KanCare Expansion in the Senate

Apr 15, 2019 by

On May 1, when the Legislature returns for their wrap-up session, the Senate will consider a motion by Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) to bring HB 2066 out of committee and on to the Senate floor for debate and action.

HB 2066 came to the House floor in a different form than what the Senate will consider but on a motion by Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City), the bill was amended to be a Medicaid expansion bill (Medicaid in Kansas is called “KanCare”). The amendment was adopted on a vote of 69 to 53 but only after House leadership tried to stop it by ruling the amendment not germane to the topic in the bill. The House voted to overrule leadership – a very rare action which indicated a strong desire by the majority to act on KanCare/Medicaid expansion.

HB 2066 passed the House on March 21 on a vote of 69 to 54. But since then, leadership in the Senate has done everything in their power to make sure the bill does not get a vote in the Senate.

Polls consistently show that between 70 and 80% of Kansans want the state to adopt expansion. Why? Well, there are several good reasons.

  • All Kansans pay federal income tax and some of that tax money is sent back to states to pay 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion. The states that don’t expand are leaving those dollars in Washington. Kansas has already forfeited over $3 billion that could be brought back to Kansas in the form of health care for working Kansans.
  • Rural hospitals in Kansas are closing. Five have already closed while others are on the brink of closing. Medicaid expansion would bring health care dollars back into Kansas communities and in-turn support the fiscal health of rural hospitals and the communities they serve.
  • If you have health insurance, your premiums are impacted by those who don’t. People who lack health insurance rely on expensive emergency rooms for care. Covering the cost of that care is part of the reason hospital bills are so high – the cost of the uninsured is passed on to the insured through higher medical bills and insurance premiums. The simple fact is, the more people who have health insurance, the better costs can be contained.

Kansas NEA supports KanCare expansion. It’s good for school employees. Some of the people that our students depend on – bus drivers, cafeteria workers, part time ESP staff – would benefit from expansion. It’s good for children – our students – because learning is very challenging when students must deal with the distress of a sick parent who could be treated with proper coverage.

It’s hard to understand why some legislators are opposed to health care for working Kansans.

The Hensley motion to bring the bill out of committee will take more than the minimum 21 votes – it takes 24 just to get the bill to the floor; it then takes 27 to bring the bill up for action.

In 2017, both the House and Senate voted to expand KanCare only to have it vetoed by Governor Brownback. The House successfully voted to override that veto but the Senate vote to override came up one vote short. This is the same Senate that voted in 2017 with three changes (Eric Rucker for Vicki Schmidt, Kevin Braun for Steve Fitzgerald, and Vic Miller for Laura Kelly). This year, Kansas has a Governor who will sign KanCare expansion into law. The last hurdle is the Kansas Senate.

We urge all Kansans to contact their Senator and urge them to support the Hensley motions to bring HB 2066 to a vote on the Senate floor and then to support HB 2066 for passage. The time for KanCare expansion is NOW. The time to help our rural hospitals, to provide for our working neighbors, to keep our communities strong is NOW.

Take action through the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas (KNEA is a member of the Alliance). Click here.

Want to know more about Medicaid Expansion in Kansas?

To learn more about Medicaid expansion and to watch a short video explaining the “coverage gap,” click here.

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Big issues front and center! Your Action Needed!

Mar 22, 2019 by

House Ed Budget Committee sends two bills to the floor

Two bills were moved out of the House K-12 Budget Committee last night – one dealing with funding, the other with policy. Both bills will now go to the full House for debate next week. And both bills are opposed by KNEA and the education community generally.

But the first action was to deal with SB 142, the Senate’s school finance bill that represents the best response available at this time to the Gannon school finance decision. A motion by Jim Ward (D-Wichita) to pass the bill out favorably was defeated on a 5 to 7 vote – a number which would be repeated several times during the meeting.

