Daily Archives: Jan. 27, 2010

Senate passes cuts to 2010 budget, including 10 percent cut to Medicaid provider payments

TOPEKA – The Senate passed the governor’s recommended cuts to the current budget with few changes.

The measure, Senate substitute for House Bill 2222, passed 36-4 and now goes to the House for debate.

The bill encompassed the cuts recommended by Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat,  in November.

Senators rejected, 16-24, an amendment, by Sen. Jeff Colyer, R-Overland Park, a practicing plastic surgeon, which would have restored the governor’s 10 percent cuts to Medicaid providers.

Medicaid provides health care coverage to low-income adults and children. The cuts would affect providers such as doctors, nursing homes and those that care for the developmentally disabled. Many worry the cuts could make it more difficult for patients who rely on Medicaid to access services.

“The governor’s choice is a wrong choic,e first for the health care of Kansas and second for the economy of Kansas,” Colyer said.

He noted that the $22 million Kansas would save with the cut would mean losing about $77 million from the federal government.

Most of the almost two-hour debate focused on Colyer’s amendment.

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, said it was “disgraceful to use the disadvantaged of our state to pressure us to increase taxes.”

Most senators disagreed though, and said restoring the cuts to the latter half of fiscal year 2010, which ends June 31, would cause bigger problems in the future.

“If this would happen, I believe we will be in further trouble than we are now,” said Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, a physician.

Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said the vote was a very difficult decision for her since her district encompasses the second highest number of nursing homes, which will be affected by the cuts.

“I’m more concerned about what is going to happen next year,” she said.

In committee, the Senate did restore some money to the legislative budget to would allow lawmakers to have a 90-day session.

Brewer, other mayors go to Topeka

TOPEKA — Mayor Carl Brewer and his counterparts from Overland Park and Kansas City, Kan., appeared before legislative budget committees Wednesday,  pledging to work together and seeking lawmakers’ cooperation.

“The significance of our joint appearance today is that is symbolizes our commitment to working in support of each other, even though our respective agendas are different,” Brewer told the House Appropriations Committee.

The three mayors said they hoped to work to show the Legislature the challenges local government faces.

“And, in turn, we need to understand and appreciate the huge challenge you face in these tough economic times,” Brewer said.

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Sen. Susan Wagle to push for insurance coverage of oral chemotherapy drugs

From a press release sent out today:

TOPEKA – The Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee will conduct a hearing tomorrow morning on Senate Bill 195 which would require insurance companies to cover the cost of oral chemotherapy drugs in the same manner they cover IV chemotherapy drugs. The hearing is set for Thurs., Jan. 28th at 9:30 a.m. in Room 152-S in the Kansas Statehouse

State Senator Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, author of the legislation, stated, “There are many cancer patients in Kansas who purchased medical insurance believing it would cover the cost of cancer treatment. Then, upon needing treatment, they are alarmed to discover their insurance carrier does not cover the best treatment options for their condition.”

Wagle explained, “Giant leaps are being taken in new treatments and technologies to treat cancer. Newer, more targeted therapies are being developed that do not have as many debilitating side effects as traditional chemotherapy. We have a new strain of pharmaceutical drugs that target only cancer cells; however, Kansans are finding that in many cases, their insurance will not cover the new therapies.”

Senator Wagle will testify for the bill along with Dr. Mark Fesen, MD, FACP, an oncologist and internist who graduated from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Dr. Fesen trained at the National Cancer Institute and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Kansas. He has been recognized nationally with mentions in US News and World Report and Business Week was recently interviewed by Wall Street Journal MarketWatch, and was a guest on the Jim Bohannon show which airs on more than 500 radio stations.

Dr. Fesen lives and practices in Hutchinson, Kan. and has recently written and published a book receiving national attention: Surviving the Cancer System – An Empowering Guide to Taking Control of Your Care.

Senate bill could reopen chance for slots at Wichita Greyhound Park

TOPEKA – Sedgwick County voters would get another chance to decide on allowing slots at the Wichita Greyhound Park under a bill before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee today.

The bill, Senate Bill 401, would ask Sedgwick County voters if they wanted to have slot machines at the racetrack. The question would appear on the ballot only after a petition with signatures from 5,000 county voters is submitted.

“We believe it will give folks the chance to make a clear and convincing decision,” Doug Lawrence, executive director of the Kansas Greyhound Association, told the committee.

It was clear that voters in Sedgwick County did not want a destination casino, nor slot machines in restaurants, bars and gas stations, he said. But there was confusion in the vote over the racetrack, which failed by about 200 votes in 2007.

The proposal would lay out the question very clearly, he said.

A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

Both measures would also permit slots at two racetracks with short summer seasons, Anthony Downs in Harper County and Eureka Downs in Greenwood County. Neither could have slots under the 2007 law.

Additionally, the bill would lower the mandatory investment required for the Southeast Gaming Zone in Cherokee County to $100 million from $225 million. The fee to the state would be reduced to $11 million  from $25 million. The zone has struggled to find a developer.

For more, read Thursday’s Wichita Eagle.