John Feehan: Don’t waste this chance to expand KanCare

We see firsthand the value of individuals and families who have health insurance every day. They come to us for their wellness exams and for the management of their chronic health conditions. They come to us when they have fevers, the flu and sometimes conditions that sadly are far worse.

 

We do our best to use our knowledge and resources to treat, refer and manage their conditions for the best possible outcomes. We have the opportunity to proactively prevent diseases or decrease the adverse consequences.

On those same days, we are also likely to have patients who come to us with apprehension, not about their illness, but about how they are going to manage their illness. They work jobs where insurance isn’t offered, or they cannot afford it based on their wages and the other priorities in their life, like rent and food. That usually means they are sicker and their conditions are more difficult to treat or manage.

If these patients need prescription medications or referrals to specialists, the challenge becomes much more difficult without insurance. Do they fill the prescription and sacrifice food on the table or forego some other basic need?

The delay of necessary health care, due to lack of adequate health insurance, often results in a more costly treatment solution – costly to the patient, and ultimately, costly to society.

This is why we believe it is important to expand KanCare, the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income Kansans.

Right now, more than 150,000 Kansans fall into a coverage gap. These are hardworking men and women who are stuck with few options for affordable health coverage. As a result, they often go without needed care. Others end up seeking costly, episodic care in hospital emergency rooms.

If the Kansas Legislature and governor agree to expand KanCare, we can make sure these Kansans have access to care that can change, and often save, a life. By taking action, Kansas will make it possible for our patients – your family, friends and neighbors – to access primary and preventive care, see specialists for more serious conditions, and afford medications and other treatments.

Expanding KanCare will also allow doctors like us to spend more time practicing medicine and less time coordinating specialty and follow-up care for our uninsured patients.

There are many economic reasons to expand KanCare. Our hospitals – particularly those in rural communities – struggle to stay open while providing millions of dollars in charity care to uninsured patients. Expanding KanCare will bring Kansans’ federal tax dollars back home to stimulate the economy, create jobs and strengthen hospital finances.

For families, KanCare coverage can change lives by helping Kansans stay healthy enough to be productive members of the workforce and by reducing medical debt and medical bankruptcies.

These are all important reasons to adopt this policy. But our primary concern is keeping Kansans healthy. Let’s make 2018 the year we expand KanCare. Tell your legislators they can be a part of this historic moment. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

John Feehan is the president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians.

 

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