As legislators head into the remaining week of the session before First Adjournment on April 9, we report on the health-related matters at the Statehouse.
Health at the Capitol is a weekly summary providing highlights of the Kansas legislative session, with a specific focus on health policy related issues. Sign up here to receive these summaries and more, and also follow KHI on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Previous editions of Health at the Capitol can be found on our ARCHIVE PAGE.
On Monday, March 22, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that the state has administered over one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Wednesday, March 24, the Governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 40, the comprehensive bill that amends various provisions of the Kansas Emergency Management Act related to state of disaster emergencies and announced she would be re-issuing a dozen COVID-19 response executive orders on April 1. Also on March 24, the Senate passed House Substitute for SB 63 on a vote of 28-11, which would require all unified school districts in the state to provide a full-time, in-person attendance option for all students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12 beginning no later than March 31, 2021. The bill was presented to the Governor on March 26.
On Thursday, March 25, the Senate passed House Bill (HB) 2126 on a vote of 30-7, which would amend the COVID-19 Response and Reopening for Business Liability Protection Act to now provide immunity from liability for covered facilities, including adult care homes, community mental health centers, crisis intervention centers, community service providers, community developmental disability organizations, and institutions (as defined in the developmental Disabilities Reform Act). The bill is now headed to the Governor.
Also on Thursday, the House, on a vote of 84-38, disapproved Executive Reorganization Order No. 47, which would have renamed the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) the Kansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and abolished the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and transferred the functions to DHS. On a vote of 119-3, the House passed amended SB 175, which would enact the Rural Emergency Hospital Act and create a category of licensure to enable certain Kansas hospitals to receive federal health care reimbursement as rural emergency hospitals. SB 175 will now go to a conference committee.
Finally, the Governor announced on Friday, March 26, that the state would make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all Kansans (age 16+) beginning on March 29, and reported that as of March 26, 35.1 percent of the adult population had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Also on Friday, KDADS Secretary Laura Howard announced the agency has been awarded a $4 million federal grant to develop Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) services that will enhance outpatient treatment services for people with serious mental illness (SMI). The funds will support five AOT pilot sites to reduce the incarceration and/or hospitalization of people with SMI in their communities through court ordered outpatient treatment.
On Monday, March 29, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported 302,372 COVID-19 cases (up 2,247 from March 22) with 4,913 deaths (up 63 from March 15.)
Senate Public Health and Welfare
(Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, Chair)
On Monday, March 22, the Committee held a hearing on SB 212, which would prohibit the Secretary of KDHE from permanently requiring additional immunizations to attend a child care facility or school by moving required immunizations from being specified in regulation to statute. While the Legislature would have to add new immunization requirements via statute moving forward, the Secretary would maintain authority to remove vaccinations from being required for entry into childcare or schools. Proponents of the bill included Sen. Mark Steffen, representatives of Kansans for Health Freedom and private citizens. Neutral testimony was provided by Dr. Kevin Ault, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Opponents included Rep. John Eplee, KDHE Sec. Lee Norman, and representatives of the Mid America Immunization Coalition, KFMC, Immunize Kansas Coalition, Kansas School Nurses Organization and Kansas Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics.
Committee members asked questions about whether the bill would depoliticize vaccine discussions; where various conferees receive funding for their organizations; the influence of politics in science and the pandemic response; whether the COVID-19 vaccine is considered experimental; whether current vaccine guidelines are requirements; whether high infant mortality rates in the U.S. are linked to higher vaccine requirements; what protocols were followed for COVID-19 vaccine development; how recent court cases around personal rights to autonomy fit with vaccination requirements; frontline healthcare worker hesitancy to receive vaccines; and whether students are allowed to be in schools if they have not received required vaccinations or appropriate exemptions.
The Committee subsequently amended the bill on Thursday, March 25 to insert modified language from former SB 213, which would exempt a “person” (i.e., an individual, partnership, association, organization, corporation, legal representative, trustee, trustee in bankruptcy or receiver) from civil liability for exposing an individual to an infectious disease, such as due to a lack of vaccination, as well as provide protections from adverse employment action (e.g., being fired) due to an individual deciding not to receive a vaccine. The Committee then passed the amended bill out favorably.
