Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Proposed budget reduces grants for safety net clinics

KHI News Service

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for plugging a more than $325 million hole in the current fiscal year’s budget includes a $254,000 cut in state-funded grants for safety net clinics that provide care for the poor and uninsured.

The governor also has proposed taking an additional $378,000 from the grant program in fiscal 2016 and 2017.

The House Social Services Budget Committee heard testimony on the proposal Monday. Denise Cyzman, executive director at the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, asked the committee to leave the $378,000 in the grant program’s budgets for fiscal 2016 and 2017.

The association, she said, would not be asking legislators to restore the $254,000 cut from current year spending.

"We recognize that these are really challenging budget times,” Cyzman said after the hearing. “The $254,000 for us was easier to give up because we’d received some unanticipated funding from (Kansas Department for Health and Environment) earlier in the year. So, given that, we were OK with not getting that restored.

“But the big concern is losing the $378,000 in (fiscal) 2016 and 2017,” she said. “That’s a 5 percent cut and a time when our data shows that we’re seeing 9 percent more patients than we were a year ago.”

KAMU represents the 43 safety net clinics in Kansas that serve more than 252,000 patients, almost all of whom are low-income or uninsured.

Prior to the proposed $254,000 rescission, the clinics had access to $8.2 million in state-funded grants this budget year.

The grants, Cyzman said, have helped the clinics offset the costs associated with seeing more patients, installing electronic health-record systems, adjusting to administrative changes that accompanied KanCare and developing health homes for patients with mental illnesses.

KanCare refers to the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program administered by three managed care organizations. The committee is scheduled to discuss the KDHE budget and funding for the safety net clinics Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado and chair of the committee, asked the panel’s members “to be cognizant of the fact that we are broke.”

Still, Carpenter and others on the committee expressed strong support for the safety net clinics.

“They’re one of the best things we get for our money,” said Rep. Randy Garber, a Republican from Sabetha.