A proposal to sell Kansas University Hospital that emerged last week in the Senate got a foothold in the House on Tuesday.
Under the proposal by state Sen. Chris Steineger, D-Kansas City, the state would sell KU Hospital and use the proceeds to pay for repairs at regents universities and help the state pension system.
Steineger said independent analyses showed that the hospital in Kansas City, Kan., could be sold for at least $800 million.
"As a Legislature, we have a reciprocal responsibility to our state employees, our teachers, our local elected officials and the students of Kansas to fix their broken retirement system and to refurbish their rundown buildings," Steineger said.
Lawmakers face an estimated $660 million in deferred maintenance and repairs at the six regents universities. Legislative leaders say they believe a $100 million-per-year increase for maintenance would eventually resolve the backlog of projects.
The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System has a $5.1 billion gap between the value of its assets and its future pension obligations.
State Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, introduced a companion bill to Steineger's in the House Appropriations Committee.
As vice chairman of the committee, Tafanelli said he brought the bill up at Steineger's request.
Tafanelli said he didn't support the measure at this point, but looked forward to learning more about it.
KU officials say selling the hospital would kill KU's attempts to be designated as a national cancer center.
"What happens is the investment you expect an academic hospital to make in its medical school and its programs goes instead to the shareholders of the company," said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center.
Steineger has said perhaps the hospital could be sold to a nonprofit entity, but Atkinson said that was doubtful.
Doctors also have weighed in against any potential sale, saying a private hospital would be less likely to support the current level of charity care, teaching and research at KU Hospital.