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Join us for Health at the Capitol– a Kansas Health Institute webcast focused on health-related policy discussions and action at the Kansas Legislature.    

The latest Health at the Capitol webcast includes a discussion about  health policy legislation being considered in the final weeks of the 2024 Kansas Legislative Session.


Theresa Freed 0:00
Each legislative session KHI is hard at work keeping you informed on the latest health policy discussions from across the street in downtown Topeka. Health at the Capitol is a KHI production. A monthly recap with our legislative monitoring team, offering you a closer look at policy work happening now in Kansas and coming up. Here’s a look at topics from our latest episode.

Thanks for joining us for another edition of Health at the Capitol. I’m your host, Theresa Freed, the Director of Strategic Communication and Engagement here at the Kansas Health Institute. And we have with us the privilege of speaking to once again Linda Sheppard, who is our Strategy Team Leader. She heads our legislative monitoring division. We also have with us Emma Uridge, who is an Analyst here at KHI. She is visiting us for the first time on this particular show. But she’s got lots of podcasting experience with another one of our KHI products, Health on the Plains. So check out that one as well. As we start this episode, I just want to talk a little bit about what our legislative monitoring team does. So Linda, if you want to tell us a little bit about all the activity that happens during session for KHI.

Linda Sheppard 1:12
So one of the things that KHI has done for several years is before the session starts, we start putting our heads together and trying to come up with a list of what what kinds of topics, health-related topics that we think the legislature is going to focus on for that particular session. So we spent some time putting together an issue brief that we call our Legislative Preview. And that is always published right before the session starts – sometimes the day that the session begins. And it really is just KHI’s crystal ball look at what do we think might be the important topics that the legislature will be discussing during that session related to health in any way. And then as soon as the session starts, we all split up, split up all of the various committees that are meeting across the street at the Capitol. And we monitor all of their hearings, all of their meetings, we pay close attention and what bills are introduced and what committees they go into and then continue to monitor those bills as they progress through the session and get passed or whatever happens to them. And as we do that, that process starts and continues through the whole time that the session is going. And we also produce a product called Health of the Capitol, which is our attempt to take all that information that happens and put that into a summary form that is published on our website so that our audience can see the things that are happening. And I think the thing that’s most interesting is the way that we define “health” is very, very broad. So it kind of going along with the kind of work that KHI does, we include child welfare. As part of that, we look at juvenile justice, we look at things like you know, in this case, and I hope to have a conversation about this, about medical marijuana, looking at all kinds of things that are happening, that we say are health in a very broad way, and certainly would impact the health of Kansans. So we do that, and then at the end of the session, so we’re sort of heading that direction now, start to prepare what we refer to as our Legislative Recap. And we put that together. And after the session is over, that basically looks back and says here’s what they talked about, here’s what bills were passed. So we have a very detailed bill tracker that gives all the information about what bills were introduced and how far they progressed through the session.

Theresa Freed 3:41
Alright, I know it’s a very boring time for you during session, but can you talk about how you spend your days, what do you enjoy most about the legislative session and monitoring?

Emma Uridge 3:52
Yeah, so this is my third session that I’ve covered here at the Kansas Health Institute since starting about two and a half years or two years and some change. A typical week, well, this week is extra special because most of my committees are no longer actually meeting and they’ve wrapped up their regular committee hearings, where they work bills and hear various presentations and such. And now these bills are making their way out of committees and on to the House and Senate floors to be passed to the other chamber. So it’s an exciting time. It’s definitely a lot of care and attention to making sure we know exactly where these bills are ending up because they get just chucked into a lot of different committees that we don’t typically watch despite, you know, as Linda said, we pay quite close attention to a variety of bills and as they relate to health. So we’re very busy.

Theresa Freed 4:48
Yes, of course. Alright. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about those remaining bills and also sort of the status of some of the proposals that we talked about in previous episodes. And so the first one on our list here is Medicaid expansio. That got a lot of attention recently, it was a couple of packed rooms. And KHI also got the opportunity to testify providing neutral testimony about some of our research related to Medicaid expansion. So if you can talk a little bit about the status of that.

Linda Sheppard 5:18
On the Senate side, it was not necessarily focused specifically on that bill. It was more of an informational hearing. But the the goal of those two hearings that were held last week was to get testimony, proponent and opponent testimony for the idea of Medicaid expansion. And, you know, those bills for Medicaid expansion have been introduced several years in a row and obviously, this has been going on for 10 years, starting with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. But as Emma said, the house was packed, and lots of folks in the room talking about that.

Theresa Freed 5:55
And so next on our list, we’ve talked about this topic before too homelessness, and how is that being addressed?

