Since the conclusion of last session, my staff and I have had one topic on our agenda: health care.

Over the years I have consistently advocated for sound and sustainable health care policy and this upcoming session is no different.

This last year, our office took a lot of heat regarding Medicaid. Far too often the media and political advocates have viewed health care as a one-size-fits-all model, shaming anyone with different ideas. The fight for covering the most Kansans is usually told as one or the other — either Medicaid for all or only private market options.

I believe those are not the only options. My office and I have worked tirelessly over the interim to create a compromise and a steady path forward that would allow Kansans from all different backgrounds and situations access to good-quality health care.

The best policy regarding health care in Kansas is one that gives the most coverage and options to Kansans.

During the 2019 session, the House and Senate passed legislation to expand association health care plans and small employer health insurance options. This gives healthy Kansans better opportunities to gain private insurance through their employer or on their own in a low-cost fashion.

Our agenda for the 2020 session is focused on continuing to provide further access and options for health care coverage. The Senate plan will be based on rewarding Medicaid recipients for healthy behavior and practices. In the plan, a Medicaid recipient would receive merits for keeping a primary care physician, having an annual health care screening, and focusing on preemptive care. The plan will also include a reinsurance program that would help lower ACA premiums by an estimated 20-30%.

If an individual has the means and prefers the Affordable Care Act exchange to being enrolled in standard Medicaid, it is our job as lawmakers to allow them to make that decision on their own. The plan proposed and passed by the House last year, HB 2066, would force individuals into a standard Medicaid plan without a choice. The Senate plan is committed to reducing the cost of coverage on the ACA exchange rather than forcing Kansans to enroll in Medicaid.

This session, my colleagues and I must work together, put partisan politics aside and compromise to give Kansans greater options and access to health care.

It is clear that Kansas will expand Medicaid, but we still need to give individuals the ability to choose their own health care. It is not our job to force Kansans into one type of coverage over the other, but to provide them with solid and affordable options.

 

Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, is the Senate majority leader.