By Kenny Colston
While Kentucky has turned over its Medicaid rolls to managed care companies, started a health benefit exchange and expanded Medicaid, the health and welfare committee of each legislative chamber has seen huge workloads the last few General Assemblies.
And 2014 will be no different, according to each respective committee chair. “We always have a busy committee,” State Rep. Tom Burch, a Democrat from Louisville, said. The large issues still remain: monitoring the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act and keeping watch on the MCOs that handle Medicaid.
“In terms of legislation, I’m not sure what that will be, but we will be monitoring the expansion of Medicaid, MCOs and the exchange,” State Senator Julie Denton, chair of the Senate committee, said.
New Laws, Possibly
However, a wealth of other issues that have lingered in each chamber, but haven’t been able to reach consensus between the two, appear poised to become law. Those issues include a bill to give nurse practitioners the ability to write their own prescriptions, allowing diabetic students to give themselves insulin injections in school and changes to outpatient therapy and mental illnesses. Outside of those three, there is uncertainty on what has a chance to become law.
Denton, a Republican from Louisville, told Medical News she will push for a broader medical review panel bill this session. Previously limited to just nursing homes, Denton said the new bill would apply widely. “It’s the same bill as last year, just applied across the board,” Denton said. “Doctors, hospitals—everyone will be involved.”
Legalizing Smoking and Non-Smoking
Burch identified issues with statewide EMS regulations and expanding dental services as priorities in his committee. He also added the topic of medical marijuana to the list, saying he’s an advocate for legalizing it. “I’m not the sponsor, but from what I understand, it will legalize a doctor to prescribe (marijuana for medical uses),”
Burch told Medical News. “I think we should go further than that. Let people buy it in state stores and tax it. If you legalize it youtake the profit and crime out of it.”
One other big topic will be a statewide smoking ban law. Burch said the topic will be a priority in his committee, and Regan Hunt, director of the Kentucky Voices for Health advocacy group, said her group would push the bill as well. “Primarily one of our focuses will be the Smoke-Free Kentucky law, which will be in two bills,” Hunt said. Other issues for KVH, Hunt said, will be finding funding for the kynect exchange after 2015, Medicaid population funding and pension issues for health agencies.
Perhaps the biggest storyline for health committees in 2014 will be the departure of Denton, who is leaving her Senate seat to run for Louisville Metro Council. Denton said her final year as committee chair “will be bittersweet.” “There’s a lot of pressure to get a lot of things done,” Denton said. “I’ve loved being chair and impacting public policy and affecting people’s lives. It’s been very rewarding, and I’m going to miss it. “
Likely Legislation for Health and Welfare
1. Medical review panels for all healthcare
2. Legalizing medical marijuana
3. Expanding nurse
4. Statewide smoking ban
5. Mental illness and courtordered
6. Self-applying insulin
injections in schools
7. Streamlining CPS processes
8. Acquired infections in hospitals
9. Statewide EMS regulations
10. Volunteer dental services
11. Possible MCO/ACA legislation
12. Medicaid population funding
13. kynect funding
14. Pension issues for
15. Alcohol and drug counseling
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