Arden Andersen is tired of seeing career politicians cycle in and out of office without solving the health care problem.
As a family practice doctor, Andersen describes himself as the only candidate among Democrats running for governor who regularly sees how the state’s privatized Medicaid system is failing people. In a conversation for Capitol Insider, the podcast by The Topeka Capital-Journal about people and ideas in state politics, Andersen said he entered the race because he didn’t just want to complain about it anymore.
“As governor, I can change the culture,” Andersen said. “I’m the only candidate who actually has hands-on daily experience with what health care is and is not doing. As such, I know what needs to be done in order to change it, in order to improve it.”
Andersen, who said he provides medicine to people from a lower economic bracket in Lenexa, believes Kansas can dramatically cut the cost of Medicaid while increasing the number of people who are covered through the program. He outlined three problems that need to be corrected.
The decision by former Gov. Sam Brownback to privatize the system funnels profits to the companies he selected, Andersen said. If the system still was operated by the state, the cost of supporting the bottom line could be eliminated.
Additionally, he said, the state spends exorbitant amounts on medicine. He called for the passage of new laws that would allow the state to negotiate drug prices.
The third concern Andersen identified is the high cost for radiology and laboratory work. Medical providers in Kansas typically charge between $1,700 and $2,500 for MRIs, he said, but if you pay in cash, the cost drops to $500.
Brownback refused to expand Medicaid, which would provide coverage to an additional 150,000 Kansans by unlocking federal dollars. He vetoed an expansion bill the Legislature passed last year, and the prospect of a veto from Gov. Jeff Colyer dampened enthusiasm for a similar bill this year.
Although Andersen generally supports Medicaid expansion, he emphasized the need to reform the costly system first.
“If all we do is expand,” Andersen said, “we are only promoting the Brownback program. There aren’t very many people that think that Brownback program is a great program.”
On other issues, Andersen said marijuana should be legalized, protections for the LGBTQ community should be a constitutional discussion, and the state needs to go after those with deeper pockets to make taxes more equitable. A new school finance plan is a good start but doesn’t go far enough, he said, because there isn’t enough money for paraprofessionals and classroom supplies.
Second Amendment rights, like the right to bear arms, should be limited in relation to the security of other citizens, Andersen said. In the Air Force Reserves, he clears other service members before they are allowed to carry a gun. The military also requires training, but in Kansas, it is legal to carry a concealed weapon without any knowledge of how to use it.
“Yes, we have rights,” Andersen said, “but we also have the obligation to be smart about it.”
He said women are capable of making a decision about whether to have an abortion. In his experience, rape and incest are two major reasons women choose to terminate a pregnancy. If abortion opponents want to make it a religious issue, he said, “the God I know doesn’t promote rape and incest.”