Managing Editor, KHI News Service
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Mike Shields, Managing Editor of the KHI News Service, directs news content and special communications projects. Before joining KHI, he was the city editor at the Lawrence Journal-World. He has covered Kansas government as a reporter for Harris News Service and other news organizations for almost three decades. He has won multiple state and national awards, including the Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award in 1993. Shields earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history from Wichita State University and has a special interest in Geographic Information Systems. He is fluent in Spanish.
The state's top court released its long-awaited decision in the school finance case, finding that the lower court partially erred in its conclusion and remanding it for further consideration. But the ruling stated that the three-judge lower court properly found that the state's funding mechanism had created "unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities" among school districts.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger announced today that her department will allow companies selling health insurance in the state to continue renewing policies that don’t meet the minimum coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The decision is in step with an announcement earlier this week by federal officials saying they were delaying for a year that portion of the 2010 federal health reform law. It is the second time in less than six months that the provision has been postponed.
Kansas Medicaid officials are considering rewriting the rules for a program that provides home-based and rehabilitative services for people with traumatic brain injuries. But their plans, which would restrict more people from the program, got a chilly reception from a crowd of about 25 at one of the first public forums held to discuss the proposed revisions.
Officials say they are on schedule to open a retooled Rainbow mental health facility on April 1 and are in the process of hiring case managers and other workers to staff it. The mostly mothballed state mental hospital will become a short-stay, crisis stabilization facility that the operators said they hope will prove to be a model for others like it across the state.
State officials plan a series of public meetings to collect recommendations on a program that provides services for people that have suffered traumatic brain injuries. At least one group is already pushing for changes in the state's TBI Medicaid waiver. The state faces a March 31 federal deadline for submitting an application to renew the waiver.
A bill aimed at speeding payments from the state's KanCare contractors to Medicaid service providers was endorsed by a House committee. But a bill pushed by opponents of municipal water fluoridation was tabled.
A bill that would let more Kansas trade associations develop their own self-funded health plans was endorsed by a Senate committee.
A bill that would let Medicaid providers collect 12 percent interest on late payments from Medicaid managed care companies faced no opposition in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Administration officials and provider groups all said they supported the measure. The three KanCare managed care companies also said they favored Senate Bill 317.
Leading representatives of the Kansas health insurance industry talked about their experiences with the Affordable Care Act's marketplace and were generally positive in their assessments despite the problems that have plagued the new exchange's first few months. "I've fought this law for three years, but this is going to be our best year; a record year. It's time to write business," said Scott Day, president of the Kansas Association of Health Underwriters and the owner of an agency that specializes in selling health insurance products.
John and Crystal Christopher of Topeka are a young couple with a large family that has struggled with both medical debt and the lack of affordable health insurance coverage. Initially skeptical of Obamacare, they say they are now optimistic the program might actually help them - someday. "It's still too much for us to afford right now," Crystal said. "We're just in a real bad financial place right now." The couple earns too much to qualify for Medicaid but still can't figure out how to make the Affordable Care Act work for them. This story is one in an occasional series that looks at what Obamacare means for Kansas families.