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Feb. 14, 2012
TOPEKA Members of a House committee today voted to support Kansas joining a multistate compact formed to challenge the federal government’s authority to set health policy.
After just a few minutes of discussion, Republicans on the Health and Human Services Committee voted to send to the floor House Bill 2520, which would authorize Kansas participation in the Interstate Health Care Compact.
Once 20 or more states have joined the compact, proponents of the bill have said the member states will demand that Congress ratify an agreement to return tax dollars used to fund Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the states. The member states would then be free to manage those programs as they see fit.
Similar bills have passed and been signed into law in four states: Georgia, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Governors in Arizona and Montana have vetoed compact bills in their states.
"This is a bill that deserves to have some good debate," said Rep. Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican. "I think we ought to kick it out of committee and give the people in the House an opportunity to debate it."
The lone comment against the bill was from Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, a Wichita Democrat, who moved to table the bill.
"I realize this is a states' rights statement," she said, "But I don't think this bill really accomplishes anything."
The bill is based on model legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit, pro-business organization that includes state legislators – mostly conservative Republicans – and businesses as members.
Its chief sponsor, Rep. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, told KHI News Service after the meeting that the bill had potential to be more than a symbolic gesture.
"Right now we're just telling the federal government 'Hey, everybody back in Kansas thinks that we can do a better job than you're doing.' That's the initial blush of the legislation," Denning said. "If we get up to a critical mass of say 15 or 20 states, I think we have a vehicle to make it a reality."
In other business today, committee members approved:
• Sub for HB 2659. The bill would move the licensure and regulatory authority of speech-language pathologists and audiologists from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. KDHE officials had initially proposed moving that authority to the State Board of Healing Arts, but proposed amending the bill after resistance from professionals in the field.
• HB 2660, which would make several adjustments to the Child Care Act, a statute passed two years ago regulating maternity centers and child care facilities. Among other things, it would allow KDHE officials to suspend a license for just part of a facility or otherwise modify the language of an existing license.
• HB 2416 — Would update statutes to change references to the Kansas Health Policy Authority following Executive Reorganization Order 38, which folded KHPA into KDHE and renamed it the Division of Health Care Finance. The bill also would repeal the statutes that created KHPA.