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Health at the Capitol Week 1: January 18, 2019

Week 1 of the 2019 Session

By Linda J. Sheppard, J.D., Hina B. Shah, M.P.H., Sydney McClendon | January 18, 2019

Health at the Capitol Week 1: January 18, 2019

With the start of the 2019 Kansas legislative session, Kansas Health Institute (KHI) staff will prepare a brief summary of the highlights of each week of the session, with a specific focus on the activities of committees addressing 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.

Week 1 of the 2019 Session

On Monday, Sen. Laura Kelly was sworn in as the 48th governor of Kansas, making her the third female governor in our history, more than any other state. In addition, 29 new House members and four new senators joined the Kansas Legislature. On Wednesday night, in her first State of the State address, Gov. Kelly reaffirmed her priorities of school funding, addressing the needs of rural parts of the state, the expansion of Medicaid, and improvements in the child welfare system. The governor indicated she intends to have a plan to expand Medicaid (KanCare) to present to the Legislature by January 29 and also is creating a working group to work on child welfare issues. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate stated they share the governor’s interest in addressing school funding and the child welfare system but are concerned about the cost of Medicaid expansion. 

On Thursday morning, the governor released a one-year budget of $7.6 billion for the fiscal year starting on July 1, which included a proposal to spend an additional $93 million annually for the next four years to fund schools and additional spending of $14 million for the expansion of Medicaid. She also is proposing to hire 55 new child welfare workers and spend $7.4 million for family preservation programs. Republican leaders are concerned about the governor’s proposal to extend the schedule for repayments to KPERS, the state pension plan, to fund her priorities. 

House Health and Human Services Committee
(Rep. Brenda Landwehr, Chair)

Chair Landwehr scheduled an informational briefing for January 22-23, inviting KHI to provide an overview of health insurance coverage in Kansas, an introduction to Medicaid/CHIP, and Kansas Medicaid 101 (KanCare).  

Landwehr announced the committee also would be focusing on mental health issues this year and Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Health Centers of Kansas, will be providing a community mental health overview on January 24.  

Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee
(Sen. Gene Suellentrop, Chair)

Chair Suellentrop asked committee members to review the final Mental Health Task Force Report in preparation for discussions of the recommendations from the Task Force and indicated the committee might also discuss recommendations in the reports recently released by the Governor’s Substance Use Disorders Task Force (SUDTF) and the Child Welfare System Task Force (CWSTF). 

Suellentrop also has asked KHI staff to provide an overview of health insurance coverage and Medicaid/CHIP to the committee on January 23-24.

House Children and Seniors Committee
(Rep. Susan Concannon, Chair)

The committee heard a presentation from the Silver Haired Legislature that included resolutions urging legislators to legalize expanded uses of cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain conditions and to exempt food purchases from sales tax. On Wednesday, committee members heard a presentation by Bob Gallimore of KLRD about the work of the CWSTF and the recommendations in its report.

Chair Concannon has scheduled additional presentations on the recommendations in the CWSTF report on January 22-23 and has asked KHI staff and members of the Task Force and Working Groups to participate in those presentations.  

House Insurance Committee
(Rep. Jene Vickrey, Chair)

The committee dealt with introductory matters this week and has scheduled an informational presentation by newly elected Kansas Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt for January 23. 

Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee
(Sen. Rob Olson, Chair)

Announcements about several pending bills related to new or updated health insurance coverage options for Kansans were made this week. On Tuesday, the committee was advised that the Kansas Farm Bureau would be introducing a bill allowing KFB to offer a unique type of health benefit plan that doesn’t necessarily comply with the Affordable Care Act for its members. Such a plan would require special authority from the Legislature. Similar plans have been approved in other states, including Iowa. 

On Thursday, Sen. Bruce Givens announced that seven bills related to association health plans and short-term, limited duration health insurance would be introduced next week. Texts of the bills are expected to be available January 22. 

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.