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Legislature adjourns; campaign season begins

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The 2018 legislative session adjourned shortly after 5pm on Friday, May 4 after an attempt to pass comprehensive tax policy failed with only a few hours remaining before the Sine Die midnight deadline would force adjournment. Though they met their constitutional obligation to pass a budget, and their Supreme Court ordered mandate to appropriate additional funds for K-12 education, it is uncertain whether the Court will accept the Legislature’s provision or a special session will be required to further fund schools and revisit tax policy. Because Sine Die was set consecutive to the seven-day Veto Session, without a break allowing the Governor to approve or veto bills and then for the legislature to return for any potential veto override attempts, all legislative action is final and the Governor has unchallenged authority to veto those bills passed in the final days.

Fortunately, the legislature took up HB 2028, The Kansas Telemedicine Act, as soon as they returned to Topeka and continued the work of reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions. At issue was an abortion prohibition and connected “non-severability” clause stipulating that any potential legal ruling that affected the abortion prohibition would be non-severable from all other provisions in the bill. HB 2028 clearly stipulates that no abortion procedure may be delivered via telemedicine, consistent with current law and practice, but anti-abortion advocates felt the non-severability clause was imperative to ensure telemedicine didn’t undermine existing law. House and Senate conferees agreed to re-insert the non-severability clause and the bill passed both bodies with broad support.

Though telemedicine has been utilized in Kansas and across the nation for many years, HB 2028 establishes a statutory framework to regulate and reimburse telemedicine consistent with in-person care. The bill clearly defines the necessary components for a telemedicine platform, requires HIPAA compliance and states that the same standard of care must be upheld for those services delivered via telemedicine. Additionally, coverage can no longer be denied for an otherwise covered service just because it was delivered via telemedicine. This piece of the bill ensures that physicians who have the capability and platform to treat their patients via telemedicine will be reimbursed for doing so, even if they do not contract with a telemedicine vendor. The provisions relating to coverage parity affect physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses and behavioral health providers. By ensuring reimbursement for telemedicine services, current practice is likely to expand, resulting in greater access for more Kansans and enhanced opportunities for providers to serve patients.

There were dozens of other bills offered and advanced that would have allowed non-physicians to practice medicine under varying regulatory constructs, but none secured passage. For more information about the advocacy of the Kansas Medical Society, visit our bill tracker where you can read the proposed legislation, track its progress and see the position established by the KMS Legislative Committee comprised of physicians from across the state.

Though legislators have left town, our advocacy work continues year-round. June 10 marks the filing deadline for all individuals pursuing elected office this cycle. The House of Representatives, Insurance Commissioner, and all four Congressional seats are up for re-election. The Kansas Medical Society’s political action committee, KAMPAC, contributes to legislative races where the bulk of policy affecting the practice of medicine in Kansas is enacted. Our advocacy is directly impacted by our efforts to support candidates and retain legislators that encourage quality access for Kansans delivered by a physician-led team. If you haven’t already, contribute to KAMPAC today by paying your dues here and help ensure that KMS continues to effectively promote positive health policy for Kansas physicians and their patients.

For more information about legislative matters, or KAMPAC, please contact KMS Director of Government Affairs, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Legislature's progress continues

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Just a few days remain for committees to take action on non-exempt bills sent from the opposite chamber if they intend to advance the issue. Practically, these deadlines help legislators to prioritize those issues which require their attention this calendar year. Those issues which provide a remedy for an immediate problem or that are non-controversial in nature are most likely to advance during this final window of committee work. Dozens of bills were introduced affecting the practice of medicine but only a handful remain active for consideration this session. 

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Legislature adjourns regular session; telemedicine bill unresolved

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The Kansas Legislature adjourned the regular session in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 8 after the last-minute passage of a resolution allowing them to return for a 7-day Veto Session beginning on April 26. Though scores of bills remain in conference committees and have not secured final passage, both the House and Senate spent the final week of the session working to pass a school finance plan that meets with the Supreme Court’s approval. When they return later this month, they’ll likely have a response from the Court and will need to pass revenue and budget bills as well as reconcile any other important policies before they adjourn on May 4.

