Reorganization approved for health care programs

? A partisan battle over reorganizing health care programs for hundreds of thousands of Kansans became a bipartisan lovefest Saturday.

The Legislature approved ,without one negative vote, a plan to merge programs for low-income Kansans with the state employee health insurance plan.

Proponents said the proposal would save funds through streamlined administration, and could produce higher quality health care by leveraging the buying power of the merged programs.

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

But in March, Republicans defeated the measure.

Republicans then formed their own plan to create a Health Policy Authority, with nine 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.

Some Democrats and Republicans said the new plan had more bureaucracy built into it than Sebelius’ proposal.

Sebelius’ plan “was better, faster and cheaper,” said state Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita.

Even so, Sawyer and every legislator voted for the plan.

Sebelius issued a statement, saying, “I commend the Legislature for joining me in reforming health care.

“I look forward to a day when all Kansans can afford health care for themselves, their families, and their employees. This is an important first step in that direction.”