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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

Proposal to combine health licensing boards draws opposition

Efficiency study recommendation prompts legislative committee hearing

By Andy Marso | December 06, 2016

Proposal to combine health licensing boards draws opposition
Photo by Andy Marso/KHI News Service Mary Blubaugh, executive administrator of the Kansas Board of Nursing, spoke Tuesday to a special legislative committee considering a proposal to combine the state’s 141 professional licensing boards and commissions into three “umbrella” boards. Blubaugh said each licensing board has unique rules and processes, which would make consolidation a challenge.

Representatives of health licensing boards in Kansas made their case against consolidation to a special legislative committee Tuesday.

The committee was formed in response to a government efficiency study’s recommendation that the Legislature combine the state’s 141 professional licensing boards and commissions into three “umbrella” boards: general industry, public health and financial industry.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, led the special committee formed to study the possibility of combining the health licensing boards.

Its first meeting Tuesday, the special legislative committee heard presentations from 11 groups representing Kansas nurses, doctors and psychiatrists, as well as professional licensing organizations with less obvious health connections, like the Kansas Board of Cosmetology and Kansas Board of Barbering.

Some of the health licensing boards were neutral on the efficiency proposal, while others expressed opposition to consolidation.

Mary Blubaugh, executive administrator of the Kansas Board of Nursing, said her staff of 26 regulates 72,000 active licensees at an average annual cost of $32.28 each and she doesn’t see how consolidation could improve efficiency.

“Each board has its own process,” Blubaugh said. “We all have our own rules, and that would be hard to pull together.”

The health licensing boards are established to ensure that those who practice medicine in the state have educational qualifications and adhere to standards of care. Those who want to practice medicine must pay a licensing fee to the board and are subject to licensing sanctions if they don’t meet the standards of care.

The efficiency study, performed by the corporate consulting group Alvarez and Marsal, was commissioned last year at a cost of $2.6 million to help the Legislature identify savings to close a budget gap that formed following income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013.

The gap between revenue and expenses within the state general fund has persisted and is estimated at $350 million for the current fiscal year.

Kevin Robertson, the executive director of the Kansas Dental Association, said the Alvarez and Marsal consolidation recommendation would do little to address that, because the professional licensing boards are generally funded through their licensing fees, not the state general fund.

In the case of the Kansas Dental Board, Robertson said he could not think of a single expense that comes from the general fund.

The special committee on health licensing boards is scheduled to meet again Dec. 14.

The boards it is considering for consolidation are: Board of Examiners in Optometry, Board of Emergency Medical Services, Board of Nursing, Board of Healing Arts, Board of Pharmacy, Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board, Board of Mortuary Arts, Dental Board, Board of Cosmetology, Board of Barbering and Board of Examiners in Fitting and Dispensing of Hearing Instruments.