June 24, 2008

‘Health Reform is a Multiyear Process’ in Kansas

By Julius A. Karash, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

Jun. 24--Kansas health reform is down and so are a lot of the folks who expected major steps forward in Topeka this year.

But Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, says it's not over yet.

"We're coming back," Nielsen said last week. "Health reform is a multiyear process."

Nielsen talked to The Star after the Health Policy Authority board held its annual retreat in Lawrence.

Smarting from the dearth of health reform that came out of this year's session of the KansasLegislature, the board mapped out a strategy for 2009.

Instead of the ill-fated health insurance premium assistance plan the board recommended this year, the board will propose an expansion of Medicaid to include parents whose incomes fall below 50 percent of the federal poverty level.

And the board will continue to push for a statewide smoking ban and higher tobacco taxes, both of which were rejected by this year's Legislature.

"Health reform will be a priority if Kansans help us make it a priority," Nielsen said. "That means talking to people who are running for office about the concerns that everyday families have."

Falling through the cracks

Many state initiatives to cover the uninsured neglect persons with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, according to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

"Many states are trying to cover the uninsured but need to do more in these critical areas that affect one in four Americans," NAMI executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick said in a release.

The report is at www.healthcareforuninsured.org.

Nursing residencies

Nursing residency programs are helping the University of Kansas Hospital and other hospitals keep nurses on board amid a nationwide nursing shortage, a KU Hospital official said last week.

"Nationwide, the average one-year retention of new nurses is in the mid-80 percent range," Tammy Peterman, KU Hospital's chief operating officer and chief nursing officer, said in a release.

"Nationally, the nurse residency program has a 93.6 percent retention rate. Our rate over the first five years (of the residency program) is 95 percent."

The one-year residency program is designed to take new nursing graduates into the workplace and provide special training in critical thinking skills, leadership, communication skills, patient safety, evidence-based nursing practice and professional career advancement.

To reach Julius A. Karash, call 816-234-4918 or send e-mail to [email protected]


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