- Wichita Mayoral candidate Lyndy Wells’ donor history almost entirely to Republican men is the least of his problems
- Wells frequently cites his experience as Board Chair at a for profit mental and behavioral health clinic to show his commitment to mental health
- The clinic that Wells’ led has created financial barriers that makes it impossible for the working poor to receive treatment at the facility
In Wichita, Kansas, some are concerned with not only the current growth in mental health issues the city has faced over the years, but also one of the mayoral candidates that appears to have helped create the issue.
Over the weekend the RISE ICT Facebook Page revealed that Wichita mayoral candidate Lyndy Wells has a long history of donating to Republican campaigns. His donations range from a national level when he donated to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, to the state level when he donated to former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt in both 2010 and 2014, both of whom spent their careers un-doing the Affordable Care Act and blocking Medicaid Expansion in Kansas.
More troubling than his donor history is Wells insistence that his experience as chair of the board of directors at a for profit mental and behavioral health clinic in Newton qualifies him to address a mental health epidemic that rages in Wichita. The largest barrier people face, especially the working poor, are what the Kansas Health Institute calls “Financial Barriers.”
Lyndy Wells Was Board Chair At The For Profit Prairie View Inc. Mental And Behavioral Health Hospital In Newton
Wells served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the for profit mental and behavioral health clinic, Prairie View Inc. Prairie View is is headquartered in Newton, Kansas and provides mental and behavioral health care, principally, for those covered by private insurance and government insurance programs.
Locally, Prairie View has a poor track record of making sure those least able to pay for mental health treatment receive such treatment. Because Prairie View is a for profit company, the bottom line always comes first. Prairie View’s own policy is a very clear about requiring immediate payment for those without insurance.
For clients without insurance or who choose not to use insurance benefits, Prairie View expects the client to pay for all charges at time of service.Via Prairie View Policy
Prairie View Charges The Working Poor Substantially More Than It Charges The Federal Government For Medicare Reimbursements For The Same Treatments
Prairie View’s billing policy provides that the charges for those without health insurance are not to be greater than the “amount generally billed,” or AGB.
Prairie View calculates that “amount generally billed” using a 12-month look back on average payments from both Medicare and private insurance companies. The result is that those least likely to pay — but whom make too much to qualify for Medicaid, the working poor — are paying an amount substantially higher than the Medicare reimbursement rate. According to Prairie View, the “amount generally billed” is equal to an 18% discount on services, principally because it includes private insurance rates.
An 18% discount from private insurance fees for mental and behavioral health care for those living in poverty isn’t just an obstacle to treatment in Wichita and the surrounding region – it’s a brick wall. Prairie View’s pricing for the working poor makes treatment of a mental health illness an impossible burden at Wells’ clinic.
Financial Barriers Are Among Top Reasons People Don’t Seek Or Receive Treatment For Mental Illness
Local experts agree that the largest barriers to mental health care and treatment in our region and in our state are “financial barriers.”
In 2017, the Kansas Health Institute published “A Guide to Understanding Mental Health Care in Kansas.” There were three central barriers to mental health care in Kansas, central among them for Wichita and our region are “financial barriers.”
Insurance and financial barriers can affect access to mental health services. Financial barriers can include not being able to afford insurance, treatment or medications to help manage mental health conditions. Being uninsured or under-insured (when insurance does not cover needed services, or has high out-of-pocket costs) can restrict access to mental health providers or facilities and make access to services cost-prohibitive.Via KHI
Report: Kansas’ Ability To Provide Mental Health Care Has Been Hampered By The State’s Fiscal Issues And Policy Decisions
Kansas, more broadly — and certainly Wichita specifically — has a mental health epidemic that isn’t easily solved.
In March 2018, the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics (“USC Schaeffer”) published a report called the “The Cost of Mental Illness: Kansas Facts and Figures.” The USC Schaeffer report discussed the challenges of providing mental and behavioral health care.
Improving access to high-quality medical and behavioral health care for patients with mental illness remains one of the most vexing problems facing the healthcare system in the United States.Via USC Schaeffer Report
Specific to Kansas, the report found that affordable health care “has been hampered by the state’s fiscal issues and policy decisions.”
