Topeka — A state board backed away Tuesday from proposing a health insurance mandate for children and young adults.
Kansas Health Policy Authority board decided last month to recommend that the state mandate coverage for Kansans through age 25. Children wouldn't have been allowed to enroll in school if they weren't covered.
But many board members fear too many legislators would oppose a health care plan containing such a mandate. The board is drafting recommendations for legislators to consider next year.
"If you're not practical, you get nothing," said Chairwoman Connie Hubbell, of Topeka, also senior vice president of the Kansas Health Foundation.
Board members recommended more aggressive efforts to enroll 40,000 children who are eligible but not enrolled in state medical programs. They also endorsed changes to help employees of small businesses get insurance.
Those recommendations would be tied to a proposed "trigger" law, under which the state would consider a mandate if a certain percentage of the children eligible for state programs weren't enrolled by a certain date. The board didn't pick either figure.
The revised plan would result in about 64,000 fewer uninsured Kansans obtaining coverage, according to consultants hired by the authority. But the changes would contain the plan's ultimate cost to the state, employers and individuals, and legislators are likely to find it more acceptable, board members said.
The Legislature's Republican majorities generally have favored pursuing initiatives that help Kansas residents buy private insurance, rather than imposing coverage mandates or expanding government programs.
On Tuesday, the board focused on proposals for increasing the number of Kansans with health insurance. But its 21 recommendations, due to legislators and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Nov. 1, will be broader and include proposals to improve public health, encourage greater preventive care and help consumers make better choices about health services.
The state created the authority in 2005 to review health issues and administer some programs, including Medicaid, which covers more than $2 billion worth of services to the needy each year. The authority oversees the day-to-day operations of the programs and does research, while its 15-member board sets policy.
About 312,000 Kansans don't have health insurance.