Next up was Senate Bill 16 which dealt with naming evidence-based programs that could be paid for with at-risk funds. The bill was brought by Mike O’Neal on behalf of JAG-K (Jobs for America’s Graduates). The Senate added Boys and Girls Clubs to the bill and sent it over to the House.

On a motion by Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater), the bill was gutted and a new bill created. House Sub for SB 16 now contains nearly all of the education policy changes sought by House K-12 Budget Committee Chair Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and the conservative legislators on the committee. There are no funding pieces in the bill at all.

Pieces that were removed from the bill include the bullying task force, the vouchers for targets of bullying, and the restrictions on roofing contracts. The limit on funding bilingual students is changed from four years to five. The 15% cap on unencumbered balances is removed and replaced with an audit of unencumbered balances by the Division of Legislative Post Audit.

The bill still removes the requirement that 92% of the excess costs of special education be reimbursed. It keeps all the new accountability reporting, the study of graduation requirements in the hope of letting financial literacy and computer science count as math or science credits, the establishment of an IT Commission, the extension of the Dyslexia Task Force, and O’Neal’s JAG-K language but without Boys and Girls Clubs. The bill also creates a new bullying hotline.

Also included is a change to the tuition tax credit scholarship (voucher) program that will tend to concentrate vouchers in urban areas. Currently these vouchers are available to students in the 100 lowest performing schools in the state. The change in this bill is to limit the vouchers to the 100 lowest performing elementary schools in the state.

The amendment creating Sub for SB 16 was adopted on a vote of 7 to 5 and the bill was subsequently passed out of committee on a party line vote of 8 to 4.

Sub for SB 16 will do nothing to address the Gannon decision and parts of it could jeopardize equity in our current formula created additional legal problems in the Courts. KNEA opposes Sub for SB 16.

This action was followed by a new Hoffman motion to amend HB 2395, Williams’ school finance plan, to take out all the policy pieces that are now contained in Sub for SB 16.

As amended, HB 2395 (now Sub for HB 2395) would provide about $90 million in new funding but splits that funding essentially half and half between BASE increases and two weightings – a slight increase in at-risk weighting and the creation of new “behavioral health intervention weighting.” The Senate plan in SB 142 would apply the full $90 million increase to the BASE without messing about with a formula that has been deemed to be constitutional.

But there are other very significant and very troubling changes. First, instead of honoring the promises of the 2017 and 2018 school finance actions, this bill repeals entirely the BASE increases in the last two years. SB 142 has all four years funded. This new bill also deletes the current provision that calls for an annual CPI increase to school funding once the Montoy Safe Harbor is reached. Sub for HB 2395 ends all commitments to school funding before reaching the Montoy Safe Harbor and beyond.

If Sub for HB 2395 were to become that Legislature’s response to Gannon, we will likely remain in court far into the future. The best hope for bringing Gannon to an end is to pass SB 142. KNEA opposes Sub for HB 2395.

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Both of these bills (Sub for SB 16 and Sub for HB 2395) will be available next week for debate on the House floor. We urge all supporters of our public schools to contact their state representatives now. CLICK Here to contact your Representative. Ask him/her to vote NO on Sub for SB 16 and Sub for HB 2395 and to pass SB 142 instead. It is time to move a responsible bill to the Supreme Court – that bill is SB 142.

Will the Senate take action on Medicaid expansion?

Thursday, on a vote of 69 to 54, the House passed KanCare expansion, an action that could bring health insurance coverage to as many as 150,000 currently uninsured Kansans. KanCare is the state’s Medicaid program. The expansion is allowed under the Affordable Care Act. The state will pay 10% of the cost while the federal government is required to pay 90%.

Both the House and Senate have voted previously to expand KanCare only to have the action vetoed by then-Governor Sam Brownback. A motion to override Brownback’s veto passed the House but fell a vote short in the Senate.

House leadership has been determined to stop to KanCare expansion but the majority of members have been just as determined to pass it. And on Wednesday, when HB 2066 came to the floor, they got their chance. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City) made a motion to gut the bill and replace the contents with KanCare expansion. This action was necessary because Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee and a hardcore opponent of expansion refused to give a hearing to a bill on expansion.

