Archive for Friday, December 4, 2009

Statehouse Live: Health officials institute cuts; Proposed Westar rate settlement announced

December 4, 2009, 11:22 a.m. Updated December 4, 2009, 3:29 p.m.

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— State health officials Friday approved budget cuts that they said will result in layoffs, delays in receiving Medicaid coverage and jeopardize tens of millions of dollars in federal funds.

“They all strike me as painful,” Kansas Health Policy Authority Chaiman Joe Tilghman said as he reviewed proposed ways to meet Gov. Mark Parkinson’s budget cuts announced last month.

In an effort to balance the state budget, Parkinson last month approved nearly $260 million in cuts and transfers.

Parkinson’s plan called for a 10 percent rate cut to doctors and other providers of Medicaid services.

And KHPA also had to cut its administrative costs.

On Friday, the KHPA board approved that package of cuts worth about $1.13 million in state funds.

In addition to the 10 percent rate cut, KHPA officials voted to eliminate all customer service for Medicaid providers and reduce customer service for Medicaid beneficiaries. The Medicaid program receives 250,000 calls per year.

The cuts also affect the clearinghouse dedicated to reducing a backlog of approximately 15,000 Medicaid applications. If the state is not timely processing Medicaid applications, it could lose some federal funding, KHPA officials said.

11:22 a.m.

Westar Energy customers would see an increase of $1 per month on their electric bills under a proposed $17.1 million rate hike settlement before the Kansas Corporation Commission.

The settlement was announced Friday and will go before the KCC for consideration on Tuesday. The commission must act on the proposal by Jan. 28.

In June, Westar sought a $19.7 million rate increase to recover costs of construction of a power plant near Emporia and investments in wind energy.

But after negotiations with the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, the KCC staff, the Kansas Industrial Customers Group and others, Westar reduced its request by $2.6 million.

The proposal would increase the average residential customer’s bill by 1.3 percent or $1 per month, officials said.

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