Looking ahead: Health Forward policy and civic engagement in 2020


Happy New Year! While January is just like every other month, I can’t help but to enter each year with a sense of new beginnings. It feels particularly true this year, with the announcement of Qiana Thomason as our new president and CEO, and the approval of $1 million in Policy and Civic Engagement Grants all in our first week back! 2020 is off to an exciting start.  

At the tail end of last year, we released our 2020 policy agenda. Our priorities for this year remain largely unchanged from our 2018-2019 agenda given that the policymaking process often happens at a slow and incremental pace, even on noncontroversial issues. We maintain our focus on the same issues and on the advancement of health policy and its success. 

Our 2020 policy priorities are:

Tier 1

These are priorities that Health Forward plans to support intensively, oftentimes taking a leading role.

  • Maintain and advance access to health coverage for low-income, vulnerable, and uninsured residents of Kansas and Missouri.
  • Encourage the adoption and proper implementation of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri.

Tier 2

Health Forward will be involved in, but not leading these efforts.

  • Support funding of a state infrastructure that is adequate to administer, maintain, and analyze data from Medicaid programs. 
  • Increase political will for policies that improve health by investing in safe, affordable, and healthy housing.
  • Work with partners to develop a coalition that can advocate for local public health funding.

These priority items continue to reflect our commitment to using our voice when our involvement is uniquely valuable, and appropriately supporting our partners when they are leading the way. See our full 2020 policy agenda here

Medicaid expansion will be of particular importance to Health Forward this year – both in Kansas and Missouri. We have taken a leadership role in encouraging both states to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, which would bring approximately $325 million into our service area each year in support of health access for our residents. 

We received great news today when Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning announced a bipartisan compromise for expanding Medicaid to more than 150,000 Kansans. Read more about the encouraging developments here

Additionally, Health Forward is one of the founding members of Healthcare for Missouri, which has formed with the goal of expanding Medicaid via initiative petition in November 2020. Signature collection is halfway there, and Health Forward is joined by a committed group of partners who are working hard to ensure a successful outcome.   

In addition to our ongoing health advocacy, last year we released a request for proposals dedicated explicitly to policy and civic engagement. This funding opportunity is meant to build upon our existing policy agenda and complement the work of our other grantmaking rounds. We are happy to be partnering with 15 organizations across our three priority areas for the RFP: 

  • Advancing policies that expand health coverage and improve access to care. 
  • Increasing grassroots power and influence in the health policy arena.  
  • Increasing political will for policies that improve health by investing in safe, affordable, and healthy housing. 

Funded projects span across a variety of advocacy areas including health care access, reproductive rights, oral health, building grassroots leadership, intellectual and developmental disability issues, tenants rights, and affordable housing.

This is only a snapshot of what we will be focused on in our policy and civic engagement work this year. We will continue to work alongside our community partners and grantees to advance public policy at the city, county, and state levels as opportunities arise. 

We hold much hope that policy advancements in 2020 bring our vision of healthy people in healthy communities closer to reality.