The amendment was ruled not germane by the House Rules Committee Chair but the ruling was overturned by the members on a vote of 55 to sustain the ruling and 62 to overturn. After a long debate, the Wolfe Moore amendment passed on a vote of 69 to 53 and the bill advanced to final action on a vote of 70 to 54.

Now the bill goes to the Senate but time is almost up for consideration. KanCare expansion is needed in Kansas. We have already seen four rural hospitals close (Independence, Fort Scott, Oswego, and Horton) with many more on the verge of closing. Expansion will help them by paying for more preventative care and limiting the practice of using the emergency room for care. Expansion will help many working Kansans caught in the gap between KanCare eligibility and eligibility for ACA health insurance subsidies. They earn too much to qualify for KanCare but not enough to be eligible to get financial help to buy private insurance.

KanCare expansion will create jobs, protect hospitals and communities, and improve health and financial security for 150,000 Kansans. Here’s what some legislators had to say about why they voted YES on expansion:

  • “I discerningly vote “yes” on HB 2066… Rural hospitals, mental health, and the working poor are losing. While imperfect, today’s decision gives them a chance. Healthcare cannot be solved exclusively in Kansas; let’s resoundingly IMPLORE FEDERAL dialogue, action, and results.” MARK SAMSEL
  • “I vote yes on HB 2066. It ensures that thousands of Kansans can look forward to a healthier and more productive future. And at a time when 86% of Kansas hospitals have negative operating margins, this proposal will provide immediate help for their bottom line, stabilizing operations, aiding in staff recruitment, and providing a lifeline to much-needed retooling and reconfiguring of health care delivery. It has been said that in Kansas a person’s zip code is a greater determinant of health outcomes than genetics. For rural Kansans, HB 2066 gives hope that it need not always be so.” DON HINEMAN, BRAD RALPH, JOHN P. WHEELER, JR., JIM KARLESKINT, SUZI CARLSON, SUSAN CONCANNON, LEONARD A. MASTRONI
  • “Expanding accessibility to preventative healthcare will alleviate crisis health situations, reduce hospital operating losses, and ultimately lead to healthier rural communities. I vote YES on HB 2066.” ADAM SMITH

TAKE ACTION NOW!

CLICK Here to contact your Senator now. Ask them to take action on House Bill 2066 and expand KanCare. It is time to help working Kansans get the health care they deserve; time to step up for our rural hospitals; time to do the right thing. Ask them to call HB 2066 to the floor of the Senate for action.

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Debate on several issues continues under the dome tonight.

Mar 20, 2019 by

KEY POINTS:

-House K-12 Budget Committee is continuing to discuss potential school finance solutions, largely ignoring the Governor’s solution while Chairperson pushes HB 2395 (which education community opposes).

-Medicaid expansion reaches the debate phase on the House floor after the rules chair is overturned on a procedural ruling. The debate is expected to continue-possibly into the night.

-House K-12 Budget Committee Chairperson Kristey Williams has told her committee that they will convene a committee meeting tonight upon adjournment of the House.

House K-12 Budget continuing the discuss school finance solution

Yesterday, the House K-12 Budget Committee held a hearing on SB 142, the Senate school finance bill that addresses the Supreme Court ruling in Gannon. This bill matches the solution that was originally in SB 44, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill.

KNEA provided testimony in support of the bill as did KASB, United School Administrators of Kansas, Game On for Kansas Schools, the Kansas PTA, and a number of other organizations and individual school districts. SB 142 is a clean response to the Supreme Court decision and, at this time, the best response that has been put forward. It should be noted that Schools for Fair Funding does not believe this is the full amount needed. KNEA believes it is past time to send a legislative response to the Court and that this bill needs to be passed.

