Leave work requirements out of KanCare expansion plans

By Dana Bacon | Oct. 1, 2019

Though the legislative session doesn’t begin until January 13, we already know its tone will be set by a central question: “How best to cover more Kansans by expanding access to the KanCare program?” Lawmakers will likely be tempted to add some controversial and concerning ideas in their proposals, including work reporting requirements. For the blood cancer survivors that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society seeks to help, and for others facing serious medical conditions, there are good reasons to oppose these dangerous provisions.

More people than ever are surviving cancer because of earlier diagnosis and better treatment options. Still, cancer is a life-changing disease for survivors and family members. Depending on the type and severity of cancer one faces, the treatment process can be physically, emotionally and financially challenging. Recovery can last from months to years, and some side effects can have a permanent impact on survivors’ future employment prospects.

Today we have a limited understanding of how to help cancer survivors rebuild their careers. In August 2016, the National Cancer Institute gathered 29 oncologists, occupational therapists, employment experts and others to develop a research agenda to tackle this issue. Their top conclusion: “Major knowledge gaps limit the development and implementation of interventions to improve employment outcomes among people with cancer.” The group recommended extended research into patient, provider and employer systems to address these challenges for cancer survivors. That work continues, but is far from finished.

A substantial body of research suggests that reporting requirements do little to promote health and economic prosperity and much to disrupt access to care, despite the claims of supporters. Arkansas’ early results for its Medicaid reporting requirement program reinforce those concerns. More than 18,000 Arkansans have lost their health care since the program launched in late 2018. Researchers found that enrollees often didn’t know about the reporting program and were confused by its requirements. Those who lost coverage saw “no significant change in employment,” according to a June 2019 report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

KanCare helps 415,000 people with disabilities, senior citizens, children and low-income adults live healthier, more productive lives, and would do the same for 150,000 more Kansans if expanded thoughtfully. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society views reporting requirements as a misguided threat to the health and longevity of blood cancer survivors, and legislators would do well to leave these requirements out of their Medicaid expansion recommendations this fall.

Dana Bacon is the regional director of government affairs for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.