Emma Uridge 6:03
Yeah, so the Homelessness Infrastructure Grant legislation that was introduced in the House as House Bill 2723. Recently was worked last Thursday, and a variety of amendments were proposed in the House Committee on welfare reform. So this bill, as a reminder would have had the $40 million and funds administered through KDADS to form this Homelessness Infrastructure Grant to be awarded to jurisdictions that apply for that to make capital improvements to their existing or established new homelessness infrastructure through temporary shelters. It could be a congregate shelter, where you have everybody in a room or non congregate, where that’s individual units. So that bill heard from a variety of different jurisdictions that came forward to propose some potential plans for how they would use those funds if awarded it in the House. It was tabled for the session. However, there is a mirror bill that was introduced in Senate Ways and Means on March 11, with that language, and they have been making some significant amendments to that version of the bill.

Theresa Freed 7:19
Okay, and there’s not much time to go. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens with that. So another topic that we discussed previously was legal permanency options for youth. And so can you talk a little bit about the legislation tied to that.

Linda Sheppard 7:35
So this was a really interesting piece of legislation, because this was, this is attempting to address this issue of we have young people who are aging out of the foster care system here in the state. And as they come to that point of aging out, in some cases, that they no longer have relationships with their biological families. And they are sort of put out and sort of asked to start to take care of themselves, often without a lot of really helpful support. So this bill actually was something that was worked on by a number of individuals who had young people who had been in the system previously, coming up with a way for them to create some sort of legal relationship with people who had been supportive or them or cared for them as they were, as they will continue to grow. And that they can maintain those relationships and really legalize that relationship in a way that’s meaningful. And have people in their family who are committed to helping them continue as they move into a young adulthood. So Kansas, it’s very, it’s unusual, Kansas, is unique in having this kind of bill going through right now. So this is not something that that other states have done yet. So we’re really sort of ahead of the game on this particular thing. But it’s a wonderful opportunity for these young people to continue to have folks who have been helpful to them as they continue to grow up and will have that support.

Theresa Freed 9:13
So the last question is just, there’s been a lot of activity and you always expect this as we start to wind down because there’s that urgency behind some of the legislation is now we’re never and so what are some of the proposals that are popping up right now that we’re monitoring?

Linda Sheppard 9:28
So I think probably the one of the most interesting things and that is coming up sort of here at the end of the session is we do have now a medical cannabis bill. This bill was really just introduced on the 18th of this month, so it’s only been been around for a few days. We had heard that we thought there was going to be a bill. This bill will have its first hearing tomorrow. So we’re we’re recording this on on the 27th, but it’ll be on the 28th first thing in the morning. And it is unique. We’ve been expecting a medical cannabis bill for a number of years. And in our previews, we’ve kept saying, “Oh, we think it’s gonna happen this year, it’s going to happen.” But really, I think this bill coming together at this time, and getting set for a hearing tomorrow, I think that is unusual, and I would suggest is something that maybe there really is some legs behind this and getting this passed. But this bill is very interesting, because it is being set up as a pilot program. So KDHE would be entering into contracts with companies that can cultivate and process medical cannabis. It’s a five-year track to occur. And this is set up to be very, a very controlled way to do medical cannabis. And as I said, it’s set up I mean, it’s specifically is called a pilot program. So I think the legislature if they were to pass this are looking at a way to really do this in a controlled way.

Theresa Freed 11:06
Any other items we want to highlight?

Linda Sheppard 11:10
You know, I was mentioning to you earlier that as Emma said, this is a really busy time. And so we are getting a lot of alerts about bills that are that are being passed by, you know, in chamber and coming out. And so there was one of the bills that caught my attention, right before I came down today was, as you all know, the answer to this is in the child welfare area, that, you know, there have been, unfortunately, some loss of lives of small children coming through the child welfare system. And one of the challenges that has occurred in the past is that when there unfortunately is the death of a child, as you can imagine, the media and other parties are interested in understanding what role DCF played in that if any and what contact they had with them. And the way the law was structured before DCF really was pretty limited in the kind of information that they could provide. So one of the bills that got passed in one of the chambers this morning, is attempting to address that issue so that DCF is able to provide some information right away that they wouldn’t normally have been able to do until after there was further investigation. So I think people will appreciate having that information and knowing what happened in those circumstances.

Theresa Freed 12:35
Alright, very good. And we’ll, of course monitor that and the other legislation referring to health and part of our recap that we do on a regular basis. But then also at the end of the session, we’ll have a good recap to have of all the major activity related to health. So we encourage everyone to join our mailing list orour email list, go to That way you can receive those updates as they become available. Thanks for joining us.

Health at the Capitol Production Team

Theresa Freed, M.A., Host, Producer, Editor

Stewart Cole, Editor, Multimedia Specialist

About Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.

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