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Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2005

House GOP at odds over health plan

April 30, 2005

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— Republicans killed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' health care reorganization plan, saying they could come up with something better.

But on Friday, rank-and-file GOP legislators rejected a proposal put together by their Republican leaders as the wrap-up session neared its conclusion today.

"Let's do something right for a change and not hurry it through," said state Rep. Don Myers, R-Wichita.

House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, and Senate health care leaders urged their Republican colleagues, who hold large majorities in the House and Senate, to approve the measure.

"If we go home without anything, we deserve all the criticism we could get," Mays said.

But questions and complaints from Republican House members continued to mount during a marathon caucus meeting.

"We are just creating another huge bureaucracy," said Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora.

State Rep. John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, described the GOP plan and Sebelius' original proposal as "a distinction without a difference."

In January, Sebelius, a Democrat, issued an executive order that would have combined Medicaid and two other health care programs for needy Kansans with the health insurance program for state employees and placed the merged works under the Kansas Department of Administration.

Sebelius said the state would have saved funds through streamlined administration, and could have forced higher quality health care by leveraging the buying power of the merged programs.

But in March, Republicans defeated the measure, complaining the savings were undefined.

Republicans then formed their own plan that would create a Health Policy Authority, with seven voting members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. The Health Policy Authority would oversee the state employees' health plan and take over the programs Sebelius wanted to move out of Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, in addition to some others.

But first the programs would make a transition step by going into the Department of Administration, just as Sebelius' plan called for.

Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, questioned why the Republican plan needed the intermediate step of putting Medicaid under the Department of Administration.

Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, asked, "How much are we going to save with this proposal?"

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said he couldn't say. "The savings should come," he said.

Most of the complaints, however, were that Sebelius, who would have four appointees to the Health Policy Authority, would have too much power.

"I am bloomin' scared of this governor's progressive agenda," said Rep. Don Dahl, R-Hillsboro. House members asked Senate leaders to change that provision to allow the governor only three appointees to the board.

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