House Happenings Week 9

It’s hard to believe the legislature just finished the ninth week of the 2012 session. We are just a week away from another set of major deadlines and approaching the point in the session when action must be made on major pieces of legislation. Next week is the last week most committees will have to meet to consider legislation this session. For any remaining bills to be considered by the full House before the regular session comes to an end on March 31, it is critical they be passed out of committee by Friday.

KanCare Medicaid Reform
One item generating considerable interest throughout the legislative session this year has been the Brownback administration’s implementation of its managed healthcare initiative, known commonly as KanCare. KanCare is the result of more than a year’s worth of involved, detailed study and planning. The program is an integrated care system intended to control costs of the Medicaid program; create long-lasting reforms to improve the quality of health of Kansans and to improve the care and outcomes for those receiving Medicaid related services. Over time, Medicaid costs have risen substantially, and now constitute a major portion of our budget in Kansas. Additionally, while the current system does provide quality care for many, there are problematic issues within the existing system which have resulted in long waiting lists, misdirection of care, fraud and abuse. At the present time, the many services provided by Medicaid are unaccountable and fragmented, and ranked nationally; Kansas has some of the highest utilization rates for any state. This is not a promising trend. In addition, conflicts of interest have created long waiting lists for services and massive fraud has been identified with home and community based services.

It’s understandable that those who do an admirable job of providing services to the disabled are concerned about the changes to the system. However, unlike other states that some of these concerns are based on, 75 percent of Medicaid consumers in Kansas already receive some form of managed care. The state has carefully watched the implementation process in other states in an effort to learn from their experiences. Currently, the care is uncoordinated and providers are not given incentives to improve health outcomes. Medicaid costs to the state are skyrocketing and additional federal budget cuts could result in Kansas losing $1 billion in federal Medicaid funds. The administration contends it would be a costly mistake to postpone making these critical improvements to the Kansas Medicaid program.

Redistricting Kansas
The redistricting process in the Kansas House continued to move forward this week with the redistricting committee holding two days of hearings on the 18 congressional district maps submitted to the committee for consideration. The committee will make its final recommendation on Monday, March 12 sending to the full House a congressional map for further debate and vote. The maps under consideration represent a range of ideas; some are variations of plans already submitted, others drastically change the existing district boundaries. Two major factors are key to the congressional redistricting process. First and foremost in creating a new congressional map is to make the population deviation for each district as close to zero as possible to ensure one person equals one vote. The second is to fairly expand the first congressional district by the necessary 58,000 residents while also being mindful of the impact it could have on the other three congressional districts and their communities.
If you have the time, please visit http://redistricting.ks.gov to review all the maps under consideration.

Defense Cuts Impact Kansas
This week Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli announced budget cuts by the U.S. Department of Defense will result in the termination of 27 employees of the Kansas Air National Guard. The 184th Intelligence Wing in Wichita will lose 23 full-time positions and two part-time positions. The 190th Air Refueling Wing based out of Topeka will lose two part-time positions. Earlier this year the Department of Defense announced it would cut $487 billion over the next 10 years. The Kansas National Guard has 5,300 Army Guard members, 2,200 Air Guard members, 36 armories and two air wings.

As always, I’ll keep you updated on the activities of the legislature. If you’re tracking legislation or have a bill of interest you’d like to voice concerns on, time is quickly running out. With the legislature rapidly approaching crunch time, I encourage you to stay informed of the issues we’re discussing in Topeka. Committee schedules, bills and other helpful information can be easily accessed through the legislature’s website at www.kslegislature.org. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns and suggestions. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents on the topics under consideration and appreciate the perspective from those outside the Statehouse.

Rep. Elaine Bowers
Kansas State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Room 54-S
Topeka, KS 66612
elaine.bowers@house.ks.gov
1-785-296-7642