From KMS Executive Director Rachelle Colombo:
If you followed much of the media coverage of the Kansas legislature this week, you know just how tumultuous of a week it was. As we’ve detailed in previous legislative updates: this is an election year; it’s also a once-in-a-decade re-drawing of legislative and congressional districts; and the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be politically contentious. Each of these factors introduces variables into the legislative process that make this session particularly unpredictable.
As an example of how policy and politics can collide, the week began with a Senate floor vote on overriding the governor’s veto of the proposed U.S. Congressional redistricting map, which came up two votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority required. Then on Tuesday, in what would normally be an unrelated action, the Senate health committee approved a controversial bill (Senate Substitute for HB 2280) that would explicitly authorize physicians to prescribe ivermectin and other drugs for off-label use to prevent or treat COVID-19. It would also prohibit pharmacists from refusing to fill such prescriptions, and shield prescribers from any licensure sanctions by the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts (KSBHA) for such prescribing. The bill also would make it practically impossible for childcare facilities and schools to deny any claimed religious exemption from state-mandated child vaccination requirements.
Note: KMS opposes the bill as it was approved by the Senate Health Committee. In its attempt to reaffirm that physicians can legally prescribe drugs for off-label COVID purposes, it simply goes too far, by undermining the ability of the KSBHA to protect the public, even for care that clearly could fall outside of medically acceptable, recognized professional standards of care. Moreover, it substantially weakens existing law relating to required school vaccinations for children.
Then, on Wednesday, the Senate reconsidered its earlier action and passed an override of the governor’s veto of the U.S. Congressional redistricting map, after two senators switched their votes from 'No' to 'Yes.'
Finally, on Thursday, in a very unexpected turn of events, the “off-label prescribing bill” (HB 2280) was withdrawn from the Senate floor and referred back to the Senate health committee by Senate leadership. At the same time, Senate leadership also stripped a couple of senate committee vice-chairs of their positions, which, while not unprecedented, is nevertheless quite unusual in the middle of a legislative session. As has been reported in the press, it appears that the senate’s vote on the congressional redistricting map and the off-label prescribing bill were perhaps linked somehow, and it was maybe involved in the senate’s reshuffling of committee appointments. In any event, it resulted in HB 2280 being sent back to committee, which may signal that the senate leadership had concerns with the bill as it came out of committee. It probably isn’t dead for this session, but its path forward is uncertain at this point.
As noted above, the dynamics of this legislative session are unpredictable. With this bill and potential others that may be considered yet this session, it is important to keep in mind the contextual factors amid the current legislative session.
Next week, legislative committees will be busy ahead of the turnaround deadline. The following week is the last week for committees to consider bills ahead of the Feb. 24 turnaround deadline for non-exempt bills to make it through their chamber of origin.
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APRN scope-of-practice bill introduced
This week, a third bill was introduced proposing to allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to practice medicine (SB 454). It would amend the APRN authorized scope of practice to permit the prescribing of controlled substances without a supervising physician. The Senate health committee has not scheduled a hearing on this bill.
The other two bills — HB 2256 and SB 174, both introduced last year — propose to allow an APRN to independently practice medicine without limitation as licensed and regulated by the Board of Nursing. KMS opposes the independent practice of medicine by non-physicians.
Medicaid expansion bill introduced
This week, a bill was introduced in the House Federal and State Affairs committee to expand Kansas’s Medicaid program. The proposal would expand coverage to Kansans earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Under the Affordable Care Act, federal funds would pay for 90% of the expanded population’s new coverage cost. The bill’s proposal would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. A bill number is not yet available.
For information on the bills that we are monitoring this session, please see our bill tracker at: www.kmsonline.org/billtracker. We will update you in subsequent newsletters on relevant activity on these and other bills that are introduced.
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