Nathaniel McLaughlin’s interest in leading the Kansas Insurance Department is personal.
Four years ago, the Democrat suffered a burst blood vessel in his brain. He lay on the floor of his bedroom for 21 hours before being discovered.
The experience -- he was insured and could seek medical guidance based on quality of care, rather than proximity -- helped underscore for him the importance of being able to choose your health care provider. Unlike some of the others in his political party, he firmly opposes single-payer or socialized insurance coverage.
McLaughlin talked about his interest in seeking office during an appearance this week before The Topeka Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board. All of the candidates for statewide office are invited to make their pitch in advance of the November election.
“Socialized medicine is not something that I can toe the party line on,” McLaughlin said. “I’m just a firm believer that when you go from being up close and personal with a bedpan -- I’ll never forget my first experience with a bedpan -- to getting in my car in Wichita and saying, ‘Oh, I got to drive back home to Kansas City, and how far is the next service outlet.’ That’s a freedom. That’s freedom. I can’t put a price tag on that.”
McLaughlin grew up a country boy in North Carolina, where his core values were work, faith in God and respecting neighbors. He now lives in Kansas City, Kan., and has recovered from his injuries.
He moved to Kansas in 1983 and retired last year from Sodexo, a Paris-based management company for quality of life services. During his time with Sodexo, he oversaw a $33 million budget with a responsibility to shareholders as a profitable company.
Referencing a line from a Clint Eastwood movie about how a man should know his limitations, McLaughlin said he has studied insurance and engaged with those in the profession since filing for office.
McLaughlin -- whose opponent is state Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Republican from Topeka -- said he wants to advocate for Kansans, particularly the 350,000 adults without health insurance, and “this is not a partisan issue for me.”
He views the insurance market like he does the farmers market. If there is only one apple merchant, he explained, the price will be higher than if there were several booths offering apples. Similarly, he said, Kansas needs more insurance companies to create competition.
His first step would be to initiate an advisory panel of health care service providers and representatives of the insurance industry, consumer groups and professional groups. They would meet semi-annually.
“We will work together to make health insurance affordable in Kansas,” McLaughlin said. “It’s possible. It can be done.”
He supports expansion of Medicaid in Kansas but said it wouldn’t be prudent to do so without offsetting the cost. His experience with Sodexo leads him to believe the companies managing the state-run system could stand to give up 1 to 2 percent of their fees in exchange for opening up coverage to additional low-income and disabled adults.
“I’m looking at that through the lens of knowing the management services industry,” he said. “I would step back and take a hard look at that.”