Stories for March 2010

Wednesday, March 31

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Public and majority of legislators ready for tax increases, governor says

Consensus is there to avoid more spending cuts

As the Legislature concluded the regular session without an approved budget for fiscal 2011, the governor and Senate GOP leaders repeated their calls for tax increases when lawmakers return to Topeka for the wrap-up session.

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Various health bills moved in final day of regular session

Lawmakers had a busy day before taking first adjournment

In the final hours before adjourning the regular session, legislators worked their way through several health-related bills, including one that will mandate coverage for autism services and orally administered cancer drugs.

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Senate sends nursing home tax back to committee

The Senate voted 21-13 to send the bill back to the Ways and Means Committee.

Tuesday, March 30

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Contractor contributes money to ease Medicaid clearinghouse backlog

Applications logjam now going into its fourth year

A private donation to help clear the state's backlog of Medicaid applications has been received but the problem that is now entering its fourth year isn't likely to be resolved in the near future.

Monday, March 29

Unions urge hard look at pharmacy benefits for state employees

Current contractor not providing best deals, committee told

Union spokesmen say state workers aren't getting best prices for hundreds of generic drugs. But the state's pharmacy contractor and at least one legislator say the complaints are baseless and part of a bigger union effort.

Senate expected to vote Tuesday on nursing home tax

Measure expected to generate $86 million a year for the industry should it become law

The Kansas Senate is close to debating a bill that could generate $86 million a year in additional Medicaid funding for Kansas nursing homes.

Deliberations postponed on autism legislation

Bill also would require insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy

A conference committee today agreed to postpone deliberations on legislation that would require state-regulated insurance companies to cover autism services and oral chemotherapy.

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Much undone as Legislature takes first adjournment

The heavy lifting on budgets and taxes will wait until lawmakers return from break

The Legislature took first adjournment in the early hours Wednesday with budget and tax work far from complete and a statewide smoking ban still one of the few major accomplishments of the year.

Friday, March 26

HealthWave contractor insulates providers from Medicaid cuts

Children's Mercy Family Health Partners sends notice it won't pass along state spending cuts

Children's Mercy Family Health Partners sent notice Friday to doctors and other medical providers it works with that they won't face the 10 percent reduction in Medicaid rates ordered by the governor as part of efforts to balance the state budget.

Thursday, March 25

Reconciliation bill passes; Brownback and Roberts push for repeal

Concerns raised about health reform's impact on small, rural hospitals

Democrats in the U.S. Senate today overcame continuing opposition from Republicans, including Kansans Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, and approved a package of planned changes to the sweeping health care overhaul bill signed into law Tuesday by the president. Concersn raised about consequences for small, rural hospitals.

Senate committee passes provider tax

Changes made to bill are intended to improve care quality

A bill expected to generate $86 million a year in additional Medicaid funding for Kansas nursing homes has been amended by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to make clear that most of that money will be spent to improve care – not to reward executives or shareholders.

Wednesday, March 24

State health insurance proposal would swap gift cards for premium discounts

A $50 gift card incentive for members of the state health insurance program may be a thing of the past.

Advocates welcome anticipated restoration of Medicaid rates

But continue to bemoan other budget shortfalls

The governor and budget committees in both the House and Senate have said they intend to restore the10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements that became effective Jan. 1.

Congresswoman urges Kansas AG to join lawsuit against health reform

But don't hold your breath

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, a Republican, has written a letter urging Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, a Democrat, to join counterparts from several other states in suing the federal government over health reform.

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KDHE releases infection prevention plan

In 2008, catheter- or surgery-related infections cost Medicare $8.8 million in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and various medical groups have put together a plan for tracking and preventing hospital infections.

Tuesday, March 23

REACH Foundation elects new board

The REACH Healthcare Foundation today announced the election of eight members to its board of directors, including seven new people.

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Poll: Most Kansans back tax increases for tobacco and alcohol

$1 per pack more OK with large majority of those surveyed; higher levy on alchohol, too

A large majority of Kansans would support a $1 tax increase on cigarettes to help resolve the state’s budget deficit, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Roberts signs onto bill to repeal health reform

President made it law and GOP continued its protests

Republicans in the U.S. Senate and House are hoping to repeal the health reform law signed Tuesday morning by President Obama.

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Everyone wins or we all lose; a proposed budget solution

Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute calls for a budget solution that "holds education harmless" without new taxes.

