Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook fights for health-care freedom (cough, cough)


Mary Pilcher Cook
  • Mary Pilcher Cook

God bless Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook of Shawnee, who is leading the effort to secure a Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment. Cook, who like others on the far right is afraid of a government takeover of everything, is already worried about Kansas losing its sovereignty.

"If you're like me, you are deeply concerned about the direction our country is headed, and you want to know the individuals who are at work, putting hard effort into seeing that our liberty is protected, " Pilcher Cook writes in her letter explaining the Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment. She is dedicated to (note the threatened, militaristic tone):

  • Preserving the freedom of Kansans to provide for their health care.
  • Safeguarding the liberty of Kansans from any federal government action, which would coerce participation in a health care system.
  • Defending the independence of Kansans to pay directly for health care services without penalty.
I'm no expert on this stuff, but much of the language of Pilcher Cook's amendment makes no logical sense. For example, this sentence in the Explanatory Statement:

"A vote against this proposition ... would provide for no constitutional right of a person or employer to purchase lawful health care services directly from a health care provider."

So, voting against her amendment would be saying you don't want people to have a constitutional right to buy lawful health insurance? Of course no one's going to vote against that, but, jeez, Mary, is the government really going to prevent anyone from buying lawful health insurance? It seems like you're protesting a bit too much.

Brenda Landwehr
  • Brenda Landwehr
Then again, that's no surprise, considering that one of Pilcher Cook's main allies in this effort is Rep. Brenda "Brought to You by the Medical Industry" Landwehr, who chairs the Kansas House of Representatives' Health and Human Services committee.

"This seems to be a tougher issue for politicians than for every day Americans, who in poll after poll want some kind of health reform because the costs are just too high in our current system and we leave too many people without insurance," says Marcia Nielsen, vice chancellor for public policy and planning at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Nielsen says an effort such as Pilcher Cook's is particularly wrong-headed in a rural state like Kansas, explaining that Kansas will be a "net beneficiary of reform." Citing a recent state analysis, she says reform "would expand coverage to about 70,000 Kansans at little or no additional cost to the state," she says.

"A state like Kansas can really benefit because so many of our uninsured are self-employed, work for small businesses, or are part-time seasonal," she explains. "They'd have a policy they could afford with limits on what they'd pay out of pocket." For example, she says, "There's a sliding scale tax credit to help small businesses in rural areas to provide benefit for workers."

Another problem that's an issue in a rural state like Kansas is having enough health providers. "Health reform doesn't resolve all of those issues, but it does include provisions to invest in the National Health Service Corps, which would fund grants, scholarships and loan repayments for for doctors, nurses, dentists and mental health specialists who locate in rural areas," she says.

Nielsen is well-traveled in the battles over health reform in Kansas, having served as executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Association until this past summer.

"Look, when we tried to do reform at the state level, politicians in Kansas said this is something that the federal government should take the lead on," she says. "Now that the feds are taking the lead, we hear just the opposite."

But that's because it threatens our freedom! No word from Pilcher Cook on what happens to your freedom when you die because you don't have access to health insurance.

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