Efforts to renew Kansas City’s health levy went into full gear today. A renewal of the temporary property tax is up for a vote next month, and proponents want it reinstated for another nine years.
The temporary levy first passed in 2005. It provides about $15 million annually to Truman Medical Center, city ambulance services and some area health clinics. The fund is aimed at caring for people without insurance.
Michelle Fowler, a small business owner and patient at a clinic in the northland, was one of several patients who rallied at Truman Medical Center today for the kickoff of a campaign in support of renewing the levy.
She told those attending that several years ago, she applied for health insurance on the individual market but was denied. She accumulated medical debt, took another job, but still without health coverage, turned to Northland Health Care Access for medical assistance.
“Most of the people in these programs, there’s a misconception that these people are lazy, they don’t work,” Fowler said. “I have two jobs, I work very hard. I love my company, I love my business, I love my clients I love what I do, I help people in the community. But without being able to go see a doctor and find the care I needed, I would not be able to do everything that I do.”
The levy is slated to expire next year, and the city council has unanimously backed bringing a nine-year renewal up for popular vote this April. It will be "Question 1" on the ballot.
One difference between this time around and when the levy was first proposed is the federal health law. A lot more people are expected to gain coverage starting next year. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny people, like Fowler, coverage due to preexisting conditions. Councilman John Sharp and other backers of the renewal say a lot of uncertainties still lie ahead. Many people still won't have coverage and the levy will as important as it was nine years ago.
“We’re still going to need this coverage for folks that are working but just don’t have health insurance available,” said Sharp. “It’s also a key thing to keep our ambulance service having enough units to provide quick response times throughout the city…If we don’t get this levy past, looking at the department’s budget, I don’t see how that would continue.”