SESSION ENDS ON A POSITIVE NOTE FOR HEALTH CARE
On Saturday the House unanimously passed health care reform legislation closely modeled after Governor Sebelius’ Healthy Kansas initiative. House Republicans rejected the Governor’s health care reorganization plan in March and promised to come up with a plan of their own. The resulting bill, SB272, is nearly identical to the Governor’s plan except that it makes provision for creating an additional agency.
The bill establishes the Kansas Health Policy Authority. This nine-member authority, to be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, would be assigned the task of implementing a coordinated health-policy agenda that combines effective purchasing and administration of health care programs with prevention-oriented public health strategies. It also requires that Medicaid, MediKan, the state employee health insurance, the state workers compensation program and other health-related programs be shifted from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to the Kansas Department of Administration. Operational and purchasing responsibility for the medical portion of the state Medicaid program, the state children’s health insurance program, the state health care benefits program, and the state workers compensation self-insurance fund and program would also eventually be assumed by the Authority.
In another positive development, the Legislature added funds to help small businesses purchase health care coverage through the Business Health Partnership, a not-for-profit entity formed to develop and market a low cost health plan to small businesses. The amendment was included in the omnibus reconciliation bill.
Escalating health care costs are one of the most serious challenges facing Kansans and small businesses. Almost 300,000 Kansans are without health insurance. Nearly two-thirds of uninsured Kansans are employed by small businesses. Rising health care costs make it hard for small businesses to survive and make it increasingly difficult for business owners to offer adequate health coverage for employees. As an owner of a small business, I know how hard it is for small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees. I believe that these two accomplishments provide a good start towards controlling exorbitant health care costs.