Local physician shares opinion on KanCare Expansion

Local physician shares opinion on KanCare Expansion

As a Kansas physician, I am saddened by the stories I hear about patients who do not have health coverage. It is more commonplace than most people realize. Currently, hundreds of thousands of hardworking, low-income Kansans cannot afford health insurance. Because they live in Kansas – one of just 14 remaining states that has not expanded Medicaid – the “working poor” find themselves in a coverage gap imposed by some of the strictest Medicaid eligibility requirements in the nation. They earn too much to qualify for KanCare (Kansas Medicaid), but not enough to qualify for financial assistance toward private coverage.

If the phrase “they earn too much to get coverage” put you off, don’t be fooled – in reality, their earnings are very small. For example, an adult in a family of three making a household income of less than $21,330 per year would continue to be financially shut out from affordable health care coverage unless our state leaders choose to expand KanCare.

We are blessed to have the Agape Clinic in our community helping serve this population with chronic medical needs. But it can be no substitute to a physician relationship where patients can be seen on a routine basis, getting some of the basic testing all of the rest of us take for granted, instead of using our Emergency Department only after situations have gotten out of control.

If we genuinely care about our fellow Kansans, we should consider the current eligibility requirements for KanCare unacceptable. Like our cars, our homes or our computers, our bodies need regular care and preventive maintenance to avoid long-term problems. It’s important for each of us to have a relationship with a physician who can help prevent serious health issues. Affordable health insurance provides access to those pivotal physician-patient relationships.

It is fortunate that recent collaborate efforts led by Republicans and Democrats have introduced legislation that will assist approximately 130,000 Kansans who need access to affordable health care coverage, many of whom earn too much to qualify for KanCare but too little to be eligible to receive financial assistance to purchase private insurance in the marketplace. This legislation will bring hundreds of millions of our federal tax dollars back home to Kansas – creating jobs, boosting our economy, protecting hospitals and most importantly, improving the health of Kansans.

Expanding KanCare would mean more Kansans with health insurance, empowering them to seek regular care and preventive health services that keep small health problems from becoming big health problems. As a physician, it’s my duty to provide care for my community. I cannot turn my back on those in need and neither should our state legislators. I urge Kansas legislators to take the right path forward by support KanCare expansion.

Signed J Wakon Fowler MD