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Since January 2016, KMUW's Engage ICT: Democracy on Tap has convened free community conversations on topics that touch our daily lives. Democracy on Tap went digital in April 2020. Viewers can stream the live conversations here at EngageICT.org or KMUW's Facebook page.

Engage ICT: Health Care

January 12, 2016 at Reverie Coffee Roasters


Engage ICT, KMUW’s civic initiative, kicked off its Democracy on Tap series with a panel on health care.

Attendees gathered at Reverie Coffee Roasters to hear how issues from Medicaid to the health insurance marketplace will shape the 2016 election year. Health care is a $3 trillion business in the U.S.; close to 1 in 5 dollars of today’s Gross Domestic Product is health care spending, up from 1 in 20 in the 1960s.

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Medicaid in particular is the element of health care that stands out the most, said panelist Ed Flentje, who formerly served as Wichita’s interim city manager.

“If you’re talking about health care policy…it’s a new development,” he said.

Though the non-partisan event did not set out to advocate any particular political stance, all four panelists spoke extensively about the importance of health care coverage, whether it’s under a private plan, Medicaid or in the federal insurance marketplace. David Gear, director of Wichita’s Guadalupe Clinic, which serves under-insured and uninsured individuals, said there are an estimated 70 to 75,000 uninsured individuals in Sedgwick County—though the number is likely higher including undocumented immigrants.

Still, said Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project, the ACA has been “a stunning success,” but not one without room for improvement.

Gear and Teresa Lovelady, president and CEO of the HealthCore Clinic in Wichita, described the so-called “donut hole” that leaves many in limbo between the Affordable Care Act marketplace and Medicaid Lovelady says many will come to her clinic ready to sign up for insurance in the marketplace, only to find out they don’t qualify for insurance in the marketplace.

“How do you explain to someone, ‘You’re not poor enough, but then you don’t have enough money. You’re not rich enough. So we can’t help you’?” she said.

Gear says Sedgwick County is “blessed…to have a network of safety-net clinics that operate on a sliding scale” to serve those without adequate insurance, but Lovelady noted that organizations like hers are always struggling to have enough money to continue to provide the safety net. And someone always ends up paying for health care.

“Why should you guys be engaged and encouraged to vote?” she said. “Because these things directly impact you.”