HB2064 KanCare Expansion

Testimony of Rabbi Moti Rieber in Support of HB 2064, establishing the KanCare Bridge to a Healthy Kansas program

Chairman Hawkins, members of the committee –

I am Executive Director of Kansas Interfaith Action – a statewide, multi-faith issue-advocacy organization that “puts faith into action” by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social and economic justice issues. 

The issue of access to affordable and quality health care has been a consistent concern for the faith community for many years now. We therefore call on our state legislature and governor to expand the KanCare program, so that 150,000 working and lower-income Kansans can get access to health care.

We take this position based on our commitment to Scriptural and moral values. In Genesis it says, “[everyone] is created in the image of God'; we take from this that access to health care should be universal. In Matthew it says, “what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me,” from which we take that such care should not be limited based on ability to pay.

 

Over 90 national and regional faith groups joined together in an effort called “Faithful Reform in Health Care.” These include the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, and the Mennonite Church USA – in short, the denominations which, in Kansas, together make up Kansas Interfaith Action.

Their joint statement, called “A Faith-based Vision of Health Care”, encompasses four main points, or “visions”: that health care should be

  • Inclusive: Health care is a shared responsibility that is grounded in our common humanity.
  • Affordable: Health care must contribute to the common good by being affordable for individuals, families and society as a whole
  • Accessible: All persons should have access to health services that provide necessary care and contribute to wellness, and
  • Accountable: Our health care system must be accountable, offering a quality, equitable and sustainable means of keeping us healthy as individuals and as a community.

We believe that HB 2064 encompasses all of these key points.

Medicaid is the only option for many low-income and working Kansans. To be sure, we are mostly talking about Kansans who are working, but who make too much to be covered by traditional Medicaid. These would include workers in minimum-wage and service-industry jobs, precisely the kind of jobs that this body has insisted that people on public assistance take. Therefore, the state has compelled people to take jobs that take away their access to health care, and we believe this to be immoral. We urge this body to correct that injustice. 

Kansas Interfaith Action believes that it was a mistake for this body not to expand its Medicaid program years ago. How many Kansans have not had access to affordable health care - how many have died – because of the refusal of this legislature and this governor to take the necessary and available steps to protect them?

In conclusion: Expansion is the right thing to do from a human and moral point of view. It will include people who – for no other reason that they are people, created, like all of us, in the image of God -  deserve quality and affordable heath care. It will “bring in from the cold” tens of thousands of Kansans who have previously been excluded from a human right: access to affordable, quality medical care.

We urge this committee to pass HB 2064 favorably to the full House.

Thank you for your attention.

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