Sebelius Says It Will Take Kansas 'Decades' To Recover From Current Woes

Mar 17, 2017

Former Kansas Gov. and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius joined KCUR's "Up To Date" to talk about the state of Kansas and health care in America.
Credit United States Mission Geneva / Wikimedia Commons

Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says she thinks it will take the state “decades” to recover from the effects of the state’s current financial woes.

In an appearance Friday on KCUR’s Up to Date, Sebelius was asked by host Steve Kraske what she made of the state today.

“Well, it breaks my heart,” Sebelius says, noting that the state’s revenue stream had always been “a carefully balanced dance, with a third coming from property tax, a third coming from sales tax and a third coming from income tax.”

That balance, she says, enabled the state to fund schools, infrastructure, science investments and jobs.

“That’s really been greatly undercut, and I think it will take decades to recover from what has been a very difficult period for Kansas,” Sebelius says.

Sebelius, who was secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during most of the Obama administration, also talks about the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. As head of the agency, Sebelius oversaw the law’s rollout and implementation.

“I think if you look at the bill and what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) tells us the impact of the bill will be, it is a very troubling picture,” Sebelius says. “The bill will save some money for the federal government, that’s clear, but it in no way lives up to what President-elect and then President Trump promised, which is health insurance for everybody, at a lower cost and better coverage.”

Sebelius is particularly troubled by CBO estimates that millions would lose health care immediately if the Republican plan passes.

“Lots of people – the estimate is 24 million people over the next 10 years, 14 million immediately – will lose coverage. Huge costs will be shifted from the federal government to states for Medicaid, which has been a 50-year partnership between the state and the federal government for pregnant women and children, disabled individuals, seniors in nursing homes.”

She also says the proposal won’t deliver what Republican lawmakers have promised voters.

“What has been said – we want patient-centered care, we want people to have choices, we want health insurance for everybody – that is not the proposal that is currently before the United States Congress,” Sebelius says.

Sebelius says the congressional debate over health care has been driven more by political considerations than a focus on the people who stand to be most affected by it.

“I find it very, very troubling that there are many members of Congress who talk about this as if it is some sort of a chess match: ‘We need to add a little bit here, we’ve got to win this battle,’” Sebelius says. “This is life and death for about 20 million people who now have financial stability and now have health coverage and protection for them and their families.”

Sebelius now devotes her time to an outfit she formed called Sebelius Resources LLC. She says it’s a vehicle through which she’s working on health and wellness issues in the private sector. 

Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.