Earning a Living Costs Many Kansans Lives: Shocking Report



The author, Kendra Bozarth, has been dealing with post-exertional malaise (PEM) since the summer of 2022, a condition that causes debilitating symptoms after even minimal physical or emotional exertion. The condition has severely limited Bozarth’s ability to work and has led to significant healthcare costs that have eroded her savings. Bozarth uses her own experience to argue that public programs, such as Medicaid, should not be conditional based on one’s “ability”, criticizing Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins and Senate President Ty Masterson for their stance against Medicaid expansion, and calling for healthcare and housing to be considered fundamental needs rather than rewards only for those who can afford them.

Struggling with Post-Exertional Malaise and the Need for Healthcare Reform

Since summer 2022, I’ve been battling a condition known as post-exertional malaise, or PEM. This condition causes debilitating symptoms, including brain fog, body aches, and heart palpitations, which can be triggered by any use of energy.

Formerly an active individual who ran three miles most mornings, I am now restricted to minimal physical activities due to this chronic illness. This debilitating condition hinders not only my work but also amplifies my belief in the need for unconditional public programs that our state and country can afford.

My personal experience with the exorbitant cost of healthcare and daily work demands, despite being bedbound at times, is a testament to the consequences of a society that fails to care for all its citizens regardless of their physical condition.

Medicaid Expansion: A Controversial Solution?

Recent criticism by Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins and Senate President Ty Masterson of Gov. Laura Kelly’s call for Medicaid expansion has sparked controversy. The expansion is deemed as a political stunt benefiting “able-bodied adults” who “choose not to work.”

As a person who has been forced to relinquish work due to disability and understands equitable policy outcomes, I strongly disagree with this ableist viewpoint. It is unjust to price the most vulnerable out of healthcare, a fundamental necessity, regardless of their ability to work.

Moreover, the complexities of “earning a living” often jeopardize individuals’ health and well-being. Approximately 100 Kansans ages 55 to 64 die every year due to our state’s failure to expand Medicaid, as reported by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Urgent Need for Medicaid Expansion and Disability Justice

Extending Medicaid would not only extend health care coverage to the elderly, children, and uninsured adults but also affirm everyone’s right to care. Despite the cost, the federal government would bear the majority of the expenses.

A Disability Justice framework in policymaking would ensure no one is left behind in policy decisions that impact their lives. This approach reinforces the belief that “all bodies are unique and essential” with unique needs.

In her 2023 State of the State speech, Gov. Laura Kelly emphasized the mission to ensure that “every Kansan can access the mental and physical healthcare they need.”

It’s time to reform the systems that perpetuate inequality and neglect the well-being of our citizens. Medicaid expansion is a necessary starting point for this change.

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