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House spurns health reform constitutional amendment

But Senate sponsor enlists Obama's second cousin in an effort to get it passed

The House on Tuesday finalized its rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that supporters said would help fight a federal requirement that everyone have health insurance. Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a leading sponsor, held a press conference with a doctor claiming to be Barack Obama's second cousin, urging legislators to rethink their opposition to the amendment, which critics said would accomplish nothing beyond cluttering the constitution and misleading voters.

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Budget committees differ on Medicaid boost

$131 million in hoped-for federal aid opposed by Kansas Republicans in Congress

The Kansas House plan for balancing next year’s budget assumes Congress will delay rolling back the federal government’s participation in the state’s Medicaid-funded programs.

Monday, March 22

Free diabetes screening for legislators and state workers

Number of those diagnosed with the ailment up 20,000 in a year

Free diabetes screening will be available Tuesday for legislators and state employees. According to KDHE, more than 170,000 Kansans have been diagnosed with diabetes – up 20,000 from the previous year.

Health reform protest measure lacks support

Proposed constitutional amendment short of two-thirds majority needed

A proposed addition to the Kansas Constitution that supporters said would help protect Kansans from federal health reform mandates failed to get 83 votes in the Kansas House.

Sunday, March 21

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U.S. House passes historic health reform legislation

Bill passes 219-212

By a vote of 219-212, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Senate-passed health reform bill, which can now go to the president for signature into law. But the debate in Kansas, and across the country, continues.

Saturday, March 20

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Health care costs not addressed by reform bill

One of the most often cited reasons for passing health care reform is the problem of costs - health insurance costs and health care costs.

Friday, March 19

Kansas health reform supporter expects close vote

Only one of the four Kansas members of the U.S. House is expected to support the reform bill

The head of a statewide consumer coalition is expecting Sunday’s U.S. House vote on health reform legislation to be “razor thin.”

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Health reform will benefit Kansans

Over the last year, we’ve heard sobering statistics about our health care system. In Kansas, we are feeling the pinch of unstable employment, skyrocketing insurance premiums, and high out-of-pocket health care expenses. According to a report issued this week, the situation is sure to get worse without health reform.

Thursday, March 18

Committee hears cancer treatment parity bill

Insurance lobbyists renewed their opposition Thursday to a bill that would require health insurers to cover oral chemotherapies the same way they do intravenous chemotherapies.

Menu labeling discussed

It's not clear what will happen to federal health reform legislation that would require chain restaurants to label menu items, but the Kansas Legislature won't take any action on the measure this year.

Compromise tax break bill on the move

After limiting costs, Senate committee votes to send it to the floor for debate

A House-passed bill to expand a tax incentive for businesses that create or retain jobs in the state has been rewritten by a Senate committee to limit its cost and avoid a veto.

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Tax proposals shot down by Senate panel

Tax committee spurns proposals to increase tobacco, alcohol, soda pop and general sales levies

Plans to increase taxes on tobacco, alcohol, sugary drinks and general sales were each rejected by the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee. Members even shot down a bill that would benefit retailers for fear it would be a vehicle for amendments on the Senate floor.

Advocates: Mental health system in crisis

About 300 people from across Kansas came to Topeka as part of Mental Health Advocacy Day.

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Maneuvering on budget and taxes continues

House GOP leaders describe their budget plan

House GOP leaders today released their plan for a balanced budget without tax increases, saying it would not require "draconian cuts." The plan relies heavily on reduced spending for highways and K-12 schools. It also counts on an influx of federal dollars for Medicaid that has not yet been finalized by Congress.

Wednesday, March 17

Changes sought in smoking ban law

A new proposal in the Kansas House would allow some bars to permit their customers to smoke indoors.

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Committee shelves drug-testing bill

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee voted Wednesday to table a House-passed bill that would have exposed welfare recipients to random drug testing.

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Proposal for soda pop tax gets hearing

But Senate tax chairman says it won't be 1 cent per teaspoon of sugar

Busloads of beverage workers helped fill the hearing room and the hallways of the Statehouse.

Tuesday, March 16

KHPA board members blast proposed salary cuts

Legislators out of touch with Kansas public, according to one

To accommodate $800,000 in salary cuts, the agency would have to lay off 45 of its 190 Medicaid workers.

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House postpones debate on repealing sales tax exemptions

Democrats joined by some Republicans voted to wait until May 3

House members voted to wait until May 3 to consider tax legislation, saying that's when they would have a clearer idea of the state's budget needs.

