Dena K. Hubbard, MD, FAAP
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Social distancing and masks and online school? Oh my! Like Dorothy, you may have the feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore. Who would have thought these items would be so controversial, political and scarier than lions and tigers and bears? Despite the uncertainties and complexities of COVID-19, pediatricians must unite in advocacy for our patients and families. Your voice for children is more important than ever.
The August primaries are over and November general elections are around the corner. ALL Kansas House and Senate positions, as well as U.S. House of Representatives and one of the two U.S. Senators face elections. Remind your colleagues, staff, and families what is at stake in this election for children and how raising their voices, and votes, is so critically important. Children are counting on us; vote like their future depends on it.
“What to Expect
When You’re Expecting”… When You Don’t Know What to Expect Next
The 2021 legislative session will be focused on recovery from the pandemic. COVID-19 has highlighted disparities in access to healthcare, health care outcomes, affordable child care, parental and sick leave benefits, and social injustices. Schools are critical: they serve as social and emotional stability for kids and parents, and as an indicator of economic recovery. The impact of COVID-related unemployment, social disruption, and social justice movements rooted in addressing racial inequity will present some unique challenges, and opportunities, for the 2021 Legislature. Some major issues we anticipate include: increasing access to connectivity as a necessity for schools and healthcare; balancing decreased state and local revenue with increased need for benefits and services in our communities; competing for federal relief funds; and recognizing poverty and race in policy discussions ranging from criminal justice and social services to education, behavioral health and healthcare.
Several COVID-19 related issues in HB 2016 (link) will need to be reviewed including nursing license restriction waivers for APRNS practicing without physician supervision, temporary licensure measures for non-physician providers (PA, LPN, RN, APRNs, pharmacists), relaxation of regulatory requirements for hospitals and medical care facilities, use and payment of telemedicine visits, liability protection for businesses and healthcare providers for COVID-19 related litigation. We also anticipate more discussion on topic of Vaccinations, both COVID-related in particular, and potential statutory or policy changes that will impact vaccinations.
Current KAAP Advocacy Activities
In the meantime, KAAP advocacy activities include:
- Special Committee on Foster Care invited KAAP to provide testimony on the issue of foster children medical records in their meeting August 25-26. The Foster Care Oversight Committee is examining progress and shortfalls in child welfare system, including quality of care, access to mental health services, trends in contributing factors, Family First Prevention Services Act, and barriers to sharing information across stakeholders.
- Mental Health Modernization & Reform Committee is examining the state’s behavioral health system to ensure community accessibility of both inpatient and outpatient services; review current capacity of the state’s behavioral health workforce; study the availability and capacity of crisis centers and substance abuse facilities; and examine the impact of recent policy changes.
- KAAP will continue to work with KDHE. KDHE has actively sought out guidance from KAAP during COVID pandemic. KAAP be meeting with new Kansas Medicaid Director Sarah Fertig later this month.
Save the Date!
KAAP Advocacy day January 27, 2021 with Kansas Medical Society and other physician organizations (KAFP, etc.). Physician evening reception the night before Tuesday January 26th. Wednesday January 27th Advocacy day will include morning sessions with all physician groups at KMS offices, break-out sessions by specialty, and then afternoon visits with legislators at the Capitol. Legislative evening reception to follow. Residents and students are welcome to attend all of these activities as well. Register here.
Get Out the Vote!
Pediatricians have the unique opportunity to educate patients and their families about the importance of voting. As a first step, get to know your institution’s policies to understand what you are able to do as an individual, pediatrician or an administrator. The national American Academy of Pediatrics is leading a robust Get Out the Vote campaign focused on the connection between health equity and voting. KAAP also believes every child deserves the opportunit to live to their full health potential. Voting is one of the main ways we can influence the public policies that address health inequities in our communities.
KAAP supports nonpartisan voter engagement activities, including voter registration, voter education, and Get Out the Vote efforts. We encourage KAAP members to participate in state candidate forums, ask child health related questions to candidates, utilize social media to provide nonpartisan messaging about the importance of election as it relates to addressing child health and health inequities in Kansas, work with residency programs and coalition partners in KS on local GOTV projects, publicize voter assistance services including organizations offering translation or transportation assistance, and promote voter protection resources such as those offered by 866-OUR-VOTE. Check out AAP website Election 2020: Vote Kids and Kansas Action for Children KAC Voter Guide for more information on key child health issues and resources.
For voter registration related resources, see Vote.org Kansas specific info here and consider adding free voting registration tools from Vote.org to your practice website. AAP website also has excellent Voter Registration Resources, including those from VotER, a non-profit, non-partisan voter registration effort that engages health care professionals to provide their patients and families with non-interruptive ways to opt-in to register to vote or request their vote-from-home ballot. Be a good role model by planning ahead to vote and provide your staff and trainees time to vote on election day or resources for absentee voting in Kansas. Any registered Kansas voter may apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail. Early voting is also an option 1-20 days before the election, but varies by county. Voters should contact their county elections office for additional information.
Be Counted The goal of the U.S. Census is to count every person living in the United States, once, only once and in the right place. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that this population and housing count occur every 10 years. Census data guide how more than $675 billion of federal funding is distributed to states and communities each year. Encourage your friends, family, staff, trainees, and patient families to complete the census at https://my2020census.gov/.