Capitol Update: Sen. Bollier says efforts to expand healthcare coverage, improve affordability may get traction this session

Sen. Barbara Bollier speaking at the NEJC Chamber’s annual legislative preview in December.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Rui Xu and Sen. Barbara Bollier are scheduled to send updates this week. Sen. Bollier’s column is below.

2020 may finally be the year Kansas makes significant progress on healthcare affordability and accessibility for our families. After years of blocking, obstructing and vetoing, commonsense problem solving and bipartisan cooperation may finally prevail.

Just last week, Governor Laura Kelly announced a bipartisan plan to expand Medicaid. I’m pleased that this issue will finally move forward in the Kansas Legislature. Additionally, numerous other important bills that have been held hostage as leadership prevented any attempt to discuss Medicaid will finally get the consideration they deserve.

The vast majority of Kansans – roughly 70% – support expanding KanCare, the Kansas Medicaid program. Study after study have shown that it would expand health coverage to about 130,000 more Kansans, strengthen rural hospitals and clinics, save state agencies money and inject millions of dollars into our local economies. It is a winning policy for everyone – I have been a leading voice to get it passed for years. And this year is no different. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the bipartisan plan announced by the governor quickly so Kansans can see the financial relief they need.

Another important issue I hope to address this session is surprise billing – or out-of-network billing. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Kansas ranks among the worst for surprise billing. This occurs when a patient has health insurance and believes they are receiving treatment covered by their insurance in their network but get a surprise bill anyway because some provider or service actually is not in their network. Frequently, this occurs in emergency situations. It is unacceptable. And we can absolutely do something about it.

This session, I’ll introduce a bill that addresses this practice and puts in place processes to protect and assist the patient consumer. This is a problem that providers and insurers must help us solve. According to a story by the Kansas News Service, research from Yale University estimates that curbing out-of-network billing could reduce health care spending by billions in the United States. And quite frankly, it’s just the right thing to do.

These are common-sense policies that can have a real impact on the cost and availability of healthcare in our state. As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges families face as they balance day-to-day expenses with healthcare costs. Throughout my career in medicine and now in public service, I’ve worked diligently to listen, learn and collaborate on reasonable solutions. That is what is needed from lawmakers in Topeka and Washington, D.C.

While healthcare policy will take center stage this spring, many other important topics need our attention. I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues to continue the historic turnaround and recovery our state has experienced since we reversed the failed Brownback tax experiment in 2017.

We must continue to invest in our public schools and support our teachers. We must balance the books while also providing targeted tax relief to the Kansans who need it the most. Lastly, we must put partisan politics aside and work together on behalf of Kansas families. I’m honored to be your state senator and will always put the needs of Kansans first.