On Tuesday, March 23, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2114, which would establish the Kansas Senior Care Task Force. Proponent testimony was provided by representatives of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, LeadingAge Kansas, Oral Health Kansas, AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association. No neutral or opponent testimony was provided. Committee members asked questions about whether home and community-based services (HCBS) should be added to the list of topics the Task Force would study; how this would enhance work already being done by the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight; why the work proposed for the Task Force cannot be done under existing governmental structures; and how the Task Force would address issues related to potential nursing facility closures. The Committee subsequently amended the bill on Thursday, March 25, to add an additional area of study for the Task Force regarding the rebalancing of HCBS and institutional care and passed it out favorably.
On Wednesday, March 24, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2209, which would enact the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT) to provide for interjurisdictional authorization to practice telepsychology and temporary in-person, face-to-face psychology. Proponent testimony was provided by representatives from the Kansas Psychology Association and PSYPACT (organization approved in February 2015 by the Board of Directors of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards), and an individual licensed psychologist. Neutral testimony was provided by the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board. Committee members asked questions about how fees for participation in PSYPACT will be paid for Kansas psychologists and whether reciprocity would address the same issues that the compact seeks to address. The Committee subsequently amended the bill on Friday, March 26, to change the enactment date to upon publication in the Kansas register and passed it out favorably.
The Committee also held a hearing on HB 2279, which would enact the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact. Proponent testimony was provided by representatives of the Kansas State Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association and University of Kansas Medical Center. No neutral or opponent testimony was provided. Committee members asked questions about how fees for the compact would be paid; how long the compact has been in place; how many states are currently participating; and what advantages there are to participating. The Committee amended the bill to change the enactment date to upon publication in the register and passed it out favorably.
The Committee also amended HB 2115, which would establish the Joint Committee on Child Welfare Oversight, to change the enactment date to be upon publication in the statute book and passed it out favorably.
On Thursday, March 25, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2116, which would amend existing law governing eligibility for non-temporary (non-Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance for needy family’s childcare by adding an exemption to the 20-hour-per-week participation requirement for adult caretakers of children in DCF custody in out-of-home placement and needing child care assistance. Proponent testimony was provided by Sandra Kimmons, DCF, and no neutral or opponent testimony was provided. Committee members asked questions to clarify who would qualify for the exemption; whether state general fund dollars would have to be spent in the absence of this bill; and eligibility criteria and rules for receiving TANF. Following the hearing, the Committee amended the bill to change the enactment date to upon publication in the Kansas register and then passed it out favorably.
House Children & Seniors
(Rep. Susan Concannon, Chair)
On Monday, March 22, the Committee worked SB 120, which would establish the Joint Committee on Child Welfare System Oversight and amended it to change membership on the Committee from 11 to 13 members, which is similar to the balloon amendment passed for HB 2115, the companion bill.
On Wednesday, March 24, the Committee held a hearing on SB 85, which would codify notification and penalties related to when a child in foster care is missing from their placement or spends the night in a facility owned by a case management provider (CMP). Proponent testimony was provided by Sen. Molly Baumgardner, who discussed the need for transparency and accountability, annual reporting requirements, and ease of notification through email and newspapers. She also stated that 58 percent of missing youth are under the care of subcontractor St. Francis Ministries. Committee members asked questions about legislative notification (provision in bill to notify all legislative members when child goes missing); chain of command when child goes missing; who is charged the $500 penalty; why law enforcement is not notified; number of children in custody and percentage missing in Kansas compared to national rates; and use of social media since it has broader reach than newspapers. Neutral testimony was provided by Ethan Belshe of DCF, who stated the agency already has the proposed notification policies and procedures in place. There was no opponent testimony.
Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance
(Sen. Jeff Longbine, Chair)
On Thursday, March 25, the Committee continued the hearing on SB 199, which would amend existing insurance law to update the term “short-term limited duration” and specify a policy period of less than 12 months and a policy that offers renewal or extension periods up to a maximum policy period of 36 months total in duration. Proponents included Brian Blase the former Special Assistant to the President (Trump) for Economic Policy and a representative of the Cato Institute. Opponents included an individual testifying about her experience with short-term, limited duration insurance and representatives of Susan G. Komen, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and a coalition of 10 patient advocacy groups. The bill was amended to remove language required to be included in contracts and application materials by companies issuing STLD policies because similar language is already required under federal law, and the bill was passed favorably out of Committee on a vote of 5-3.
