Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, has resigned his legislative seat to accept an advocacy position with the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition.
“I enjoy advocacy work,” Gatewood said Tuesday. “It was one of the reasons I enjoyed being in the Legislature. I like helping people out.”
Gatewood, 30, served four years in the House before losing to Joshua Powell in this year’s general election.
“I ended up getting put in a different district,” he said, referring to a federal panel’s reconfiguring the House and Senate districts in June.
Gatewood said he resigned his seat because he thought it would be unethical to be in the Legislature while working for an organization that hopes to influence legislation.
“I wanted to go ahead and get started,” he said. “The timing seemed right.”
The 2013 legislative session convenes Jan. 14.
Gatewood will not be a lobbyist; instead, he will be helping local consumer groups have a voice in the state’s health care debate.
“As a kid, my family couldn’t afford health insurance so health was very important to me,” he said. “And then, as a legislator, I saw people who, over and over again, couldn’t access the system because of one difficulty or another. I just think that this (health care reform) is something we can do to vastly improve the lives of Kansans.”
Gatewood’s first day in his new position was Tuesday.
“This is a good opportunity for both of us,” said Anna Lambertson, the coalition’s executive director. “We’ll be taking advantage of his experience as a legislator, and his helping our grassroots community partners become better advocates. And he’s looking forward to being able to hone his advocacy and nonprofit experiences. It’s a win-win.”
The coalition, Lambertson said, has about 2,500 individual members across the state. It also partners with “hundreds” of local organizations, she said.
The coalition’s legislative priorities for 2013 include:
• Ensuring consumer access to affordable health care;
• Ensuring legislative oversight of KanCare;
• Ensuring KanCare beneficiaries’ access to an independent ombudsman; and
• Monitoring KanCare’s implementation.
KanCare is Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for plan to move virtually all of the state’s 380,000 Medicaid enrollees into managed care plans run by private insurance companies, starting on Jan. 1.
Lambertson said the coalition also supports expanding the state’s Medicaid program to include adults earning up to 133 percent of federal poverty guideline.
“We support the expansion,” she said. “We know it will help as many as 130,000 people get access to coverage. But we also know that it’s a complicated issue, so we will continue to gather information, talk to policymakers about what the options might be for the state, and advocate for those options."
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