Today’s Committee schedule indicated that the committee would consider the bills that they have heard (HB 2395, the bill carried by House K-12 Budget Committee Chairperson, Kristey Williams and that is widely opposed by the education community, as well as SB 142, the bill the education community supports). But due to other actions today, we are not certain whether action will happen today or not – so read on to see why!

KanCare (Medicaid) Expansion comes to the House floor!

The House was set to debate and vote on a bill today dealing with “advanced practice registered nurses” when Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City) moved to amend the bill by gutting it and inserting the contents of a Medicaid expansion bill that had been introduced but ignored by House leadership.

The germaneness of the amendment was challenged and the Rules Chair ruled the amendment as non germane. That ruling was in turn challenged which sets up a vote on “shall the ruling of the rules chair be sustained?” A NO vote means the ruling chair’s ruling is not sustained – it is overturned – and debate on the amendment can go forward. Historically, the rules chair is rarely overturned but in this case he was on a vote of 55 to 62.

Debate went on for some time with most of the time taken up by expansion opponent Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita). Landwehr decried doing this “on the floor” and not property “vetting” the issue. The sad truth, of course, is that, as chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Landwehr could have held a hearing on the bill at any time and fully vetted it but she chose to block it. Instead she held a “round table discussion” of expansion without ever taking up the actual bill.

Speaking passionately in favor of expansion were Representatives Tom Cox (R-Shawnee) and Jim Kelly (R-Independence). Cox spoke of his own personal health challenges and how important it was to help other people through theirs. He pointed out that he was lucky to have affluent parents who could afford insurance and co-pays while many are not so lucky. Kelly shared his experience “at ground zero” where the hospital closes, doctors leave, and people desperately scramble to find health services. The Independence Hospital was the first to close, followed by Fort Scott, Oswego, and Horton. Thirty more are “on deck to close,” said Kelly. We should also remember the impact those closures have on the people who work in those hospitals as well as the impact on the local economy.

Opponents complained about deficits and the pressure on the budget – a budget they put at risk through votes first for the Brownback tax disaster and now through the passage of more tax cuts for multi-national corporations and wealthy individuals in SB 22. The budget is not a concern when cutting corporate taxes but it is when they have to vote on caring for working Kansans!

In the end, the amendment was adopted on a vote of 69 to 53.

It was then that Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), an expansion foe, moved to rise and report. This was an unusual motion in that it was done before debate ended and a vote was taken on the bill. Hawkins noted that the intent was to allow folks to craft amendments which could be brought forward in the debate which would continue later.

The House then recessed until 3:45 – meaning a conflict with the scheduled 3:30 meeting of the K-12 Budget Committee. But Representative Williams announced that her committee would meet upon adjournment of the House tonight. And we have no idea when that might be!

Look for a more detailed update on tonight’s proceedings in tomorrow’s edition of Under the Dome.

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Big Issues! Tax cuts, KanCare expansion, & School finance

Mar 7, 2019 by

Big Issues! Tax cuts, KanCare expansion, & School finance

It’s big-time under the dome these days (although the light committee schedule would appear to say otherwise).

We’ve spent much time reporting on Senate Bill 22, the budget-busting tax cut bill that passed the Kansas Senate on February 7. As it passed the Senate, the bill would cut taxes by about $190 million putting a budget out of reach that would fund schools, help the foster care system, fix the crisis in Kansas prisons, and restore highway funding. The Senate version would provide about $140 million in tax cuts for multi-national corporations and lets about 9% of Kansas individual taxpayers itemize their state income on taxes even if they can’t on their federal return at a cost of another $50 million.

The Kansas House Tax Committee added a one-cent reduction in the food sales tax, costing the state about $60 million and then inserted a change in the way internet sales taxes are collected and remitted which would increase taxes to the state by about $41 million. So the House version would cost the treasury about $210 million.

After a long debate during which the House rejected all but one amendment to the bill, it was advanced to final action on a vote of 80 to 42. The only amendment that was adopted was one by Rep. Ken Corbet (R-Topeka) defining foods subject to the lower sales tax as those items that can be purchased with food stamps. Amendments by Representatives Jim Ward (D-Wichita) and Tim Hodge (D-Newton) aimed at removing the corporate tax breaks and maintaining those that benefit working Kansans were all rejected on identical party-line votes of 40 to 89.

