Last year brought shifts in the political landscape and along with them, opportunities to advocate for the issues we support and to defend against cuts to social service programs that benefit those most in need.
But 2019 presents fresh opportunities to influence the health policy decisions that have an impact on our bi-state region. (Review our two-year policy agenda.)
Here is some of what is in store for Health Forward in 2019:
Maintain and advance access to health coverage for low-income, vulnerable, and uninsured residents of Kansas and Missouri.
Maintaining and advancing access to health coverage is a key component of Health Forward’s work. I’m sure we will always be working toward this goal in one way or another. Sometimes in a more universal way, like advocating for expansion of Medicaid, but more often it is through incremental changes that build upon one another.
In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly has made it clear that KanCare expansion is one of her top priorities. While having a supportive governor is half the battle, the other half is bound to be a tough one. It will take significant advocacy efforts with the legislature to move her plan forward and expand health coverage to the more than 150,000 Kansans that currently fall into the coverage gap. Gov. Kelly has appointed a task force to provide input on the proposed expansion bill.
Among other health policy bills, we expect to see work requirements play a prominent role in both Kansas and Missouri. Health Forward and many other advocates are encouraging elected leaders to tread carefully and think about the unintended consequences that could result from burdensome work requirements being tied to social safety net programs. States like Arkansas that have implemented work requirements to Medicaid have had concerning outcomes as beneficiaries fail to meet requirements or have trouble with reporting hours worked.
In Missouri, we are unlikely to see traction on the MO HealthNet expansion bills that have been filed, but we are already seeing bills that would make incremental changes to the program. Bills that add work requirement to social safety net programs are getting traction earlier this year than last, with multiple bills moving to committee in the first few weeks of session. SB4 and SB76 modify the law relating to work requirements for participants of SNAP and MO HealthNet, respectively.
It will require careful attention and coordinated advocacy efforts to ensure that work requirement provisions are sensible.
Encourage the adoption of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri.
Early last year Cass, Lafayette, and Clay counties all opted into the St. Louis regional prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). While we are pleased that the entire Health Forward service area is now covered by a PDMP, Missouri does not yet have a statewide program. We are encouraged to see more support for a statewide PDMP in the Missouri statehouse this year, with two similar bills making their way through the chambers (SB155, and HB188). We are hopeful that this is the year Missouri establishes a statewide PDMP.
Support funding of a state infrastructure that is adequate to administer, maintain, and analyze data from Medicaid programs.
The IT system that powers Missouri’s Medicaid business intelligence system — including billing and payment functions and integration with those using the system — is old and broken, leaving the state unable to efficiently operate its Medicaid program. We will continue to remind lawmakers to include sufficient funds in the budget for the lengthy system transition process.
Explore policies that will enhance access to safe, affordable, and healthy housing.
The exploration of safe, affordable, and healthy housing is a new policy focus for us, and we have quickly learned how complex the interconnection between health and housing is. We have a rich community of experts working throughout the region that include affordable housing developers, community and neighborhood organizations, direct service providers, community development corporations, government representatives, and other housing experts. Each organization has a unique way of contributing to healthier individuals and communities.
We have learned a couple of key lessons over the past year. This incredibly complex issue does not have one easy solution, and coordination is a key component. Policies that enhance access to safe, affordable, and healthy housing vary drastically across cities, regions, and states. Cities that have successfully addressed housing challenges have done so through innovative, multi-sector, and collaborative efforts.
We will continue learning from our partners to create a strategy for how Health Forward will complement the work already being done and advocate the link between housing and health.