Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS)

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) has emerged as a leading contender to become the next secretary of the Health and Human Services department. Flint Hills Center for Public Policy senior fellow Gregory Schneider previews what a Sebelius HHS might look like:

For one thing, she is an able bureaucrat, presiding over the creation of the massive, yet ineffective, health reform agency, the Kansas Health Policy Authority (KHPA) which came into existence in 2006. KHPA has been an advocate of expanded government health care and more Medicaid … With a friend like her at HHS, one may suspect the forces of government health care will expand their reach. Washington will dictate more to the states, which have been laboratories for reform (at least those states headed by governors amenable to reforms which aren’t defined as bailouts from Congress).

But after four years of the KHPA what has changed in Kansas health care? Not much. Medicaid is still a mess. The fiscal health of the government-funded health system in the state is helping to drag down the budget and it will only get worse with the massive infusion of cash–some $112 million additional coming from the House stimulus. There has been no substantial effort made by the KHPA, and by extension, the governor, to address the fundamental problems in Kansas health care–cost of care and continued inadequacies in the Medicaid system. Their major proposals last year, such as premium assistance and other reforms contained in SB 11, were blocked by the Legislature; their proposals this year–a smoking ban and tobacco taxes to fund expanded health care spending, may not pass either.

Instead, Sebelius has discussed how vital it is for Kansas to get the additional monies coming from the federal government. Kansas, she claims, needs the money to expand Medicaid eligibility; whether that is a wise idea given the fiscal straits Kansas and the nation are in at the moment, or whether it is sustainable for future generations, is beside the point. There is never any discussion of reforming Medicaid, or helping move people from government insurance to private insurance.

If Sebelius gets the HHS job, she will fit right in with the climate of big spending inside the beltway, something she learned on the job here in Kansas. If it turns out she doesn’t get the job, the Topeka beltway government health gravy train will roll on with the stimulus adding millions to the coffers.