope for Kansas’ future.
Michael Mullins is senior vice president for Ascension Healthcare.