As a doctor who is navigating the coronavirus pandemic as an elected official, state Sen. Barbara Bollier, D-Mission Hills, said helping people gain access to healthcare and supporting struggling rural hospitals is more important than ever.
Bollier, who is running for U.S. Senate, met with Manhattan-Ogden school board members, city leaders and a mental health expert Friday to talk about the challenges facing these entities, from funding to maintaining public health.
In an interview with The Mercury, Bollier said the most common concern she hears from constituents is healthcare reform.
“One of the key differences between me and my opponent (U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall) is that I support getting access to care to everyone by maintaining our affordable health care act, building on it and expanding Medicaid in the state,” Bollier said.
Medicaid expansion, which would cover an additional 150,000 Kansans, passed in the Kansas Legislature in 2017, but then-governor Sam Brownback vetoed it. Officials announced a bipartisan expansion bill earlier this year, but Republican Senate leader Susan Wagle stalled a vote until an anti-abortion bill passed the house. The legislative session ended without either bill being passed.
“We know we have the votes, and again, Republican leadership stood in the way and would not allow us to bring the bill to the floor for a vote,” Bollier said. “If there’s different leadership who will allow the vote to occur, that will change things. … When you have partisanship getting in the way and not allowing those votes to happen, you’re blocking the will of the people. I want to give Washington the ability to work to get these things passed and work together.”
Bollier reiterated what public health officials have been advising during the pandemic — wearing masks, maintaining physical distance from those outside the household and regular personal hand hygiene — to control the spread of the virus and ultimately rebuild the economy.
“As a future U.S. senator, I want to see us working together and get the people of this country what they need and for Kansans in particular,” she said. “Our small businesses, our schools, our communities, our cities, our local governments — they desperately need help, and we have to help those who are unemployed get unemployment benefits so they can live. I’m truly disappointed to see our whole politics get in the way of solutions and now, our Congress has gone on break when people need them to get together.”
With local schools on the verge of beginning classes — K-State on Monday and USD 383 on Aug. 26 — Bollier said communities should be prepared to constantly reassess best practices and solutions to curb spread of the virus.
“We are in a time of history that is novel,” Bollier said. “We have never experienced (anything) like this before, trying to do the best we can to continue life as needed but safely. So you start, and if you’re right, you can move forward, and if you’re not, you step back. That’s what I expect, every day an analysis, science-based decision-making and following public health officials.”
Bollier and Marshall will face off Nov. 3 to see who will replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.