Tax-break deal to be discussed

Effort to limit cost of job creation bill may lead to partial repeal of a business tax credit

The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to discuss trading one tax break for another in an effort to expand a job-creation program at little or no additional cost to the treasury.

Monday, March 15

Outlook up for state employee health plans

State employees will likely pay more for their health insurance in 2011, but not as much as previously expected.

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Legislature wades into tax bills this week

Two committees in the Senate consider plans as the full House weighs eliminating sales tax exemptions

After weeks of talking about weak revenues and budget cuts, the Legislature this week takes up various tax proposals ranging from elimination of sales tax exemptions to a new tax on soda pop.

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Chairman unveils $340 million tax package

The chairman of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee on Monday proposed a four-fold plan for raising more than $340 million for the state treasury.

Governor says votes there for major tax increase

Exact mix remains uncertain as House and Senate each wade into tax bills this week

There are enough votes to pass a $300 million to $400 million tax increase, the governor told KHI News Service. Still uncertain, he said, is the specific mix of taxes legislators will settle on.

Friday, March 12

Director named for KU med school expansion in Salina

Salina oncologist will lead move to four-year program

A Salina-based oncologist has been named director for the University of Kansas School of Medicine expansion in Salina.

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Spokesmen for developmentally disabled ask Supreme Court to halt spending cuts

Lawyer for Interhab serves paper on the governor and asks for an emergency injunction

The association that represents community programs for the developmentally disabled filed a mandamus action Friday with the Kansas Supreme Court asking for an immediate rollback of Medicaid and other budget cuts.

Committee passes mental health resolution

In Kansas, two groups of people can be denied the right to vote: criminals and the mentally ill.

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Parkinson signs smoking ban into law

Ban effective July 1

The signing of a bill Friday to enact a statewide smoking ban was a victory for public health officials, Gov. Mark Parkinson said.

Follow up to smoking ban bill introduced

A follow-up bill has been introduced in the Kansas House that would alter the statewide smoking ban signed into law by Gov. Mark Parkinson on Friday.

Democrats pan proposed cuts in SRS, KHPA spending

Democrats on the House Social Services Budget Committee refused to go along with the committee’s recommended cuts to SRS and the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

Thursday, March 11

EMS scope bill moves forward with big changes

After making substantial changes, a House committee on Thursday approved a bill that assigns new duties and in some cases titles for the different levels of Emergency Medical Services workers.

Ways and Means Committee agrees to cuts in social services

But no one was smiling

The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday upheld proposed cuts in the budgets of the Kansas Health Policy Authority and the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

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Senate subcommittee hears health reform constitutional amendment

"A symbolic measure and nothing more."

A proposed constitutional amendment meant to protect Kansans from a possible "individual mandate" to have health insurance "is a symbolic measure and nothing more," according to a KU law professor who clerked under U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Byron White.

Insurance bill would 'test track' autism coverage

A bill that sets the stage for requiring state-regulated insurance plans to cover autism was heard Wednesday in the Senate insurance committee.

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Ways and Means subcommittee finishes KHPA and SRS budgets

General Assistance axed and $17 million taken from early childhood programs

Some of the Legislature's strongest supporters of early childhood development programs signed off on sharp cuts in children's programs, re-emphasizing the signal from Senate GOP leaders that tax increases will be necessary.

Wednesday, March 10

Advocate: Quality assurances missing from nursing home bill

“There’s nothing in here that puts a focus on quality of care. It's a sieve,” said Mitzi McFatrich of Kansas Advocates for Better Care.

Efforts afoot to limit cost of tax-break bill

Compromise could mean elimination of other tax incentives

A compromise appears to be in the works on a proposal to expand tax incentives for companies that create or maintain jobs in Kansas.

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Soda pop tax up Wednesday in Senate panel

1 cent per teaspoon of sugar in sweetened beverages

A bill that would tax makers or first vendors of soda pop and other sugary drinks at 1 cent per teaspoon of sugar is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Assessment & Taxation Committee

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Disabled want faster movement off waiting list

Advocates push for rollback of Medicaid cuts

Advocates for the disabled stuck 58 crosses in the ground outside the Statehouse in an effort to call attention to the 58 who have died while on the state's waiting list for Medicaid-funded in-home services.

