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COVID-19 May Upend Legislative Schedule

from Prepared by: Dodie Wellshear, Ad Astra Government Relations

The rapidly developing action aimed at “flattening the curve” of the COVID-19 infection rate is already beginning to impact the Kansas Capitol. As confirmed cases began popping up in the state, Governor Kelly announced emergency action that radically restricts those able to enter the Statehouse. Only employees, legislators, registered lobbyists, and those presenting committee testimony are being allowed into the building.

On Friday, the House Appropriations Committee rushed to finalize the FY 2020-2021 “mega” budget bill, in hopes the Senate would enter conference committee negotiations that day and into the weekend. The Senate, however, adjourned early Friday and announced they will return to work on Monday. Later Friday afternoon, the House followed suit.

With the COVID-19 public health emergency mushrooming daily, there is a strong likelihood the Legislature will break for first adjournment later in the week, instead of April 3, and return at its regularly scheduled date at the end of April.

The only item needing passage for state operations to continue is the mega budget bill, which could be finalized as soon as mid-week, in preparation for possible shutdown of the Capitol.

Hearing on HCSF, Hilburn Response This Week
A hearing on SB 493, addressing the Health Care Stabilization Fund (Fund) has been scheduled in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday. The bill was drafted at the request of KMS, as a proactive response to a possible application of last year’s Hilburn v. Enerpipe decision by the Kansas Supreme Court, to medical malpractice cases in the future.

The bill has two primary features, the first of which is to increase the required minimum coverage limits from the Fund, in response to adequacy concerns identified in the Miller v. Johnson ruling several years ago. The bill would increase the required minimum coverage limit to $1 million per claim, up from $300K, as well as allowing health care providers the option of obtaining an additional $1 million excess coverage from the Fund.

The second piece would provide for the orderly dissolution of the Fund by the Kansas Insurance Commissioner, should the Court find the non-economic damages cap unconstitutional, by holding that the Hilburn decision applies also to medical malpractice claims. That decision would trigger within one year the dissolution of the Fund and the elimination of mandatory liability insurance coverage requirements for health care providers currently covered by the Fund.

KAFP President Dr. Sheryl Beard will present testimony in support of SB 493 and its immediate passage.

KAFP Priority Bills
  • HB 252 – bipartisan bill expanding Medicaid to 138% FPL and implementing a health plan reinsurance program
    Status: amended, then voted down in S-Public Health & Welfare; non-exempt
    KAFP provided proponent testimony
  • SB 381 – Authorizing medical student and residency loan assistance to encourage the practice of obstetrics and gynecology in medically underserved areas of the state (separate fund from primary care MSLP)
    Status: passed by Senate, 25-15; moves to House
    KAFP provided neutral testimony, with recommendation to ensure it does not interfere with MSLP for primary care
  • SB 493 – Amending healthcare stabilization fund coverage requirements and membership on the board of governors and providing more

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