Opinion

Kansans will benefit from health provisions in Build Back Better legislation

November 30, 2021 3:33 am

The Build Back Better legislation under consideration in Congress will provide affordable health care to Kansans, writes Suzanne Wikle, directly alleviating the economic stress that accompanies medical care for the uninsured. (Getty Images)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Suzanne Wikle, a resident of Shawnee and native Kansan, is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

The past two years have been hard for many Kansans. Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis has been stressful, and the resulting economic crisis has only added to the stress. Our neighbors who lack access to affordable health insurance are acutely aware of both challenges.

Fortunately, policymakers have solutions within reach to alleviate unnecessary hardships.

The Build Back Better legislation under consideration in Congress will provide affordable health care to Kansans, directly alleviating the economic stress that accompanies medical care for those who are uninsured. The time to take action and provide this relief to Kansans is more urgent than ever. Ensuring the health provisions of Build Back Better become law will lower out-of-pocket costs for health care, allowing Kansans to spend their money on other critical needs such as food, housing, and transportation.

Nearly 90,000 Kansans buy their health insurance through the marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act. Those 90,000 Kansans received additional federal dollars in 2021 to reduce their monthly premiums and deductibles, freeing up more of their money each month to use on other needs — particularly important given the rising costs of goods.

Build Back Better extends these federal dollars for four more years, allowing our fellow Kansans to spend less each month on their health care and put those dollars toward other needs.

Because Kansas has not expanded Medicaid, more than 100,000 of our neighbors earn too little to receive federal dollars that help offset marketplace coverage and are, therefore, left without an affordable health insurance option. Many of these Kansans are restaurant servers, construction workers, child care providers, and health aides for senior citizens. These hard-working Kansans were recognized as essential when the pandemic hit, but our state policies don’t reflect their importance to our communities and economy.

The Build Back Better legislation under consideration in Congress will provide affordable health care to Kansans, directly alleviating the economic stress that accompanies medical care for those who are uninsured. The time to take action and provide this relief to Kansans is more urgent than ever.

– Suzanne Wikle

The Build Back Better legislation values these Kansans by allowing them access to affordable marketplace coverage. It would allow our neighbors who serve us food, care for our children and seniors, and build our roads to address long-lasting health conditions, see a doctor when they are sick, and avoid the threat of medical debt. This is especially true for people of color in our communities, who are more likely to be uninsured and left without affordable options.

Build Back Better takes many more steps to improve Kansans’ health. It includes crucial provisions to reduce maternal and infant mortality and health disparities by ensuring women with low incomes don’t lose health insurance a mere 60 days after giving birth. The legislation also provides additional resources for senior Kansans and those with disabilities – many of whom have been waiting years for home and community-based care. 

Kansans who have health insurance through their employers may ask what the Build Back Better package does for them.

The fact is the package will help everyone afford health insurance, feel confident their neighbors can receive needed care, and put our hospitals on more solid economic footing. When states ensure affordable health care at all income levels, there’s less uncompensated care and reduced Medicaid costs for the state. Holding costs down benefits everyone in the long run. Fewer hospitals — especially rural hospitals — close in states that have ensured affordable health care for their residents with the lowest incomes. Kansas will also realize these benefits and many others if Build Back Better becomes reality.

Build Back Better also responds to other needs in our communities, including long-needed investments in children through child care and pre-K funding, and providing a paid leave program for workers so they won’t have to choose between caring for a family member for a few weeks or losing their jobs. As we’ve learned the past two years, policy solutions for child care and paid leave must be part of our response to the pandemic.

All of us will undoubtedly benefit from the health provisions in Build Back Better as passed by the House, including covering costs for daily goods by decreasing health insurance costs. The Senate must now act swiftly to pass Build Back Better to improve the health and lives of Kansans.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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Suzanne Wikle
Suzanne Wikle

Suzanne Wikle, a resident of Shawnee and native Kansan, is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), where she focuses on Medicaid and other safety net policies. CLASP is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty nonprofit advancing policy solutions to improve the lives of people with low incomes.

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