The bill is now subject to a final action vote which will take place either Friday or Monday.

A “Round-table Discussion” on KanCare expansion

Representative Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, held a days-long round-table discussion on KanCare expansion this week. KanCare is the Kansas version of Medicaid so this amounts to a discussion on the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Expansion was approved by both the House and Senate in 2016, only to be vetoed by then-Governor Sam Brownback. The House voted to override the Governor’s veto but the override fell short in the Senate.

Medicaid or KanCare expansion is needed for a number of reasons:

  • Our rural hospitals are in financial trouble and expansion would dramatically improve their chances of staying open. Some hospitals have already had to close. The first to shutter was in Independence and just last month, the hospital in Horton indicated that it may be closed. Employees were working without pay. Hospitals in Fort Scott and Oswego have also closed.
  • KanCare expansion will encourage work and job advancement among low-income parents. In Kansas, a parent makes too much to qualify for KanCare if she earns more $7,896 per year for a family of three. If she works a minimum wage job just more than half-time, she would make too much to qualify. If she gets a better job, a raise, or more hours, she would fall into the coverage gap – her income is too high for KanCare and too low to qualify for assistance to purchase private insurance. If Kansas were to expand KanCare, low-income parents could earn more without losing their health coverage.
  • Expansion would provide coverage to between 130,000 and 150,000 working Kansans who cannot afford coverage now.
  • While Kansas would be required to pay a portion of the costs (about $47 million), the bulk of the cost would come from the federal government. In 2020, 90% of the cost would come from the federal government. Kansas has already forfeited more than $3 billion in federal aid from taxes that Kansans are paying!

While both the House and Senate have voted before in favor of expansion and both would likely do so again now, the leadership in both chambers remains opposed and have worked tirelessly to block all efforts to force a vote on expansion. Rep. Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita) is now the House Majority Leader and has led the efforts to block expansion. Rep. Landwehr who now holds the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee is also a strong opponent of expansion.

During the first day of the round-table, Republicans Jim Kelly (Independence) and John Eplee (Atchison) spoke in support of expansion and raised their personal experiences – Kelly with the harm to his community caused by the closing of the hospital and Eplee to his experience as a physician with the harm to Kansans who can’t get the care they need.

Read about the first day of the round-table in the Capital-Journal by clicking here.

Find out more about KanCare expansion at the website of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas by clicking here. KNEA is a member of the Alliance.

School finance moving

We reported that the first school finance bill – SB 142 – moved out of committee on Wednesday and will go to the full Senate for debate probably next week. This bill contains only the proposed inflation fix to school finance required by the Gannon decision.

It is important to understand that not everyone agrees that this bill will be approved by the Court. There are two interpretations of what the Court was requiring. This bill puts in one inflation increase and then maintains that through the following years. Schools for Fair Funding (SFFF) believes the Court wants to see an inflation increase each year along with the spending increases passed last year. KNEA’s interpretation has been the same as that of SFFF.

We would anticipate at this time that what is likely to pass is this bill along with SB 147 which is the rest of the education budget. When combined, these bills are the same as SB 44, the Governor’s school finance bill introduced at the start of the session.

We are expecting a Senate floor debate on SB 142 next week.

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Session adjourned, but what have we truly accomplished?

Apr 7, 2017 by

The Legislature has adjourned the regular session and your representatives are headed for home. The House, which was last to adjourn, was out by 11:54 am. Legislators will be home the rest of April and return to Topeka for the veto session – more commonly these days called the wrap-up session.


The biggest issues of the 2017 session remain unresolved.

  • They did pass a budget but it does not balance.
  • They failed to pass tax reform that will fund our vital state services going forward.
  • They have not yet passed a new school finance formula although it is assembled and awaits a vote in committee in May to send it to the floor for consideration.
  • They failed to expand Medicaid, denying 150,000 Kansans access to health care.

