The 2024 session began on Monday, Jan. 8, but started off slowly as Kansans throughout the state dealt with accumulating snow that began on Monday afternoon. Gov. Laura Kelly declared that executive branch employees would work remotely on Tuesday and state office buildings in Topeka would be closed, and then declared a state of disaster emergency late Monday afternoon as the winter storm caused the closure of many Kansas highways. The House and Senate adjourned pro forma on Monday and committee chairs cancelled most meetings scheduled for Tuesday. This edition of Health at the Capitol looks at health-related policy issues announced or discussed during the abbreviated first week of the session.
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, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Previous editions of Health at the Capitol can be found on our ARCHIVE PAGE.
Before the session even began, both Gov. Kelly and Democratic leadership announced their priorities for the 2024 session. On Saturday, Dec. 23, the Governor reiterated her support for Medicaid expansion and referred to the plan she introduced on Dec. 14 that would cover the state’s 10 percent share of the cost to expand Medicaid, in part, from “drug rebates, a hospital fee, savings from higher reimbursement rates for existing Medicaid recipients and additional federal funding.” The proposal also includes “a work requirement for Medicaid enrollees, with exceptions for full-time students, full-time caregivers, veterans and Kansans with medical conditions,” provides health coverage for inmates in county jails, and allows people with household income between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level to choose between enrolling in Medicaid or remaining on their private insurance, with premium assistance managed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). The Governor’s priorities also include consolidation of the state’s early childhood programs under one agency, a comprehensive short-term and long-term water sustainability plan and speeding up the food sales tax exemption to this spring. On Saturday, Dec. 30, Democratic leadership expressed their support for both the Governor’s Medicaid expansion proposal and consolidation of the state’s early childhood services. In addition, they identified the legalization of marijuana as another issue they would like to address this session and noted that most of the states surrounding Kansas have legalized marijuana, for either medical or recreational use or both.
On Tuesday, Jan. 2, Secretary of Revenue Mark Burghart announced the state had collected $1.04 billion in taxes in December, 3.4 percent, or $36.9 million, below estimates, although individual income tax collections came in 4.5 percent, or $17.1 million, above estimates. Sec. Burghart also reported that the state has collected nearly $4.7 billion in taxes this fiscal year, 1.1 percent or $50.7 million below estimates.
On Saturday, Jan. 6, Republican leadership announced their priorities for the session, including creation of the Office of Child Advocate, banning what legislation would define as “gender reassignment services” for minors, and legislation related to adoption and life after birth issues.
On Wednesday, Jan. 10, Gov. Kelly gave her 2024 State of the State address, which focused on challenges facing the state’s rural communities, including health care, funding for public schools, child care, property taxes and the quantity and quality of water.
On Thursday, Jan. 11, Budget Director Adam Proffitt presented the Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 at a joint meeting of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees. Gov. Kelly’s budget proposal includes:
- $75 million for capital improvements at the KU Medical Center Cancer Research Center.
- $15 million for expansion of Stroup Hall at Fort Hays State University for nursing workforce development.
- $56.4 million to fund coordinated efforts for Early Childhood Care and Education.
- $30 million for child care capacity accelerator grants for child care slots across the state.
- $15 million for sustainability grants for existing child care providers.
- $5 million for a pilot program to address rural child care needs in northwest Kansas.
The total human services budget proposed by the Governor for FY 2025 is $9.1 billion, including $2.7 billion State General Funds (SGF). This includes $715 million all funds for Medicaid expansion, including $30.7 million SGF. However, the Budget Report states that due to a temporary federal incentive that will enhance the state’s federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate by 5.0 percentage points, expansion will generate overall SGF savings of $92.5 million, and savings of $61.8 million after accounting for state costs in FY 2025.
Welfare Reform Committee
(Rep. Francis Awerkamp, Chair)
On Thursday, Jan. 11, the Committee heard a presentation by Dr. Carla Whiteside-Hicks, Director of Economic and Employment Services, Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), regarding policy updates to federal and state assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT).
Dr. Whiteside-Hicks stated that the federal Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2023, signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 3, 2023, gradually increases the age of those individuals subject to Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) time limits. Beginning on Sept. 1, 2023, the ABAWD time limit rules gradually increase to individuals age 18-54 on Oct. 1, 2024. Dr. Whiteside-Hicks noted that prior to the FRA, Kansas law required SNAP recipients ages 18-59 without dependents to participate in the state’s Food Assistance Employment and Training Program. She then stated that the FRA also adds new exemptions for individuals receiving SNAP and noted that state agencies were mandated to apply the new exemptions to initial and recertification applications received on or after Sept. 1, 2023. The new exemptions include homeless individuals, veterans, and individuals 24 years of age or younger who were in foster care on the date of attaining 18 years of age.
Dr. Whiteside-Hicks also reported that the FRA requires several changes to the TANF program beginning in October 2024 related to work and family outcomes for TANF recipients, including requiring states to collect and submit specific work outcomes, including:
- Percentage of individuals who were work-eligible at TANF exit.
- Percentage of work-eligible individuals in unsubsidized employment during the 2nd quarter after exiting TANF.
- Percentage of individuals under age 24, attending high school or enrolled in a high school equivalency program, who are work-eligible or were work-eligible individuals as of the time of TANF exit, who obtained a high school degree or equivalent while receiving TANF or within one year after TANF exit.
Finally, Dr. Whiteside-Hicks stated that the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022, authorized a permanent, nationwide Summer EBT program beginning in 2024. The Summer EBT program, an outgrowth of a program started during the COVID-19 pandemic, provides grocery-buying benefits to low-income families with school-aged children when schools are closed for the summer. The Summer EBT program operates under the following terms:
- The summer operational period is June 1‒August 15 and each eligible child receives $40 per month.
- Benefits will be automatically issued for children who receive free or reduced-price school lunch and/or whose families receive SNAP benefits.
- Families whose children do not receive an auto-issued benefit will be able to apply through DCF’s online Self-Service Portal at any point during the summer operational period.
- While the benefits are funded 100 percent by federal funds, the program requires a 50/50 state match for program administration costs.
Following several questions from committee members regarding how eligibility is determined for free and reduced-price school lunch, Chair Awerkamp asked committee staff to gather information for the committee regarding that process.