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Restoring Medicaid cuts on top of legislature's priority list


Gov. Sam Brownback cut Medicaid reimbursements by 4 percent earlier this year, as part of budget cuts aimed at covering the revenue shortfall in Kansas, and legislators see restoration of that cut as a top priority going into the next session.

As reported by the Kansas Health Institute News Service, Brownback and lawmakers have some ideas about how to restore the cut but haven’t settled on a specific course of action because of the $350 million deficit facing the state this fiscal year and the $600 million gap projected in the next fiscal year.

Bill Miller, a 59-year-old dentist from Hill City, told KHI News Service that he has accepted Medicaid patients throughout his career, even as reimbursements have lagged behind, but that he is now contemplating whether he should continue. 

“It certainly is something that I am seriously considering not participating in in the future,” Miller said. “Just the economics of it – there’s no way to make it work and be profitable at all.”

Brownback’s preferred method for restoring Medicaid cuts is to increase a hospital tax that would pull in more federal Medicaid money. Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, said that is the equivalent of taxing the hospitals in order to give back to the hospitals.

“Yeah, you’re going to pull down some federal dollars with that, but really we’re taxing them to give back to them. And why would we do that,” Hawkins said, suggesting instead to increase a fee charged to the three managed care organizations (MCOs) that administer Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare, which he said would also draw down federal money.

That fee also applies to private-sector insurance companies that run managed care plans including health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and Brownback said that should be taken into account, but didn’t rule out Hawkins’ idea as part of a plan to restore the cuts.  

“We’d have to see what kind of mix to do and its impact on the MCOs, but there is a way to do this and that’s what we proposed even at the end of the last legislative session,” Brownback said. “I think we ought to do something like that, and we’ll see if the legislature is open to it or not.”

Mary Beth Chambers, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, cautioned legislators, that any fee increases would ultimately get passed onto those buying the insurance. She also suggested that reinstating Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts would generate $260 million, which would easily restore the $38.2 million in Medicaid cuts.

Brownback has continued to oppose repeal of the tax cuts.