House Bill 2028 includes the contents of the Kansas Telemedicine Act, which contains provisions agreed to by the Kansas Medical Society, Kansas Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, and the telemedicine vendor, Teledoc. The bill establishes that telemedicine is regulated consistent with in-person care and that coverage cannot be denied for services solely based on their delivery via telemedicine. It passed the House of Representatives unanimously, but was amended in the Senate, requiring a conference committee of House and Senate committee members to reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill. The conference committee report passed the Senate, but was rejected by the House, sending it back to conference for further negotiations. At issue is language that was inserted by anti-abortion advocates to ensure that no abortion procedure can be performed via telemedicine. Additionally, the advocates want a clause included, a non-severability provision, that ensures that if there is a legal challenge to the bill, the abortion prohibition will not be severable from the rest of the act. The non-severability clause has charged the bill with the politics and sensitivity that surrounds ideological issues such as abortion. Though the underlying bill is non-controversial and widely supported in both the House and Senate, that provision must be agreed to between House and Senate negotiators and a new conference committee report will need to pass both chambers. Though the Kansas Medical Society does not advocate for or against ideological issues, we support the underlying bill.

When legislators return for the Veto Session next week, they’ll have just seven days to pass remaining legislation like HB 2028 and send it to the Governor for his signature. The result of the Court’s decision on the school finance plan will likely determine the tenor and productivity of the week and could signal the need for a special session to further resolve school finance. In any instance, the Kansas Medical Society is present and engaged on any issues affecting the practice of medicine in Kansas.

For more information about legislative matters, please contact KMS Director of Government Affairs, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Legislature approaches committee deadlines

capitol domeAs is often the case, a deluge of bills were introduced in the week leading up to the first legislative deadline. Committees must consider and advance non-exempt bills by the end of this week, then debate and pass the same bills through their chamber of origin the following week to stay alive and see final passage by session’s end.

Practically, this means that the first month creeps by and then suddenly explodes into two weeks of action mid-February. A significant portion of issues won’t be scheduled for hearings, won’t pass out of their committees or will fail to secure a majority vote during floor debate. The remaining bills are sent to the opposite house for committee and full consideration before the end of March.

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Slow starting session

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Now two weeks into the Legislative session, it is clear that legislators are focused on a limited number of mitigating factors and issues that will dominate the 2018 session. First and foremost, the Supreme Court’s ruling that legislators must provide additional funds for K-12 schools and need to develop a new formula for adequately and equitability funding education. The ruling requires a solution before first adjournment in April and further stresses appropriators tasked with allocating state resources for other essential government services. Though revenue estimates are increasingly better than in recent years due to the tax package passed in 2017, questions remain about how to satisfy the Court’s ruling and balance other funding obligations.  Legislators must comply with the Court ruling or amend the constitution ambiguity around the definition of “suitability” of education funding. The looming transition of Governor Brownback also adds of layer of uncertainty as policymakers work to craft solutions that will be signed in to law. 

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2018 Legislative Session Preview

capitol domeThe legislature convenes for the 2018 session on Monday, January 8. This is the second year in the biennium, meaning that bills introduced and not acted upon in the 2017 session are still “alive” for consideration until adjournment. While this sets the table for more issues to be considered, the coming election cycle for the Governor and House of Representatives also mitigates which issues are most likely to be taken up. Additionally, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the Legislature has failed to adequately and equitably fund K-12 education and has allowed until April 30 for legislators to provide a statutory remedy. The confluence of these factors: lingering issues, upcoming elections and an adverse ruling after a large tax increase to fund education and other core functions of government, makes for a tenuous start to the session.

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Advocating for you

Rachelle ColomboRachelle Colombo, KMS Director of Government Affairs, rcolombo@kmsonline.org