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Congressional hopeful relies on medical experience

Because COVID-19 has limited candidates’ opportunities for town hall meetings and meet-and-greets, the newspaper is interviewing state and federal candidates who avail themselves for in-depth local interviews as a way to help voters be informed.

Staff writer

As an ophthalmologist in Garden City, congressional candidate Bill Clifford sees a need for health care reform.

One problem is the need for more doctors in specialized fields, he said.

“That’s a federal issue I get and I can work on that,” he said. “I won’t solve health care. It’s bigger than all of us, but I know where some of the weak points are and I’m going to drill down on those.”

That becomes more important as states look at expanding Medicaid, Clifford said.

Federal government pays 90% of Medicaid expansion costs under the Affordable Care Act, according to The Commonwealth Fund.

However, that only applies to states that have adopted expanded plans since the act came into effect in 2014. Kansas has not, which means only 57.1% of its Medicaid expenses are federally covered, according to Kansas Health Institute.

Medicaid doesn’t pay patients’ cost directly, but reimburses hospitals after the costs are written off.

“There’s a perverse disincentive created to let people off right now and bring them back in on the 90% side,” said Clifford, Finney County’s commission chairman. “I think we should go to Congress and level that playing field so everyone is treated equally.”

Clifford believes in making individuals responsible with for their health.

It was a similar tactic taken when Finney County reopened amid COVID-19 concerns.

“You have to mitigate risk,” he said. “When we finally took the vote to open Finney County, I said we’re not voting the virus out of Finney County, we’re telling the citizens and businesses that this is personal responsibility. If you feel at risk, stay quarantined.”

In neighboring states, Clifford said social distancing was not quickly adopted by individuals and COVID-19 cases soared.

“We saw what happened in Iowa, and really, Colorado,” he said. “You can’t control what people do in their time off.”

What sets a community apart is its ability to rebound from financial or community setbacks, Clifford said.

He pointed to the early 2000s when a Con-Agra factory fire cost Garden City 2,000 jobs.

“We all had to work together to optimize our economy, to keep our kids from leaving, and create a quality of life for people,” he said. “Beginning in the early 2000s we did a couple things. We put up an airport tower, one, to get us out to the rest of the world, but also to bring the rest of the world to us.”

Experience taught Finney County not to wait for assistance in August 2019 when a Tyson Foods factory in Holcomb caught fire, he said.

Self-reliance is needed in many communities around Kansas’ first congressional district, he said.

“The cavalry doesn’t show up for a few days,” he said. “You know that in Marion County, as well. The assets you have on the ground, the talent you’ve attracted, the equipment you provided to first responders is what you have.”

One of Clifford’s main goals is to find ways to promote value-added agriculture, as opposed to simply shipping out raw products.

“How can we enhance what our producers are already giving us?” he said.

Similar to his political role model, former Kansas congressman Clifford Hope (1893-1970), Bob Clifford is pledging his dedication to serving on the House Agricultural Committee for as long as he is in Washington, D.C.

Clifford commended President Donald Trump’s dedication toward improving foreign trade deals, and voiced his support for gun ownership as a longtime NRA member.

An honorably discharged Air Force veteran who served in Europe, Clifford sees the need to have American allies assume a larger responsibility in common interests with the U.S.

“It’s caused some friction with our allies, but the American taxpayer can’t subsidize the rest of the world’s defense,” he said. “We have certain national interests that we serve overseas, but ultimately our allies need to come to the table and pay some of that.”

Clifford’s own family shows he is a proponent for adoption and groups advocating against abortion.

His six children include five who were adopted, and many of the five come from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

In addition to his stance on abortion, Clifford’s opinions on immigration and a border wall are evidence of his conservatism, but he would like to see immigration practices become more human-focused.

“Our immigration system is a big bureaucracy,” he said. “It’s not working correctly for these individuals or our employers. We see it constantly with Kansas’s first district. That system needs to be straightened out, but not without border security first.”

As a county commission chairman, Clifford recognizes a need to cooperate with more than his fellow Republicans. As a symbolic first step, he plans to sit near the aisle in Congress, both figuratively and literally.

“I work with three votes out of five to get things done now,” he said. “I realize in Congress you need a lot more to move the ball.”

Last modified June 18, 2020

 

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