By Ben Keeton
The 2018 legislative session began on January 2 and promised to be a whirlwind of activity. The legislature’s top priority is passing the biennial budget. While this is never an easy task, it will be made especially difficult with a significant hole to fill due to the underfunded pension system. The next state budget has a $1 billion gap, and if there is no new revenue, massive cuts to programs could come when the legislature convenes to tackle the problem. This will likely have implications on Kentucky’s healthcare sector, since one-third of Kentuckians are covered by the state Medicaid system.
The legislature will attempt to tackle the pension crisis and stabilize one of the worst funded pension systems in the country. This may not have a direct effect on the delivery of healthcare, it will take up plenty of the oxygen in Frankfort and may slow down the passage of bills that are intended to help increase access to care.
There are several pre-filed bills that aim to make care more accessible and affordable for Kentuckians across the Commonwealth. Here is a brief summary:
BR 163: Cannabidiol
Senator Julian M. Carroll (D), Senate District 7
Allows a physician to recommend the use of cannabidiol or cannabidiol products.
BR 224: Tobacco Fund
Senator Stephen Meredith (R), Senate District 5
Establishes the Medicaid tobacco-related illness reimbursement fund.
BR 173: Substance Abuse Screening Program
Representative C. Wesley Morgan (R), House District 81
Creates a substance abuse screening program for adults receiving public assistance, food stamps and state medical assistance.
BR 325: Palliative Care
Representative Reginald Meeks (D), House District 42
Establishes the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Interdisciplinary Advisory Council within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Require all health facilities to establish systems for identifying patients who could benefit from palliative care by 2021.
BR 278: Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment for Veterans
Representative Stan Lee (R), House District 45
Permits eligible veterans to use hyperbaric oxygen treatments to treat traumatic brain injuries.
Healthcare program-related bills
BR 136: Rare Disease Advisory Council
Senator Julie Raque Adams (R), Senate District 36
Establishes the Kentucky Rare Disease Advisory Council and creates funding to support rare disease research and treatment.
BR 127: Managed care networks, credentialing, network adequacy, appeals
Representative Ken Fleming (R), House District 48
Requires that the Department for Medicaid Services designate a single credentialing verification organization to verify credentials for DMS and all contracted Medicaid Managed Care Organizations.
BR 216: Outpatient pharmacy benefits
Senator Max Wise (R), Senate District 16
Requires the Department for Medicaid Services to directly administer all outpatient pharmacy benefits.
While not all bills have been pre-filed, many health advocacy groups expect to see legislation that is focused on patient access to care issues.
Finally, many industry groups are hoping to build off the successful passage of medical review panels and pursue additional legal liability reform. A few topics that expect to get some attention are confidential medical peer review protections for physicians and hospital and general tort reform, including a potential constitutional amendment to establish caps on certain damages.
If there is an issue that you are watching or have an opinion on, please make sure to share it with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue to report on the 2018 session in print and online.