TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The August 4 primary election is about three weeks away. Leading up to the election, we will be getting answers from the candidates on topics that Kansans care about, including affordable healthcare.
Access to affordable healthcare continues to be a challenge for countless Americans. The healthcare discussion has become a divisive issue in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as well as both chambers on the state level.
Many Democrats are pushing for a public health insurance option, this would be health insurance provided by the federal government rather than a private insurer. Some believe that a public option should be just that, an option alongside private insurance; others believe all healthcare should be public. Republicans are against the idea, including the four U.S. Senate candidates from Kansas.
We asked the candidates what their plan was for healthcare in the U.S. Read their full, unedited responses below:
“I don’t believe in a public option for everyone, that’s basically a fancy way of saying ‘socialized medicine’. We’ve seen in America that prices go lower whenever there’s competition and in the areas where prices are extremely high right now, it’s because of a lack of competition. Let me give you an example, I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since age 11, and back when I became diabetic in 1977, the price of a bottle of insulin was $3, now it’s almost $300. The reason for that is, insulin is a biologic medicine and pharmaceutical companies are not permitted right now to have generic competitions. That’s why the price of so many other drugs has gone really low and is very affordable. So, one thing we can fix in the Senate if I’m there, is I’ll introduce a bill so generics are possible and biologic medicines as well. It’s not just for diabetics, it’s for people suffering from arthritis, MS (multiple sclerosis) and a host of other illnesses. So, how do we bring more competition? One thing we need to do is allow competition across state lines; so insurance companies can sell in any state in the country, that would do quite a bit. You also want to have an equal playing field, so that things like health sharing plans, and I’m on one of those right now, are treated with the same favorable tax status as insurance plans. So if you level the playing field, maximize competition and make sure that generics can get in there and that people can keep the doctors they want and have a host of options, then we will see prices go down.”
“I would get rid of the Affordable Care Act. think that we need free-market ideas and we need transparency in pricing. Medicare has pricing set up for certain procedures and then hospitals charge 5-10 times that amount to insurance companies. So it’s not right that they do something like that. We need to know that a band-aid costs $25 at a hospital. There’s other things that we can do. In my own business, you know, I self-insured and so I was able to save quite a bit of money that way and pass that along to my employees, we insured all of my employees and their families, so we passed on that savings to them. We just need to get back to free-market ideas. This is America, let’s do that.”
Dr. Roger Marshall
“I’m a physician, I’ve delivered of 5,000 babies, been practicing private medicine here in Kansas for over 25 years, so if there’s anything I understand, it’s healthcare. The Affordable Care Act is maybe the worst legislation that’s ever come out of Washington D.C., it hurts patients. There’s still 28 million people without healthcare right now. So number one is I want to take care of pre-existing conditions. Number two is I want to make sure that healthcare is affordable and accessible to all. So we’re going to drive down that cost of healthcare for folks, at the same time taking care of pre-existing conditions. We’re going to empower patients, give them more control. What the Democrats want is Medicare for All. Medicare for All means less healthcare for seniors, Medicare for All takes away the health insurance you get through your job, Medicare for All uses federal funds for abortions and takes away some of the veteran’s healthcare as well. Both democrats and republicans want to end the Affordable Care Act, the difference is what we want to replace it with. The democrats want more government control, republicans want to put patients back in control of their healthcare.”
“Any healthcare that we implement, and we need to do something here in this country because that is one of the more important issues facing our country right now, it needs to be market-driven, it needs to be accessible, affordable and it needs to be transparent. Right now, our healthcare program is a fee for service program. Which really means, the providers are paid on the basis of providing services, not on the basis of patient outcome. We need to flip that around so that we’re now focusing on patient outcomes.”
In Kansas, healthcare has been a major topic of conversation for years. Kansas is one of 13 states that is paying into the federal Medicaid Expansion program, but not implementing the program in the state. While expansion had bipartisan support in both the Kansas House and Senate this year, the bill was blocked by republican leadership.
Next week, the candidates will talk about both the Trump administration and Governor Laura Kelly’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.