- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Kansas City Star, Sept. 13

Why Kansas and Missouri aren’t equipped to handle an aging population

Proof that our public policy hasn’t caught up to the needs our aging population abounds.

Oh sure, we all give lip service to respecting our wise elders and pay tribute to the “Greatest Generation.” We say that we should provide a safety net for our seniors. But our policies don’t match up with those platitudes.

When it comes to measurable commitments, society often fails to value and care for people as they enter their later decades. In Missouri, a board managing senior services hasn’t met for at least three years and possibly far longer, said Randall Williams, director of Department of Health and Senior Services.

The last record the state can cite is a phone meeting in January 2014. This, despite the fact that the average Missourian lives an 30 years longer than they did 100 years ago. One in four Missourians will be over 65 in 10 years.

Seniors in Kansas aren’t faring any better.

Federal officials slammed the state recently for failing to follow up on flagged problems in nursing homes. The problem was partly a matter of under-staffing inspectors, and the audit found that no one was actually checking outcomes in about half the cases handled in 2014.

And now, a program that provides daily hot meals for seniors in Kansas City soon will begin dropping off frozen entrees only once a week. The change makes sense from an efficiency standpoint. It will yield cost savings that will allow more elderly shut-ins to receive meals.

But it ignores the fact that the program provided more than just food. The workers who delivered the hot meals also provided the elderly with other intangible benefits, including daily human contact and even friendship.

Everywhere we turn, there is more evidence that seniors are too often an afterthought and that our institutions simply aren’t equipped to meet their growing needs.

In both Missouri and Kansas, lawmakers must step up efforts to plan for a graying population. From ensuring that nursing homes are safe environments to providing basic services for seniors, both states are falling short. While government has a large role to play, so, too, do community groups. Nonprofit organizations, churches, and other groups should help fill in some of the gaps that are becoming increasingly apparent.

The elderly ought to be a consideration in every facet of public and private planning, be it transportation, housing, social services or public spaces. In virtually all settings, we should ask, “Who isn’t seated at the table and yet needs to be considered in the decisions that will be made here?”

Consistently, the answer should be “seniors.”


The Lawrence Journal-World, Sept. 14

More reason for Medicaid

It should come as no surprise that the percentage of uninsured Kansans is now higher than the national average.

According to new U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2013, 12.3 percent of Kansans were uninsured compared with 14.5 percent nationally. In 2016, 8.7 percent of Kansans were uninsured compared with 8.6 percent nationally. Kansas ranked 21st in 2013, but had fallen to 32nd by 2016. Only seven states and the District of Columbia had smaller drops in the percentage of uninsured from 2013 to 2016 than Kansas.

The health insurance data is further evidence that Kansas’ stubborn refusal to participate in Medicaid expansion allowed by the Affordable Care Act has hindered Kansans - the poor in particular - from getting health insurance coverage.

Gov. Sam Brownback has been an outspoken critic of the ACA, or Obamacare as it’s more commonly known. As a member of Congress in 2009, Brownback voted against the legislation creating the ACA. And since being elected governor in 2010, Brownback has fought Obamacare at every turn.

Most recently, Brownback vetoed a bipartisan Medicaid expansion bill during the 2017 session. That bill would have expanded Medicaid coverage, or KanCare, to all individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level. State officials estimated the bill would have extended coverage to an additional 152,000 people in Kansas. That’s more than half of the 249,000 Kansans the Census Bureau says are uninsured.

Robert St. Peter, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Institute, said the statistics show Kansas government has mostly ignored opportunities to use Obamacare to help residents.

“For example, the level of outreach and enrollment to let people know that they may be able to buy affordable, private insurance on the marketplace. Or that even without expansion, they or their children might already be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP,” he said. “To the extent states failed to do that, it undoubtedly led to fewer persons being insured, especially among working families that are low or middle income.”

The good news is that Kansas will soon have the opportunity to try again. Brownback is expected to be confirmed as ambassador at large for international religious freedom in the coming weeks, and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will take over as governor. Colyer has been a vocal opponent of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. But with strong legislative and voter support for expansion and recent bipartisan overtures in Congress about fixing Obamacare, Medicaid expansion could be a priority in 2018.

Maybe then Kansas can go back to being a leader in health insurance coverage for its residents.


The Wichita Eagle, Sept. 15

Ali family, give Wichita another look

Sattar Ali,

We hope you’ll give our community another chance. Wichita is so much better than what we showed you one afternoon last week.

We can imagine what went through your mind when you were handcuffed, put in the back of a squad car and taken to police headquarters Sept. 6.

All because you wanted to deposit what turned out to be a legitimate $151,000 check at an Emprise Bank location.

But the bank couldn’t verify your check and called police, following what it says are normal procedures when there are red flags about a check.

It got sorted out after three hours. Police verified your check. You were released, and the money is in your account so that you can put it toward the purchase of a home in Wichita.

But now, understandably, you’re second-guessing your decision to move back here from Michigan to continue your doctoral work at Wichita State University. We certainly understand. You think you were racially profiled as a Muslim man. Unfortunately, it is not unreasonable to suspect that in today’s world.

Would police have been called for a possible attempted forgery if you were a middle-age white man? Bank executives say yes and are adamant that race was not a factor. But would four law-enforcement officers normally arrive for a call about a possible forgery? Would you have been handcuffed and detained by police? Would your wife and 15-year-old daughter, waiting in the car, have been detained if they weren’t wearing hijabs?

Bank executives say the police response to the call was not typical. One law enforcement spokesman says the response was normal for a report of a felony in progress.

Emprise Bank and Wichita police have apologized to you while standing by their policies - a sign that they think the situation could have been handled differently.

In the meantime, we hope public reaction has shown you the type of city we strive to be. We’re behind you.

Yes, there are some who think this isn’t a big deal, or complain that everything has to come down to racism.

But they probably aren’t Muslim. Or persons of color. Or of any minority.

We think those loud skeptics are few in our community. The large majority of Wichitans are good people who want to see every person given an equal chance. To be treated equally - by other individuals, businesses and law enforcement.

Give Wichita a second chance, Mr. Ali. You’ve lived here before. You know there are good folks throughout the city.

While you were gone, we went through a resurgence. Community pride is on the rise. We want to be a city that is inclusive and recognizes that the diversity we possess in a mostly white Plains state is a valuable and wonderful thing.

This city wants you to find the perfect family home, continue work on your doctoral degree and raise your three children to be as proud of their community as we are.

We look forward to being your neighbors again.

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