Greg Orman, the independent candidate for Kansas governor, met with The Kansas City Star editorial board and answered questions about policy and politics. Here are highlights from the conversation:
What’s the biggest difference between you and the other two candidates?
I’m the only candidate in the race who has any meaningful experience running organizations of the size and the scale of many of our state agencies. Secretary Kobach has run two small organizations, and I think has done so pretty poorly. If you look at the Kansas Republican Party under his watch, they failed to do basic things like pay withholding taxes. That’s what I call a rookie mistake. Frankly, those are things in the private sector that you get fitted for an orange jumpsuit.
Yes, his ideology is scary. His incompetence scares me more.
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Senator Kelly hasn’t really been tested in that regard. While she’s been in the Senate for 14 years, she’s never really managed anything.
When you look at state government, what’s been mismanaged the most?
We can start by looking at the Department of Children and Families. Obviously having 75 kids (in foster care) go missing in DCF is a huge issue. It’s not just the kids that are going missing, they seem to have a very inconsistent policy when they intervene in abuse cases.
If you look at KanCare (the health care program for the poor), obviously we’ve had huge issues with KanCare. We can’t seem to get applications processed. Frankly, I don’t know if that’s deliberate or not. It’s certainly cheaper to provide Medicaid to people if you don’t sign them up.
If you dive deeper into what we’re doing in the KanCare system, we’re taking the guided tour as it relates to negotiating prescription-drug prices. Anybody’s who’s done procurement work in the private sector realizes you use data and information to make sure you negotiate the best possible price. You don’t accept a 25-cent discount per pill when you should get a $10 discount.
Would you get rid of KanCare?
Yes, I would. I think (in) health care we align the incentives all wrong. In fact, I tell people it’s the only industry I know of where you get paid to fix your own mistakes.
I would go to a system of direct primary care so that we directly contract with physicians, practices, nurse practitioners, critical access hospitals (and) community hospitals to provide primary care to the Medicaid population. And the KanCare providers would exist solely to provide that layer of insurance that deals with catastrophic things for emergencies.
Garden City does this with its city employees. What they’ve seen over five years is a slight decline in their health care costs.
You support expansion of Medicare?
Absolutely. I think we have a health care finance system in Kansas, particularly with critical access and regional hospitals, that’s teetering. If we don t do something differently, I think we’ will see half of our critical access hospitals gone in the next 10 years.
As an independent, what are you offering voters that’s different?
What we see far too often from both sides are solutions that are 30 years old. I mean, you look at something like the school debate right now, and on the one hand, I’ve heard from conservatives, we need to go to private-school vouchers. Competition is the answer. On the other hand, I’ve heard from some saying we need to put hundreds of millions or billions of dollars into the top of the funnel (the school-aid formula). Now to be clear, I think we need to meet the Supreme Court mandate.
We need to debate the root problem we’re trying to solve. In that regard, if you look at something like the achievement gap, the gap between low-income kids and high-income kids we’re trying to solve, two thirds of that is caused by one thing — the summer learning deficit.
Low-income kids don’t get the same learning experiences as high-income kids during the summer. I want more summer reading programs. I want more summer learning programs. I think eventually we may get there (year-round schools).