In Kansas, there is concern that access to affordable mental health care has been hampered by the state’s fiscal issues and policy decisions.Via USC Schaeffer Report
During his time in office, Brownback depleted the state general fund and robbed resources from vital services — such as from community mental health centers — to provide tax breaks for the rich. Those decisions wrecked the ability of community mental health centers to provide critical access to every person who was experiencing a mental health emergency. The policy created waiting lists that are months long.
Brownback refused to allow Medicaid Expansion, which would have expanded those covered by insurance and returned over $3 billion in reimbursements to Kansas providers to date. The refusal to expand Medicaid has caused waiting lists for those seeking treatment for mental illness to grow, forcing an explosion of mental health emergencies in Wichita. Mental health emergencies are Wichita’s single largest public health crisis today.
Republican Donor History Shows Lyndy Wells Contributing To Brownback In The 2014 Gubernatorial Election, Where Medicaid Expansion Was A Central Point Of Debate
The 2014 Gubernatorial election featured Brownback running for a second term as Governor against House Minority Leader Paul Davis and Wichitan Jill Docking.
Davis told reporters at the beginning of his run for Governor that he wanted to extend Kancare to “those who need it most.”
My first priority is to extend KanCare to those who need it most…Paul Davis Via CJ Online
With the debate regarding Medicaid Expansion central, Wells contributed twice to Brownback’s 2014 re-election campaign. The first contribution came on November 18, 2013. Following the start of a new reporting cycle, Wells made another $500 contribution to Brownback’s gubernatorial campaign in the weeks leading up to the election on September 18, 2014.
During his run for Wichita Mayor, Wells insists that he supports Medicaid Expansion for Kansas. However, his entire contribution history indicates he has supported Republican candidates for office who swore to stop the Affordable Care Act and important associated policies, such as Medicaid Expansion.
Lyndy Wells Contributions To Attorney General Derek Schmidt Further Demonstrates His Opposition To Medicaid Expansion
Wells has also been a reliable contributor to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has spent his career as attorney general using federal litigation to chip away at the protections provided to consumers under the Affordable Care Act. According to Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, Wells made political contributions to Schmidt’s first campaign for attorney general on December 17, 2009 and again on September 16, 2010. Wells again contributed to Schmidt’s re-election campaign on December 3, 2012.
Almost since the day he was first elected as attorney general, Schmidt has made litigating the Affordable Care Act his top priority.
In 2011, shortly after being sworn in as attorney general, Schmidt entered Kansas as a plaintiff in Florida, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., arguing that Congress had overstepped by requiring states to expand their Medicaid eligibility to cover those at or below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. The United States Supreme Court ultimately struck the requirement that states expand Medicaid, leaving it to the state legislatures to decide the question of Medicaid Expansion.
Most recently, Schmidt has entered Kansas into litigation that even the Attorney General acknowledges “could wipe out some popular consumer protections.”
Wells later contributions are even more troubling. After Schmidt joined Kansas in litigation with Florida against Health and Human Services to block the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that states expand Medicaid coverage. Wells contributed again to Schmidt, which many take as a blatant approval of the work he was performing.
A Candidate’s Body of Work Should Guide Your Vote For Mayor of Wichita
Rather than looking at what candidates are telling you now, while they run for public office, instead look at their body of work to understand their values.
There are several candidates for Mayor who have championed access to mental and behavioral health care for the working poor before they announced their run for Mayor of Wichita, with one of those candidates having more than 50 votes in favor of Medicaid Expansion in Kansas.
In the instance of Lyndy Wells, we believe his body of work tells his values. With a contribution history entirely to Republican candidates opposed to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion, we believe you cannot and should not trust Lyndy Wells’ convenient about-face on Medicaid Expansion.
For most of the last decade, Wells has contributed big bucks to the very people who have chipped away most of the major policy provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid Expansion. Further, Wells service as Board Chair of a for profit mental and behavioral health hospital only further shows that Wells is principally concerned about serving those with the ability to pay and that he has no experience with mental and behavioral health care for Wichita’s working poor.
Don’t forget to vote for the next Mayor of Wichita by or before Tuesday, August 6. Sedgwick County will have expanded early voting opportunities on August 1, 2 and 3 this week. You may vote at any of these Early Voting Satellite Centers regardless of where you live.