Sam Brownback

State officials have scheduled five meetings to gather public comment on KanCare in advance of renewing contracts to administer the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The contracts currently held by UnitedHealthcare, Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan (a subsidiary of Centene) expire in 2018. Those private insurance companies serve as managed care organizations that operate KanCare.

Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said her agency wants to hear from the public on what to include in the next contracts.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

After another legislative session with no action on Medicaid expansion, advocates in Kansas are turning their attention to the upcoming state elections and urging voters to become more vocal on the issue.

A Monday rally in a Statehouse hearing room drew a standing-room-only crowd. It was better-attended than other similar rallies in the four years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have discretion over whether they expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.”

Hannah Copeland / Heartland Health Monitor

Last week was a busy one for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

First, Kansas health officials informed the organization they were ending its Medicaid funding.

Then Planned Parenthood fired back with a lawsuit calling the action illegal and politically motivated.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

The two Planned Parenthood organizations in Kansas and Missouri wasted little time challenging Kansas’ termination of their Medicaid funding.

Just a day after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment notified them of its decision to cut off their Medicaid payments,  Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region sued the head of the agency, Susan Mosier.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration will not fight a legislative directive to postpone the integration of Medicaid waiver services for Kansans with disabilities, according to an email sent by an administration official.

The Legislature passed a budget early Monday that included a provision prohibiting spending in the next fiscal year on any waiver integration plan to be implemented before July 2018.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

This story was updated at 9:29 a.m. and at 2:33 p.m. 

Just two weeks after the Obama administration warned states that ending Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood may run afoul of federal law, Kansas on Tuesday terminated the Medicaid contract of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Eleven states, including Missouri, have now cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. Courts in four states have blocked those moves.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

While the Kansas Legislature’s final budget bill did increase spending on mental health hospitals by $17 million, more than two-thirds of that funding will be used to maintain the status quo.

That’s because $11.7 million — or 69 percent of the $17 million in extra funds the Legislature appropriated early Monday in Senate Bill 249  — will be used to replace federal funding the state hospitals lost or pay contract facilities to assist when Osawatomie State Hospital is at capacity.

File photo

The Kansas Legislature added several patient protection measures to a bill allowing “step therapy” for Medicaid drugs before passing the legislation early Monday morning.

Advocates for Kansans with mental illness and other conditions were pleased with the changes but remain concerned about the possible effects of the underlying bill on vulnerable patients.

Step therapy requires Medicaid patients to try the least expensive medications for treating their ailments first. If those fail, they can then “step up” to a more expensive alternative.

The Kansas Board of Regents Monday issued a strong statement after the Legislature approved a budget that cuts $17 million out of higher education next year. The Regents say the cut is shortsighted and will damage the state's economy.

“To extend any cuts into next year would be detrimental to the future prosperity of Kansas,” Chairman Shane Bangerter said.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Legislature approved additional restrictions on people who receive government assistance but removed one proposal that would have required women to return to work shortly after giving birth.

The changes, passed late Sunday as part of Senate Bill 402, reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from three years to two years. There is a one-year hardship extension.

KHI News Service file photo

The Kansas House shot down a plan to return some 330,000 Kansas businesses back to the income tax rolls Friday, voting 45-74 on the measure.

A tax conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators agreed to push the measure forward for a floor vote as the Legislature tries to close a budget gap, adjourn the session and head back to the campaign trail.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A coalition of health care and religious groups is asking Gov. Sam Brownback to convene a conference on gun violence.

“In the immediate aftermath of the tragic attack at Excel Industries in Hesston, you declined questions about gun policy issues because you understandably felt the timing was not appropriate,” reads the first sentence of the request submitted earlier this week. “We the undersigned inferred that you do believe, however, a time and place for such a conversation exists. We think that time should be soon.”

File photo

An effort to roll back a controversial business tax exemption is among the budget-balancing proposals that lawmakers will take up in the final weeks of the 2016 legislative session.

Several key Republicans, including many self-described conservatives who voted for Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts in 2012, are openly supporting bills to either reduce or eliminate the exemption as legislators return Wednesday to the Statehouse to wrap up the session.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Kansas officials got the bad news they were expecting Wednesday.

After reading the economic tea leaves and noting that state tax collections have been short of expectations in 11 of the past 12 months, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group reduced its revenue projections for this budget year and the next by $228.6 million.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Estimates for Kansas tax collections were ratcheted down sharply Wednesday. The state’s projected revenues dropped by a quarter billion dollars over the next year-and-a-half. That leaves Kansas with a budget deficit, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing plans for erasing the shortfall.

