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Archive for Friday, June 12, 2009

Kansas Health Policy Authority chairman puts challenge to Legislature

June 12, 2009

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— The state’s health policy agency may be in for some big changes.

And Joe Tilghman, board chairman of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, said Friday if that means getting rid of the board, so be it.

“If there is a decision to get rid of the KHPA board and move it within the governor’s office, that is perfectly acceptable,” Tilghman told the House-Senate Health Policy Oversight Committee.

But Tilghman said the decision should be based on what is best for the state, and not because of political turf wars.

In fact, Tilghman and several committee members agreed that the governor’s office should be more involved with KHPA because one of its jobs is administering the Medicaid program, which at $2.6 billion per year is one of the largest state budget expenditures.

KHPA was formed in 2005 and since then has been making health care recommendations that the Legislature has essentially ignored.

Some Republicans have been critical of the agency, which has sought to expand health coverage for poor people and increase the cigarette tax. After the just completed session, Marcia Nielsen, who had been the KHPA’s only executive director, resigned to take a job at Kansas University Medical Center.

Tilghman acknowledged that some legislators had been “uncomfortable” with KHPA making recommendations at the outset of every legislative session, but he said the law setting up the agency required it to do so.

“If you don’t want us to do that, change the law,” he said.

But state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who is vice chair of the oversight panel, said some lawmakers were unhappy with KHPA officials advocating for the recommendations.

“When we created the Health Policy Authority it was to bring us out-of-the-box thinking. The agency has done that. Where it went crossways in some cases was in advocating with providers and different folks,” she said.

The oversight panel plans to review the agency in preparation for the 2010 session that starts in January. The committee agreed on a plan to try to clarify expectations of KHPA and develop ways to measure performance.

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