Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meeting days approved for KanCare oversight committee

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — Legislative leaders have approved meetings for a committee that will review KanCare, the state's revamped Medicaid program.

Earlier this week, the Legislative Coordinating Council, made up of legislative leaders, OK'd two meeting days later this year for the committee.

Initially, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, was hesitant, saying she wanted to hear from the chairs of the legislative health committees before committing to meeting days.

But Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said, "This whole idea of oversight of community-based services and oversight of KanCare is very important."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the oversight committee should meet. "I've heard compliments and I've heard complaints (about KanCare)," Davis said. "A change this substantial — legislative oversight is very important."

Wagle and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, then said that was fine, and the LCC approved the meeting days.

Legislative oversight of KanCare has been a contentious issue.

This year, Gov. Sam Brownback's administration has turned over the Kansas Medicaid program to three for-profit insurance companies. Medicaid provides health care coverage to about 380,000 Kansans, with the largest portion of them — about 230,000 — being low-income children. The rest are mostly pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly.

In 2012, then-state Rep. Bob Bethell, R-Alden, had pushed for formation of a legislative committee that would oversee implementation of the KanCare program.

Bethell's proposal was rejected by the Legislature. After the last day of the 2012 legislative session, Bethell died in a car accident.

Last session, without a dissenting vote, the Legislature approved the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

The meeting dates for the committee have not been set yet.