Topeka One of the state's most powerful lawmakers is pushing a measure that would force Kansas University Medical Center to get legislative approval before it could form partnerships with other health care organizations.
"Through the years, Kansans have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the University of Kansas Medical Center and School of Medicine," House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said Friday.
"It troubles me the medical center has involved itself with plans that could take its assets across the state line without consulting the Kansas Legislature," Neufeld said.
In recent months, KU Medical Center, located in Kansas City, Kan., has been exploring new alliances with hospitals in the Kansas City, Mo., area.
David Adkins, executive vice chancellor of external affairs at KU Medical Center, said KU officials would be more than happy to visit with lawmakers about what is occurring, and said the aim of those discussions are to benefit Kansans.
"We respect the interest that legislators have, and we share that interest in protection of Kansans," Adkins said.
"We are proud of our intentions and goals and have no problem in visiting with the Legislature about that," he said.
Supporters of the discussions say KU Medical Center needs to collaborate with other area hospitals to grow and meet its goal of being designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.
But KU Hospital, which has had the closest ties to the medical center, has worried that some of those alliances could be bad for its business.
Some lawmakers have voiced concern that state tax dollars could benefit Missouri.
Under HB 2134, state universities would have to get legislative approval before entering a partnership.
"Kansas lawmakers are elected to make sure good public policy is enacted, and that includes protecting the state's assets. We need to know the details of these negotiations to make sure this partnership is in the best interest of Kansas. On the surface, it makes no sense to send Kansas health care dollars to Missouri," Neufeld said.
But other elected officials have expressed confidence in KU Medical Center for pursuing new affiliations.
And KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway has said KU would do nothing to harm the KU Hospital or transfer tax dollars to Missouri.
Adkins said there could be some unintended consequences with Neufeld's legislation.
He said the bill could be interpreted to prevent affiliations between the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and the KU Medical Center.
There are several Stowers researchers who also have staff appointments at KU.
"We feel those are very important to advancing life sciences in the region," he said.