Their accomplishments? They successfully defended the National Rifle Association by ensuring that come July 1, 2017, Kansas community colleges, tech colleges, and universities will be wide open for firearms. Anyone can carry a firearm on any post-secondary campus at any time unless the campus can provide metal detectors and security staff at entrances. It didn’t matter that parent organizations, student organizations, faculty and college administration – even General Richard B. Myers, the retired military hero and current president of Kansas State University – wanted the law changed to allow campuses to control weapons. It only mattered that the NRA wants our campuses to be open to all guns all the time.  

The last attempt to address the guns on campus issue happened on Tuesday, April 4, when Rep. Jim Ward (R-Wichita) made a motion to bring a related gun bill to the floor for debate. Ward’s motion failed when it only got 44 votes. All 40 Democrats voted to bring the issue to the floor for debate; they were joined by only four Republicans – Rep. Shelee Brim (R-Shawnee), Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park), Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway), and Rep. Tom Sloan (R-Lawrence).

They also successfully declared pornography to be a public health issue in Kansas and prohibited Kansas from doing business with any company that is boycotting Israel.

Brownback State of the State

So, despite the reality in Kansas today – a reality in which Gov. Brownback remains the most unpopular governor in the United States with overwhelming public opposition to the tax disaster he forced upon Kansas in 2012 – the legislature has been unable to muster enough votes to override his vetoes of reasonable tax reform and the expansion of Medicaid, leaving Brownback to believe his ideology and policies are invincible. He will continue to cling to his failed policies as long as the legislature remains unwilling to stand up for their constituents.

The attitude of the obstructionists in the legislature can best be seen in the comments and votes of Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita). After voting to sustain the Governor’s veto of Medicaid expansion, she told the press that the state just did not have the money to do this. Yet earlier in the session, Landwehr voted NO on HB 2178, the first comprehensive tax reform bill that would have reversed much of the Brownback disaster. And she then voted NO on the motion to override his veto of that bill. The argument that the state does not have the money would sound more honest if she had actually joined with those who were trying to solve the money problem.

While HB 2178 would have been a great step in the right direction, with the subsequent Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon school finance case, we know now that it would not have gone far enough. Since then, the legislature has done nothing serious to return to common sense tax policy. They have sent out bills to raise cigarette and liquor taxes, they have thought about motor fuels tax increases, and yesterday after the Governor expressed support for a “flat tax” bill, the Senate defeated that bill on a vote of 3-37. KNEA opposes the flat tax bill because it radically raised taxes on low and middle-income Kansans while essentially protecting the wealthiest. The flat tax bill would have been a massive tax increase on lower income individuals and a minor tax increase on the wealthiest.

There is a way out of this disaster but it takes some courage. Some legislators are now floating the idea of repealing the 2012 tax cuts and going back to the income tax as it was before Brownback conned the legislature into passing his disastrous experiment. These legislators would end the glide path to zero, and put 330,000 businesses back on the tax rolls while reinstating their business loss deduction. They would reinstate the third tax bracket on higher income individuals while providing middle-class relief by reinstating deductions for child and dependent care, medical expenses, and home mortgage interest.

A proposal of this sort would raise enough revenue to bring our state back from the abyss and allow the legislature to stop robbing the highway fund, to respond appropriately to the Gannon decision, and even expand Medicaid.

We are well past the time for gimmicks and protecting a failed Governor. When the legislature returns on May 1 their first order of business needs to be reversing the failed tax policies of 2012 and 2013. And they need to find the resolve to stand up to the bully on the second floor in order to save this great state.

Your legislators will be back home from now until May 1. It is critical that they hear from their constituents; from Kansans who want good roads, excellent schools, and support for those facing difficult challenges. Tell your legislators that you’ve had enough of the Brownback experiment. It is a failed experiment and it is time to reverse it.

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