Sam Brownback

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

For the first time, someone in leadership in the Kansas Legislature has called for a special session to craft a solution to school funding inequity that will satisfy the state Supreme Court and head off a possible shutdown of schools by month's end.

Rep. Ron Ryckman from Olathe, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter addressed to "Colleagues" suggesting now is the time to act.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

A Kansas senator says a highway project in his district is back on schedule, drawing protests from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Sam Brownback picked that project over others to help a political ally in an election year.

The project to widen U.S. Highway 69 north of Pittsburg from two lanes to four was one of 25 delayed in April to help balance the state budget.

It sits in the district of Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, who sent an open letter to Brownback decrying the delay.

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In the past few years, Kansans have become used to monthly revenue numbers in the red. Still, May's figures came as a shock. On the last (mostly ceremonial) day of the 2016 legislative session, state revenue officials announced Kansas had come up nearly $75 million short of projections. Both individual and corporate income tax collections fell short of the mark. 

Courtesy Coffeyville USD 445

Children’s programs across the state are scrambling to deal with grant cuts that take effect at the start of July.

The cuts come from a $3.3 million reduction in funding for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, which uses the state’s share of the 1998 master settlement agreement with large tobacco companies to provide grants through the Children’s Initiatives Fund for programs for children and families.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas tax collections for May fell short of projections by about $74 million, and legislators said Wednesday they fear that will mean more cuts to Medicaid.

The May shortfall comes despite the state’s revenue estimating group revising projections downward for the third consecutive time about six weeks ago.

It wipes out the meager savings Gov. Sam Brownback created when he made cuts two weeks ago after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals nationwide are facing a host of financial challenges, but states can still take action to keep them open, the head of a rural health group told the Governor’s Rural Health Working Group on Wednesday in Topeka.

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, said people in urban areas have a few explanations for why rural hospitals are struggling: irreversible population decline in rural areas, low-quality care and bad management practices.

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Kansas health care providers will urge federal officials to reject Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed Medicaid cuts and may challenge them in court.

The recently announced cuts would reduce state expenditures for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, by $56.3 million and trigger a loss of approximately $72.3 million in federal funds. Combined, the managed care organizations that administer $3 billion KanCare program and the health care and service providers they have contracts with would be forced to absorb more than $128 million in cuts.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated at 8:30 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback trimmed more than $56 million from Medicaid in Kansas as part of larger budget cuts announced Wednesday, raising concerns that health care providers may decide not to take unprofitable patients.

About $38.2 million of the $56.4 million in budget cuts comes from reducing reimbursements by 4 percent for providers who treat patients covered by KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program launched in 2013. The remaining $18.2 million comes from cuts in other areas of the Medicaid program.

Both top KU coaches, David Beaty (left) and Bill Self, have LLCs that reduce the amount they owe in Kansas income taxes.
KCUR 89.3/CC

Among the nearly 334,000 Kansas businesses that owe no state income taxes thanks to the Brownback administration’s 2012 tax cuts is one called BCLT II, LLC.

BCLT II happens to be owned by Bill Self, the legendary University of Kansas men’s basketball head coach.

Under his 2012 contract with KU, Self pulls down a salary of $230,000 a year. But that’s just a small part of his compensation.

Courtesy Innara Health

The beginning of May was a roller coaster of emotions for Innara Health CEO Michael Peck.

The results of a promising trial of his company’s NTrainer product, which helps premature babies learn to nurse, were unveiled April 30 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore.

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.

File Photo / 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.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

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.

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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.

file photo / 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.”

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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.”

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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.

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