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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to

Budget committee leader concerned KDHE plan won’t produce predicted savings

Committee forwards agency budget, restores funding for safety net clinics

By Dave Ranney | February 04, 2015

The House Social Services Budget Committee on Tuesday agreed to recommend Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

But the recommendation comes with a big caveat: There’s a good chance that some of the projected savings won’t pan out.

“The KDHE budget that we have before us includes some questionable savings,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado.

Carpenter said his concerns weren’t substantive enough to derail the governor’s plan. Still, he cited a “need to make people aware that some of the things that are in here may not happen.”

Photo by Dave Ranney Rep. Nancy Lusk, a Democrat from Overland Park, and Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado, are members of the House Social Services Budget Committee.

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Earlier, several of the committee’s nine members said they were troubled by predictions from KDHE officials that policy changes in the state’s KanCare program, most of which have yet to be defined, would save $40 million a year for the next two fiscal years; that a decrease in Medicaid eligibility errors would save $13 million in fiscal 2017; and that changes in the behavioral health programs would save $3 million in the next two fiscal years.

Rep. Nancy Lusk, a Democrat from Overland Park, said she was bothered that KDHE officials tied a portion of the savings — how much is unclear — to a proposal to repeal state statutes that ensure Medicaid patients access to mental health drugs.

“That bill just got introduced on Friday,” Lusk said. “There hasn’t even been a hearing on it.”

The committee also supported a request for a legislative post audit on the long-delayed implementation of the Kansas Eligibility and Enforcement System (KEES), a computer system meant to help state workers determine who’s eligible for Medicaid and other public assistance programs. The system was originally slated to go live in October 2013.

The committee also restored $378,000 cut from a state-funded grant program for the state’s network of safety net clinics and, in turn, reduced KDHE administrative services’ budget by $378,000.

“I wanted to restore whatever funding we could for the safety net clinics,” said Rep. Kristey Williams, a Republican from Augusta, who made the motion to reverse an earlier decision to cut the funding.

“They do exceptionally well with the limited funding that they have,” Williams said. “They provide the maximum amount of quality care that they can. Their mission is right on target.”

In Kansas, 43 safety net clinics serve more than 252,000 patients, almost all of whom are low-income or uninsured. The clinics are receiving $8.2 million from state-funded grants in the current budget year.

The committee’s recommendations now go to the House Appropriations Committee for further scrutiny.

The seven Republicans on the committee voted for the measure, while the two Democrats — Lusk and Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat — voted against it.