April 7 marked the end of the "regular" part of the 2017 Kansas legislative session. Lawmakers will return at the beginning of May for the traditional "wrap up" or "veto" session. Many issues related to schools, taxes and the state budget remain unresolved, so the final adjournment of the legislature could get drawn out well into next month.
Health care issues have been prominent. As we know all too well, the Kansas House came within a few votes of overriding Governor Sam Brownback's veto of the Medicaid expansion legislation. While many pundits are assuming this issue is dead for 2017, expansion advocates are not ready to give up the fight. Enough legislators have indicated interest in continued discussions to see if there is a way to put together a plan that could garner even more legislative support. It won't be easy, and we think it's safe to say the Governor will veto almost any expansion plan placed before him. However, this issue is too important to abandon when all that stands in the way of adoption are a handful of votes in the Kansas Legislature.
A couple of other pieces of legislation important to Kansas hospitals and health care providers advanced in the legislative process recently. First, the legislature passed, and sent to the Governor, a measure sponsored by a coalition of health care providers to incorporate numerous process improvements in the KanCare program. This legislation focuses on standardization, payment protections and relief of administrative burdens for providers of KanCare. It had strong support in both the House and Senate, so we are hopeful the Governor will sign it.
The House passed legislation increasing the privilege fee on HMOs in the state beginning July 1, 2017, to 5.77 percent from the current 3.31 percent. The additional funds would first be used to restore the Governor's 2016 reductions to Medicaid providers, then to fund mental health grants, and finally to help fund the state's Medicaid program, KanCare. The Kansas Senate earlier passed similar legislation, so a conference committee will now meet to resolve differences.
The coming recess for the Kansas Legislature will be a good opportunity to visit with your legislators in their districts. Please express thanks (when appropriate) for their support of health care issues. Please continue to encourage those who have not been supportive to seriously consider changing their positions.