by Denis Knight, DO
The Medical Society of Sedgwick County and the Kansas Medical Society continue to represent the interests of physicians, patients and quality health care in both Topeka and Washington, D.C. I would like to acquaint our membership with several legislative bills introduced at the Kansas Statehouse this session that could have a significant impact on the physicians and citizens of Sedgwick County.
The fate of these bills is far from certain at this point – KanCare expansion had just been tabled as the newsletter went to press — but I wanted to tell a bit about why we have been behind them.
HB2064 and SB38 address the need to expand KanCare, the state’s managed care program to include individuals earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Regardless of anyone’s political persuasion or their position on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, the fact remains that many of the “working poor” fall into a tough gap. They are ineligible for public assistance with Medicaid but do not earn enough to pay rising premiums and deductibles in the Kansas marketplace through the federal exchange.
I see these patients in my practice regularly, and see the burden it places on them and their families. I am also sure that there are patients I don’t see because they delay seeking care, allowing conditions to worsen. We have supported – and should continue to – legislation that aims to increase Kansans’ access to health care.
For those providers participating in KanCare, often at great sacrifice because of the deep contractual adjustments, it is difficult enough to provide services. Making it more so are longstanding systemic issues that have existed since the state of Kansas began contracting with private companies to administer this program. My practice, and any practice dealing with KanCare for that matter, can testify to the time, money and frustration that come from dealing with these flaws. HB2169 and SB69 would address matters involving billing, appeals and credentialing and bring KanCare into compliance with federal standards. That’s why the bills have our backing.
Providers participating in KanCare were already accepting significant payment discounts in the first place, making the state of Kansas’ imposition of a 4 percent provider reimbursement cut last year that much more devastating. SB94 and HB2180 would increase a tax on the managed care organizations (MCOs) doing business with the KanCare program, which would provide new revenue to reverse the tax on providers mentioned above. We support these bills that would restore what was taken away.
It’s been heartening to see fellow physicians join the Legislature this session and bring needed medical expertise and experience to the political process. Your MSSC colleague Dr. Greg Lakin has taken an active role in legislation that would put the anti-overdose medication Naloxone in the hands of first responders and others contending with the opioid crisis. In addition, Dr. John Eplee of Atchinson, a former KMS president, has been leading the charge on an issue he cares deeply about, adding the meningitis vaccine to the required list for adolescents.
At the end of this month, I will be part of a delegation from MSSC and KMS visiting Capitol Hill and meeting with our senators, representatives and other government officials. With a new president and administration in the White House, a new HHS secretary in Tom Price MD, and a shift of power in both the House and the Senate, this creates opportunity for reform and we want to be involved in efforts to find solutions to the problems faced in health care.
I will be sure to provide you with an update of the trip to Washington, D.C., next month.