I believe there are now several compelling reasons Gov. Sam Brownback and state legislators should adopt the Bridge to a Healthy Kansas program. Enactment of such would expand health care coverage to 150,000 low-income Kansans, the majority of whom are working but can’t afford to purchase health insurance and/or pay high deductibles. Thus, their capacity to access timely health care services or utilize preventive care programs is currently problematic.
Medical providers across our nation have implemented early detection and prevention of many disease states. As a result, we have learned that the cost of health care goes down; by detecting problems before they become so onerous as to cause expensive emergency room visits and/or hospitalizations, the cost of treatment is ultimately much lower. Additionally, people with a lesser burden of disease are able to lead fuller, richer lives.
The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas program creates a path to health and personal responsibility for low-income, hardworking Kansans by connecting them with job-training programs and making them accountable for a portion of their health care costs through a personal savings account. Further, the institution of this program would allow Kansas physicians and other health care providers to enhance their focus on providing patients with the right care, at the right time, in the right setting. This also results in lower costs.
The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas program does not require the use of State General Funds and, according to independent, third-party analyses, will likely produce a net financial gain for Kansas, helping to resolve the state’s budget shortfall.
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Health care is one of the top five sectors of the Kansas economy, employing more than 365,000 people statewide. Via Christi Health, where I work, is the second largest employer in Wichita, behind only Spirit AeroSystems. Like large and small systems across Kansas, Via Christi has absorbed major cuts in government reimbursement for services that we continue to provide – in our case, this totals more than $40 million over the past three years. As a result, Via Christi has had to eliminate hundreds of jobs.
Of the 107 rural hospitals in Kansas, 31 are classified as “vulnerable” because of their precarious financial situation – due in large part to our state’s failure to expand KanCare – and are in danger of being forced to close.
Although I understand the politics of what KanCare expansion has wrought, I find it fascinating that other states, such as Indiana, who initially opposed Medicaid expansion, have found ways to adopt legislation that is beneficial for patient care and a boon to state coffers.
Might this not be a time for our elected leadership to overcome partisan politics and move positively in enacting the Bridge to a Healthy Kansas program?
It would be good for our state’s economy and good for the health of many of our citizens.
Dr. Karl Ulrich is the Chief Clinical Officer of Via Christi Health.