Khi Panel Discussion For 2023 Legislature

Lawmakers, lobbyists highlight hot-button health policy issues ahead of 2023 session

TOPEKA – Kansas Chamber President Alan Cobb said the Legislature should thoroughly investigate whether schools and colleges are artificially inflating academic requirements of people enrolled in programs that lead to an occupational license.

Cobb, who leads the business lobby organization, raised the issue during a panel discussion of health issues likely to be raised during the 2023 legislative session that opens in January. An interim committee of the Legislature had already delved into whether the state’s requirement of 90 hours of instruction for certified nursing assistants was out of step with the 75-hour mandate of federal agencies.

“Too often it’s driven by those who provide the training,” Cobb said. “Why do we have 1,500 hours to be a beautician? The public doesn’t demand it. It’s a lot of times the cosmetology schools. It sounds a little skeptical (or) cynical, but there’s something to it.”

Kansas Health Institute, a Topeka-based nonprofit that advocates for policy through nonpartisan research and education, hosted lawmakers and lobbyists for a conversation about issues important to them, as well as topics likely to come up in the 2023 Legislature. will emerge. The House and Senate have large Republican majorities, while Democratic Governor Laura Kelly won a second term on November 8.

Chad Austin, president of the Kansas Hospital Association, said the Legislature will certainly revisit education and tax policy reform to address the significant workforce shortage gripping the health care industry.

He said 80% of Kansas counties have an inadequate number of primary-care health professionals. It goes beyond nursing, he said, to include radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, dietary aides and environmental service personnel, he said.

He said Kansas hospitals are struggling with a wave of retirements, staff leaving for jobs in non-hospital settings and employees turning to second careers. Hospital staff turnover and vacancies are higher than three years ago, he said. Stress from COVID-19 was a factor, but other contributing factors included the availability of affordable housing and childcare.

Austin said the Legislature should reconsider a bill that did not survive the 2022 session that would help provide greater physical security for health care workers in hospitals. There are also issues with flexibility of telehealth services, staffing among teachers in health education programs and overall financial sustainability of hospitals, he said.

Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat on the panel, said the Legislature needs to resolve Republican opposition to expanding eligibility for Medicaid. The GOP-led legislature or GOP governors have blocked the enactment of Medicaid reform since 2014, effectively blocking $5.9 billion in federal funding that would have flowed through the health care system in Kansas.

Kelly has in the past proposed plans to add more than 100,000 lower-income Kansans to the program, and she promised to submit a new recommendation in January.

“I’m hearing from constituents and small business owners about the need for Medicaid expansion,” Ruiz said. “I know this is not a subject that everyone agrees on.”

Glenda DuBoise, state director of AARP Kansas, has endorsed Medicaid expansion, as has Austin of the hospital association.

She said AARP would add further investments in broadband Internet services to the wish list to expand the range of telehealth programs and to help the elderly avoid isolation by connecting with families online. Tens of millions of federal dollars, partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been invested in Kansas broadband over the past two years.

“We’re very excited about the possibility of knowing that we’ll be on the verge of getting it into more homes, in rural areas of the state,” DuBoise said.

Sen. Lindsborg Republican Molly Baumgardner said she expects the Legislature to continue working to address youth suicide, explore weaknesses in the foster care system and address challenges of modernizing programs for children with developmental disabilities. to pack

The senator expected lawmakers to prioritize a review of services to children with dyslexia and other cognitive reading issues.

“We’ve seen some steps forward, but it’s really time to revisit. Are the benchmarks being met and what are schools really doing in classrooms?” Baumgardner said, “Being able to read, for a child, is so critical.”

Wichita Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Republican, said she would hope the Legislature considers options for providing mental health services to children in family court due to parental divorce. She also wants to put into state law funding for mental health programs in K-12 schools. Until now, she said, the school-based initiative has relied on year-to-year renewal of funding.

“It now has a track record of a lot of success,” Landwehr said. “There isn’t a year that goes by that we don’t hear about a life that was saved.”

In response to a question, Landwehr said a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Kansas would first pass the Senate. In 2022, the House passed a bill outlining the regulation of marijuana for medical use. The Senate did not consider that measure. Kelly endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana.

Cobb, president of the Kansas chamber, said the legislation should be drafted to allow Kansas employers to deal with substance abuse issues in the workplace in a manner consistent with the use of alcohol on the job. He said businesses in the Kansas chamber are divided on the issue of medicinal marijuana.

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