Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mean Kansas law in the making: Pay your medical bills in 90 days or ...

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 6:45 AM

click to enlarge Brenda Landwehr
  • Brenda Landwehr

Here's an unbelievably cold, cruel bit of attempted lawmaking in Topeka.

House Bill 2285 essentially says this: Uninsured Kansans who get treated at a hospital or doctor's office have 90 days to pay their bill. If they haven't settled up within 90 days, the provider can turn their bill over to the state, which can take the money out of the delinquent person's tax refund.

Thanks, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, Republican of Wichita. Life is already scary enough for uninsured Kansans. Many of them may even be newly uninsured, having recently lost their jobs. Seems to me the woman who is chair of a committee called Health and Human Services ought to be working to figure out a way to give humans a break, not make sure hospitals collect.

Sadly, it's not surprising to see this from Landwehr, who seems to view the world in pretty harsh terms. She rides the anti-illegal-immigrant bandwagon. In 2007, when the legislature was considering providing grade-school girls with a vaccine that would prevent cervical cancer, Landwehr opposed it on the grounds that she didn't want to encourage promiscuity.

We remember Landwehr best for her anti-abortion speech in February 2006 -- one in which she talked about her own abortion while arguing for stricter regulations on abortion clinics. "How many of you have sat

down and really talked to a young woman who's gone through with an

abortion, and what she's living with today?" Landwehr asked her fellow legislators. "You live with a lot. I'm one of those women. I live with that

pain every single day. Because I killed a baby. It's more than just a

surgical procedure, having a knee repaired or a hip replaced." The emotional plea wasn't enough to prevent other House members from passing legislation that treated all medical facilities the same.

Landwehr hasn't returned my call -- but I hope she does, so she can explain why it's good public policy to give people just 90 days to pay hospital bills that we all know can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars in just a few hours.

"This is a horrible bill," says Corrie Edwards, Executive Director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition. "As if people aren't screwed enough in this economy. The only thing some people have to look forward to is that tax refund -- and they want to take that away."

Looking over Landwehr's campaign contributions, why am I not surprised to see lots of donations from insurance companies like Blue Cross & Blue Shield, and Humana; big pharmaceutical companies like Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer; hospital interests like HCA; medical-industry lobbying groups like the Kansas Medical Society and the Kansas Pharmacists Association -- I could give lots of other examples, but looking through this list is starting to make me sick.

At least we know who Landwehr really represents.

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