House Federal and State Affairs
(Rep. John Barker, Chair)
On Monday, March 22, and Tuesday, March 23, the Committee discussed and considered numerous bundled amendments to HB 2184, which would create the Kansas Medical Marijuana Regulation Act and provide for the licensure and regulation of the manufacture, transportation and sale of medical cannabis and certain fines and penalties for violations of the Act. Committee members asked questions about radio and television ads; requirements around establishing a patient-physician relationship prior to a medical marijuana recommendation; clarified whether chocolate with liquor had a penalty if youth under age 18 consumed it; why K-TRACS should be used to track sales; whether it is legal for a pharmacist to own and run a dispensary; what a 90-day supply or dosage of medical marijuana looks like; the percentage of minorities that have been incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses; licensing caps (setting a number of licenses for each step — cultivation, processing, dispensing); and how law enforcement would handle possession for persons traveling through Kansas with a medical marijuana ID card.
On Thursday, March 25, Committee members passed one of two bundled amendments by Rep. Blake Carpenter, which included expanding the definition of a veteran to include space force or any state army national guard; filling a vacancy on the medical marijuana advisory committee within 21 days; requiring a response by the medical marijuana advisory committee within 6 months of receiving a proposal to add a new condition eligible for a medical marijuana recommendation; establishing marketing rules similar to Connecticut’s existing statute and prohibiting billboards on state highways; establishing similar licensure procedures as for alcohol (K.S.A 41-311); adding a 12-month waiting period before a petition for a new form or method of using medical marijuana can be resubmitted for review; allowing civil fines to be levied when revoking a license; and requiring the medical marijuana advisory committee to submit an annual report summarizing any changes needed to the Act to the Legislature prior to January 1. Rep. Carpenter changed his stance on removing the reciprocity agreement, and the committee voted to restore the section as it was first introduced in the bill. Committee members had discussion around the definition of veterans; advertising language; residency requirements; and whether subject protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules apply to medical marijuana (no, because it is a physician recommendation and not a prescription). It was announced that the Committee would continue to consider amendments during the week of March 29.
(Rep. Fred Patton, Chair)
On Monday, March 22, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2412, enacting the Kansas Fights Addiction Act, which would establish a grant program for the purpose of preventing, reducing, treating and mitigating the effects of substance abuse and addiction. The bill would require the Office of the Attorney General to remit monies received by the state for opioid litigation dedicated for abatement or remediation of substance abuse or addiction to be deposited into the Fund; create an 11 member Kansas Fights Addiction Review Board; and provide for a contract with the Sunflower Foundation to provide administration, monitoring, and assurance of compliance. The bill would also prohibit municipalities from filing or maintaining any opioid litigation without the prior approval of the Attorney General on and after January 1, 2021. Proponent testimony was offered by Kansas Attorney General (AG) Derek Schmidt and representatives of the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, Kansas Association of Counties, Behavioral Health Association of Kansas, Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas (ACMHCK), and Kansas Association of Addiction Professionals. Committee members asked questions about the amount of funding that would be provided, alternative options for redistribution of the funds with greater legislative oversight, distribution of funds in relation to local claims, and the requirement for the Attorney General’s approval of opioid litigation. Neutral testimony was provided by representatives of the City of Overland Park, Kansas State Board of Pharmacy (which requested that a portion of the funds be used to fund K-TRACS), League of Kansas Municipalities, and Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Opponent testimony was provided by a representative of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association who requested the bill be divided into two separate pieces of legislation so the section requiring the Attorney General’s approval of litigation could be considered on its own.
Senate Ways and Means
(Sen. Rick Bilinger, Chair)
The Committee held a hearing on HB 2248, which would update statutes related to the distribution of state financial assistance to local health departments (LHDs). The bill would increase the amount received by LHDs, upon application, to $15,000 if the allocation of total state financial assistance for the applicable fiscal year is $3.0 million or greater, subject to appropriation. If the state financial assistance for the fiscal year is less than $3 million, each LHD, upon application, would receive $7,000. Funds are distributed through KDHE. Proponents included a representative of the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, who noted the minimum amount of $7,000 had not been adjusted since 1992, and representatives of the Flint Hills Community Health Center and health departments in Grant, Harvey, Kowa, Linn, McPherson, Sherman, Trego, and Wallace counties, KDHE, and Kansas Public Health Association (KPHA). There was no neutral or opponent testimony. The bill was previously passed by the House on March 17 on a vote of 111-12.