Wed March 23, 2005
Legislature offers little hope for Kansas uninsured
By Steve Bell
Kansas City – Many among the Kansas uninsured are like Judy Johnson of Kansas City, Kansas -- over 50, unmarried and unemployable because of multiple health problems, and living on a few hundred dollars a month.
KU social services researcher Jean Hall says the problem is the way health care services for the poor are structured -- only free clinic care is available until problems multiply resulting in significant medical expenses.
Kansas has a high-risk pool for persons who have been refused insurance or charged very hign premiums. But individual coverage is typically $450 a month with deductible and co-pays.
Governor Sebelius proposed a plan to extend coverage to more than 70,000 uninsured (mostly children and their parents), but it was quickly tabled by a legislature unwilling to pass the necessary tax on tobacco products.
The legislature is likely to pass a bill allowing recycling of unused cancer drugs, and is looking into an insurance-industry sponsored risk-pool for small business group insurance and a pharmaceutical-industry sponsored drug discount plan. But the prescription plan would only replace the current Canadian drug reimportation plan already signed by the governor.
Researcher Hall says though some lower-wage workers would benefit from shared group insurance risk, the vast majority of the uninsured are unable to work because of long-standing medical problems.