Engaging in policy discussions at the local, state and federal levels helps us to positively impact health outcomes through a deliberate and sustained approach for a larger audience. During 2017, KHF will continue partnering with nonprofits and engaging in lobbying activities to advance three policy priorities:
Establishing a Dental Therapist Model: Increase Access to Care
Kansas’ ongoing dentist shortage has the state looking for ways to fill the dental access gaps, especially among rural and lower income Kansans. Over 90 Kansas counties do not have enough dentists to serve their residents, and 13 counties have no dentist at all. Only 1-in-4 Kansas dentists see patients covered by Medicaid. A dental therapist works under the supervision of a dentist to provide safe and quality services in underserved communities. As a result of the success of this model elsewhere in the U.S., the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) approved standards for the preparation and practice of these providers. Allowing mid-level dental therapists to provide care in Kansas would improve access to oral health services.
Medicaid Expansion: Increase Access to Care
KHF supports expansion of KanCare or other state-based solutions to provide health care coverage for low-income, working adults and families so they can secure the health care they need. Expanding KanCare/Medicaid would result in as many as 100,000 uninsured Kansans having the opportunity to gain coverage; an influx of federal dollars into the state economy; additional revenue for small, rural and critical-access hospitals across the state; and job growth. Expanding KanCare/Medicaid eligibility starting in 2014 would have injected more than $3 billion into the state economy and created 4,000 jobs by 2020. Rejecting expansion will cost Kansas an estimated $5.3 billion in federal aid between 2013 and 2022. KHF CEO Steve Coen recently provided written testimony on this issue.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Increase Healthy Food Access
The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (CNR) is the federal legislation that authorizes federal school meal and child nutrition programs, which in turn provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods. The programs covered by this law include the National School Lunch Program; School Breakfast Program; Child and Adult Care Food Program; Summer Food Service Program; Afterschool Snack and Meal Program; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program; Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program; and the Special Milk Program. Congress has yet to pass new legislation to sustain these programs. KHF will continue working with members of the Kansas delegation to maintain, and possibly strengthen, these federal nutrition programs.
In addition to supporting our policy priorities, KHF may be asked our position on health policy issues that may be addressed by the legislature. At times, KHF may also need to advocate against emerging legislation that would undermine Kansans’ ability to lead a healthy life. While our direct involvement in these issues is not planned, KHF would take the following positions during 2017, if necessary or opportunities arise:
Adopt a Responsible State Budget
KHF encourages state government leaders to enact sound tax and budget policies that preserve core services and adequately funds the health and social services that provide critical assistance for families in need. KHF will be monitoring state appropriations to assess their potential impact on health issues. KHF will monitor and may engage on the issue of the food sales tax, as it relates to healthy food access, depending on the context of any proposed language.
Increase Public Health Funding
Kansas ranks 44th per capita state spending for public health and is 1 of only 3 states to have reduced state funding for public health during each of the past three years. The public health system, including both local and state government, is not funded at a level to provide essential public health services across Kansans. Gradually restoring and increasing public health funding should be a priority for Kansas. During the upcoming legislative session, it is anticipated health advocacy organizations will push for restored funding to the Kansas Tobacco Use Prevention Program.
Adopt Policies that Focus on Prevention
KHF encourages state government leaders to establish and support evidence-based strategies to reduce tobacco use, promote physical activity and support healthy food access. The foundation would support proven policy actions in these areas and work to preserve existing policies, such as the Indoor Clean Air Act. KHF would support efforts that help to reduce tobacco use, including working with coalitions to increase tobacco taxes. KHF CEO Steve Coen recently provided written testimony on the issue of sales tax rates on tobacco products.
Other Policies to Increase Access to Care
KHF encourages state government leaders to address administrative issues related to KanCare and to consider other actions to improve access to quality care. During the upcoming legislative session, it is anticipated that health advocacy organizations will push for stronger action from the KanCare Oversight Committee and for legislation that creates a palliative care advisory council.
Policies that Support a Strong Education System
KHF recognizes the relationship between education and health outcomes and civic engagement. Supporting and funding a strong education system that promotes high student achievement for youth in Kansas will result in better long-term health outcomes. Individuals with a high school diploma (or beyond) have greater potential to earn more, have health insurance, make healthy choices and engage in civic activities. These result in healthier individuals, families, communities and our state.
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