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The upside of divisive KanCare debate

While most of the public angst leveled against the governor's new KanCare system for managing payment of health-care expenses of some 380,000 poor Kansans has been aimed at those with specialized disabilities, much of what isn't in the headlines makes a lot of sense.

The governor last week agreed to delay for at least a year including persons with mental retardation and developmental disabilities (the Statehouse acronym is MR/DD) from his KanCare system that will eventually replace Medicaid. That MR/DD population requires extensive contact with care providers and isn't just routine medical care.

But for Kansans who can't afford the health care most of us just flip an insurance card through the window to cover, parts of this KanCare business seem to make a lot of sense.

Nobody wants the poor or mothers or small children or the elderly to go without health care. But we'd like to see that government-funded health care be done efficiently.

Kansans, we hope, are willing to see our tax money (mostly federal, but also state) used to take care of all Kansans. That's just having a heart.

And at least one facet of this KanCare program is lodging every Kansan who receives state/federal financed health care with a care manager. That's someone like the old-school family doctor, who knows about your general state of health. It means, very simply, someone who knows whether you still have a gall bladder or whether you have other health issues.

It might mean that if you break your leg, whoever takes care of that won't spend hours and thousands of KanCare dollars doing medical tests for every malady known to modern science. That's what private health insurance companies do to make sure you get the health are you need, but not a lot of expensive interaction that really isn't necessary.

There is going to be a lot more emphasis on keeping KanCare clients healthy so that they don't require more expensive health care. That's what private insurers do, too.

And it will mean more checking up on KanCare clients to make sure that they're taking their medications, that they're making efforts to improve their health. Those of us with privately paid-for, or employer paid-for, insurance get those same reminders, the little pamphlets from the insurers.

All of that sort of stuff is brewed into the KanCare program for Medicaid recipients, and it's probably the right way to go. The more you know about a patient the more accurately you can target health care to put him/her back on their feet -- not just help amortize those fancy machines and seemingly unrelated tests on patients.

But this KanCare that is awaiting federal approval is a new way to do things, and nobody really likes change.

Delaying the MR/DD portions of the program probably makes sense -- both because those clients have more complicated health-care needs and because most of us would like to see whether KanCare can actually work efficiently and bring better health to recipients with less complicated problems.

If KanCare gets better, more efficient, health care to poor Kansans, well, that's a win, isn't it?

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.