Legislature takes action on numerous health-related bills

by Andy Marso

KHI News Service

The House and Senate passed a flurry of health-related bills before leaving Thursday for a long weekend, but the most controversial issues remain unresolved.

Friday?s ?turnaround? day represents a soft deadline for bills to pass their chambers of origin. That led to long work days in both chambers.

The House and Senate kicked out a trio of bills related to Gov. Sam Brown?back?s 50-year water vision, but Rep. Tom Sloan?s bill to find new money for the state water plan fund was left on the committee room floor.

The House easily passed bills related to schools using seclusion and restraint to discipline students with disabilities and payment for donor breast milk for critically ill infants on Medicaid.

It also passed a measure clarifying that medical retainer agreements used in concierge medicine should not be regulated like health insurance plans.

Josh Umbehr, former lieutenant governor candidate and proprietor of Atlas MD in Wichita, testified for the bill.

The Senate passed a bill lessening the influence of the minority party on the KanCare Oversight Com?mittee, over the objections of Democrats.

The Senate votes on a bill that restricts the state?s ability to compel parents to medicate sick children and a bill giving the Kansas Depart?ment of Health and Envi?ronment more authority to require prior authorization under Medicaid for new prescription drugs were closer to unanimous.

The Senate reversed course, though, on allowing similar authority over antipsychotic drugs, a measure mental health advocates strongly opposed.

That reversal, and a House committee?s similar about-face on cutting the Parents as Teachers program, illustrate the immense challenges legislators have in front of them as they try to close a budget hole of almost $700 million.

The two cost-saving measures were relatively modest?estimated at about $15 million combined?but drew a rapid and effective outcry from constituents.

As the second half of the session begins Wednesday, tax and budget proposals will loom even larger, making it unlikely legislators will return to some issues like whether to license mid-level dental providers that were not addressed by Friday?s soft deadline.

But some bills will be allowed to circumvent that deadline by going through exempt committees or other means.

For example, Rep. John Wilson said his bill to legalize low-THC cannabis oil for treating seizure disorders has been ?blessed? by House leadership, leaving it still available for a vote.

And the Legislature?s most consequential health bills?a trio related to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act?remain alive.

House Democrats struck a deal with Republican leadership to postpone offering expansion as an amendment in exchange for open committee hearings on expansion.

Senate and House committees also have hearings next week on measures that would alter eligibility criteria for assistance programs like food stamps and reduce outreach programs that seek to identify those who qualify and get them signed up.

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