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Opponents say tobacco tax increase would wreck businesses

And fall hardest on mom-and-pop cigar shops and people with lower incomes

Opponents weigh in on tobacco tax proposal: Mom-and-pop cigar shops will be forced from business and shoppers will head to Missouri for smokes, booze, gasoline and other goods.

Governor schedules three signing ceremonies for smoking ban bill

One in Topeka on Friday and two next week in Kansas City and Salina

Gov. Mark Parkinson has scheduled three signing ceremonies for a bill that will ban smoking in most public places statewide.

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House panel tables alcohol tax increase

Bill aimed at raising funds for services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled

HB 2593 met opposition from Republicans who said it was a "feel-good" measure that would damage the food and beverage industry with no assurance the money raised would go for the intended purpose. But a Senate version of the bill has been introduced and was referred Wednesday to the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.

Tuesday, March 9

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Senate panel unsatisfied with cuts proposed by KHPA

Agency officials told twice to go back and try again

Members of the Senate budget committee that oversees spending by the Kansas Health Policy Authority made clear today they were unhappy with proposed budget cuts offered by the agency. In the course of three meetings Tuesday, members twice told the agency's chief to go back and try again

Appropriations Committee weighs nursing home tax

House Bill 2673 would use a $1,325-per-year tax on licensed nursing home beds to generate about $30 million which, in turn, would be used to draw down $56 million in additional Medicaid funding.

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Supporters say expanded tax break would help the treasury

But revenue chief calls that "wishful thinking"

Backers of a bill that would expand tax incentives for companies that create new jobs said the measure would generate more tax dollars than the state would give away.

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Children's Health in All Policies

In November 2009, the Kansas Health Institute (KHI) launched Children’s Health in All Policies (CHAP), a new initiative designed to address policies that impact children’s health in the context of policy-making at all levels.

Cost transparency bill 'step in right direction'

A House bill that would require health care providers to make it easier for consumers to find out the cost of health services is a good start, several supporters said Tuesday.

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Teens describe the foster care experience

House panel continues examination of state foster care system

“My mother had a habit of leaving me – when I was 10 years old -- with my four brothers and sisters while my dad was in rehab for a week or two at a time,” Rachel Perkins, 19, said Monday during testimony before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

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Senate panel urged to endorse tobacco tax increase

General sales and tobacco tax increases split into two bills

Supporters of a measure that would increase the cigarette tax by 55 cents a pack turned out in force. Hearings on a general sales tax increase expected to begin Thursday.

Monday, March 8

Resolution intended to preserve cap on damages

Medical malpractice case prompts legislative move by medical society

The House Judiciary Committee introduced a resolution to amend the state constitution to give the Legislature authority to limit non-economic damages in personal injury cases.

House subcommittee moves on managed care privilege tax

Bill would set in motion plan to buttress the state general fund by $4 million

The House Social Services Budget Committee voted to favorably recommend Senate Bill 200.

EMS background checks considered

EMS board wants to know more about job applicants

The Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services asks prospective applicants if they've been convicted of a felony. The number of people who answer "yes" has more than doubled in the last five years.

Memo chills support for HCBS provider tax

Plan not likely to fly with CMS, senators told

Bills designed to increase federal support for home and community based services were dealt a major setback Monday when legislators learned federal officials were unlikely to go along with the plan.

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Insurance department vs. small-business lobby

Plan favored by small business would undermine small-group market, department says

HB 2682 could prompt some employers to abandon small-group insurance, according to the Kansas Insurance Department. But the state's leading small-business groups are backing the measure.

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Legislature considering more tax breaks

Governor calls that "unbelievable" given budget problems

The House has approved House Bill 2538, which would allow qualifying businesses to keep 95 percent of the income taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks for five years.

Friday, March 5

Senate leaders call for extension of Medicaid relief

And also signal support for a nursing home bed tax

Senate Pres. Steve Morris said the federal government should continue to pay a greater share of Medicaid costs.

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House Tax Committee hears small biz health insurance bill

Proposal would let employers contribute to purchase of a worker's individual health plan

“Small companies don’t enjoy the same benefits as large companies in contributing to employee health benefits,” said Rep. Arlen Siegfreid. “We want to make insurance more affordable. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish. We want more people on insurance.”

