Archive for Thursday, March 10, 2005

House shoots down Sebelius’ health plan

Republicans deny her executive order for reorganization was stopped because of partisanship

March 10, 2005


— House Republicans on Wednesday killed one of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' major proposals for the 2005 legislative session, rejecting a reorganization of health care programs.

After the 77-44 vote to stop herexecutive order, Sebelius called a news conference to slam the action.

"Kansans can only conclude that the House's action was purely political," said Sebelius, a Democrat. All votes to stop the plan were cast by Republicans. Forty-one Democrats and three Republicans voted against stopping the order.

Sebelius said her proposal was aimed at reducing bureaucratic and administrative costs, and increasing savings by consolidating drug purchasing power for Medicaid and the state employee health plan.

The proposal was supported by more than 100 health care groups, and no groups came out against it. The plan was formed after months of discussions and meetings, she said.

"Providers have been begging for this kind of streamlining for years," Sebelius said. "A lot of these legislators voted against their own constituents to make a political score. Kansans need to be outraged."

Republicans, however, said their problems with the plan weren't political.

Rep. Dean Newton, R-Prairie Village, said the proposal simply "moved employees from one building to another."

Other Republicans said Sebelius' plan was too sweeping without getting legislative input.

"This is a legislative issue that we have to be responsible for," Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, said.

During House debate, Democrats said Sebelius' proposal was an important first step in addressing health care problems and told Republicans that if they had problems with the plan it could be changed in the future.

More than 300,000 working adults in Kansashave no health insurance, while administration and paperwork are driving up premiums by swallowing one-third of health costs, they argued.

"Accountability and better service is what this reorganization is trying to do," Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said.

"It's not time for us to play games," Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin, said. "It's time for us to embrace meaningful health care reform."

On the verge of spiking the Sebelius plan, Republicans struck a conciliatory note.

House Majority Leader Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, said the best proposals from a Republican plan that was released Tuesday and Sebelius' plan could be combined "so we go home winners."

The Republican proposal would set up a seven-member Kansas Health Policy Authority to implement ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness of public health.

House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, issued a statement that said the vote would start "a meaningful debate on the future of health care policy in Kansas."

Sebelius said she would work with Republicans, but that Republicans have been in charge of the House for 13 years and haven't introduced a reorganization plan yet.

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