Preventative care wording to change or vanish

Health Department Director Rex Archer.

Health Department Director Rex Archer.

Controversial health care wording in the five-year city business plan should change or go away entirely, city officials said Wednesday.

The issue surfaced last week following complaints from health care providers to the poor like Truman Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital.l

The wording at issue: “Develop baseline on percentage of health levy dollars invested in prevention as opposed to medical care.”

The providers say that would increase administrative efforts and could pit prevention against medical care for too-scarce city dollars.

Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer told the public safety and neighborhoods committee that was not his intent.

He wants to develop a database on prevention and perhaps by 2018 or later have some percentage requirements on spending for it, he said.

He said a lack of prevention care among the poor is one reason for the disparity in life expectancy – a 13-year difference between the city’s wealthiest and poorest zip codes.

“We can and have to do better,” he said. “It is really easy to just get caught up in treating ill people and not get ahead of the curve.”

Archer said every dollar spent on preventive services saves five dollars in treatment.

But providers said it is not easy to separate preventive care from medical care and they cannot force people to come in for preventative care.

Kirk Isenhour, vice president of marketing and development for Midtown’s Kansas City Care Clinic, said that many pure prevention programs like stop smoking classes also do not work.

What works is for doctors to talk to people about changes after a physical or other care, he said, and how much of that 40 minute session do you put on prevention?

Councilman Quinton Lucas asked Archer if such a heavy-handed data approach was really needed at all.

Archer agreed the current wording should be deleted and said he would send new suggested wording to the committee members.

Committee chair Alissa Canady said they would review it and send their own suggestions to members of the finance committee. That committee is handling the city business plan and is scheduled to amend it next week and send it to the full council for final approval.

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