Kansas will need to find $140 million in the current fiscal year to get out of the red. Next fiscal year, which starts in July, will need another $151 million in cuts or new revenue. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, laid out three options for filling the hole.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A handful of university economists and state officials will meet Wednesday behind closed doors in Topeka to revise their estimate of how much tax revenue Kansas will collect over the next year. 

It’s a process the state has used since the late 1970s for budgeting purposes. But a string of missed estimates in recent years has made it controversial.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas has fewer low-income families receiving cash assistance than at any time in the last decade, but less than 10 percent are recorded as leaving the program because they found jobs.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is offering to stop spending state tax incentives to lure Missouri businesses across the state line but only if the Missouri General Assembly amends an offer to stop using tax breaks to poach Kansas jobs. Missouri extended the compromise two years ago, contingent on Kansas reciprocating.

Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation, says what's been called an economic border war has been extremely wasteful.

“We’re using our incentives to move existing jobs, rather than trying to compete for new jobs,” says Hall.

Jennifer Morrow / Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 3:39 p.m.

The Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to review an appeals court decision finding that the Kansas Constitution creates “a fundamental right to abortion.”

The decision by the high court was expected after the Kansas Court of Appeals, in an evenly divided vote, upheld a trial judge’s decision to block a Kansas law banning the second-trimester abortion method known as “dilation and evacuation.”

File photo

Editor’s note: A backlog of Medicaid applications has caused financial strain for nursing homes and put thousands of Kansans at risk for loss of medical care. State officials trace the beginnings of the backlog to a computer system switch.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers another major abortion case, Planned Parenthood remains in the line of fire in Kansas. The Brownback administration has accused the organization of selling fetal parts for profit and has sought to cut off its Medicaid funding. 

 

Kansas Board of Regents

The news that Kansas came up $54 million short of revenue projections in February was bad enough. But a few minutes after the Department of Revenue released the report, the news got worse.

In a statement posted to his official website, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was immediately cutting $17 million from the state Board of Regents budget, a 3 percent cut to the state's six biggest institutions of higher learning.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback made his case Thursday for why Kansas food stamp reforms should be a national welfare-to-work model, even though the study he used to support his claim showed almost 80 percent of Kansans affected remained in poverty.

It’s hard to keep up with Kansas government these days. From balancing the budget, to school finance formula and recent "communist" name-calling, Up To Date checks in with statehouse reporters to try and make sense of it all.

Guests:

  • Bryan Lowry is the statehouse reporter for The Wichita Eagle. 
  • Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Kansas Public Radio.

Governor Sam Brownback laid out his legislative goals during the 2016 State of the State Address Tuesday night. He took the president to task and touched on high-profile state issues like education spending. 

Brownback laid the groundwork in his speech by referencing what he and lawmakers had done in Kansas in recent years. He touted tax policy, the unemployment rate and job growth.

“Kansans are finding good jobs right here at home. Working together, we’ve created an economic environment where new filings for new businesses have increased by 15 percent,” said Brownback.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Did Kansas lawmakers know about the state's controversial decision to lift the borrowing limit for the Department of Transportation? 

This PowerPoint slide seems to suggest they did, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle along with transportation insiders whom KCUR has talked to all say they were surprised to see KDOT borrowing at record levels in December. 

neetalparekh / Flickr--CC

Late this week, Kansans got two interesting pieces of economic data within 24 hours of each other. Let's start with the second: the state's latest jobs report for November.

Gov. Sam Brownback certainly liked what it had to say, based on a Tweet he sent out Friday morning. 

A Look At How Refugees Are Resettled In Kansas City

Nov 30, 2015
Julie Denesha / KCUR

After the attacks in Paris, many governors across the nation took a stance on opening their borders to refugees, particularly refugees from Syria. In the Kansas City area, Governors Sam Brownback and Jay Nixon weighed in on both sides of the issue.

 

“It is imperative that we take action where the White House has not. KS agencies will not assist in relocating Syrian refugees,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wrote on Twitter .

 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas tax revenues are plummeting and that may bode poorly for the future of the state's highway system.

Tax revenue has come in $57 million below estimates since the fiscal year began in July, leading the Brownback Administration to sweep money from different places to balance the budget. The biggest hit was taken by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

You can talk about expansion projects, preservation projects and economic development around transportation, but for many, what’s happening to KDOT funding right now boils down to one thing.

It is still unknown what the impact of the landmark Gannon school finance case will be, since the Kansas Supreme Court won't ultimately decide on it until sometime next year. 

What is clearer now, though, is the state's stance on what role the Court should play in determining funding for Kansas public education. In short, the state thinks the Court has no role. Briefs filed in Gannon Monday by the state essentially tell the Court to stay out of its legislative business. 

Pages