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Governor announces plan to shore up the budget

While lambasting the Legislature for giving away the tax base to the "wealthy and well connected"

Gov. Mark Parkinson got high marks from legislators for doing "the dirty work" on the budget. But he wasn't returning any compliments. Instead, he accused the Legislature of giving away the store for the benefit of the "wealthy and well connected."

Foster care system criticized, defended

“I’m concerned when I hear we’re in this for money," said The Very Reverend Edward Fellhauer, who runs St. Francis Community Services. "That is just not accurate."

Thursday, March 4

Larned hospital open under new management

“It’s very good news,” said Larned Mayor Robert Pivonka. “Everybody who’s been involved in this is satisfied. Things are proceeding as well as anyone expected.”

Why it is important for schools to sell health foods

State health officer Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips makes the case for healthier food in schools.

Most primary care physicians receptive to medical home model

Kansas primary care physicians say they’re receptive to adopting a patient-centered, medical home model of care.

Senate panel OKs far reaching child-care bill

All homes and facilities would be inspected

SB 447 would require all child-care facilities to be inspected at least once every 15 months and create standards of care.

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Hearings scheduled on tobacco and sales tax increases

The Senate Tax Committee will hold three days of hearings on Gov. Mark Parkinson’s tax proposals, including one to increase the levy on tobacco sales. Parkinson in January proposed raising tobacco taxes along with a three-year, 1-cent general sales tax increase. The new taxes would help resolve a budget deficit that continues to grow.

Obama health plan will get little support from Kansans in Congress

Delegation's lone Democrat still a maybe

President Obama is likely to have the support of only one Kansas member of Congress for his new health reform proposal. But even that remains uncertain.

School nutrition bill heard in Senate committee

Healthier choices in snack machines urged

Restricting school vending machine choices to healthy foods and drinks would help youngsters learn to eat better, public health and education officials said Wednesday.

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Judges tie prevention to foster care reform

The surest way to improve the state’s foster care system is to solve the problems that force children into it, a pair of juvenile court judges said Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 3

Infant mortality data collection up in the air

A measure that would let health officials take information from birth certificates in order to survey mothers of newborns faces an uncertain future in the Kansas Legislature.

House committee hears bill that would require more audiologist training

SB 449 would require a doctorate instead of master's degree

House Health and Human Services Committee hears support for increasing minimal education requirement for licensed audiologists.

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Obama calls for vote on health reform

Says "piecemeal" approach to reform won't work

Full text of the president's speech on health reform given Wednesday in the East Room at the White House to a crowd of doctors, nurses and other medical providers.

State's foster care system better than most

A national expert says Kansas’ foster care system appears to be as good or better than most.

Tuesday, March 2

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House panel recommends constitutional amendment

Sharp line drawn between Democrats and Republicans on House Health and Human Services Committee

Sponsors said a proposed rewrite of the state constitution was needed to let the federal government know Kansans don't want to be told they must buy health insurance. But opponents say it was a plan created by the health insurance industry to preserve a failed status quo.

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Where Kansas doctors get malpractice insurance

Doctor-owned insurance company and a state-created fund assure access to insurance

In Kansas, most physicians buy malpractice insurance through KaMMCO, a mutual insurance company that is an affiliate of the Kansas Medical Society.

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Kansans Not Following Nutrition Guidelines: Findings from the Kansas Health and Nutrition Survey

A look at how well Kansans’ nutritional intake conforms to the national recommended dietary guidelines.

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The legal history of Kansas caps

A law that started out limiting total awards to malpractice victims was modified over time.

Caps in other states

Limits on pain-and-suffering awards vary state to state

Some states cap awards. Others, like Minnesota, do not.

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Kansas Supreme Court to rule on malpractice case

Long standing cap on pain-and-suffering awards could fall

Medical providers and others are anxiously waiting to see what the Kansas Supreme Court will do about the state's $250,000 cap on awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases.

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Nutrition bill to get Senate hearing

Junk food out of schools and restaurant menu labeling both pushed by health officials

SB 499, which is aimed at improving school food offerings, scheduled for hearing.

Monday, March 1

A closer look at managed care

KHPA asks if Medicaid program is getting proper bang for the buck

KHPA Executive Director Andy Allison said the state needs to take a closer look at the value it is getting from its managed care contracts.

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Medicaid savings options outlined

Managed care for the disabled and elderly would mean major savings, KHPA chief says

KHPA chief says the biggest, near-term opportunity for cutting the state’s Medicaid costs could be found in controlling spending on services for the disabled and elderly.

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