Jim McLean

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KHI News Service, a partner in the the Heartland Health Monitor team. HHM is a reporting collaboration among KCUR, KHI News Service in Topeka, Kan., KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo.,  and Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, Kan.

McLean oversees the KHI News Service, an editorially independent reporting program of the Kansas Health Institute. Before joining KHI, McLean was news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. McLean has received awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

A third of the way to an end-of-year deadline, Kansas officials still do not have federal approval to extend KanCare.

In January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied the state’s request for a one-year extension of the waiver that allowed it to privatize its Medicaid program. The denial letter said neither the Kansas Department of Health and Environment nor the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services was doing enough to hold the three private companies that run the program responsible for providing services accountable to Medicaid rules.

The head of the Kansas agency that oversees the state’s hospital system is working to jump-start the process of recertifying Osawatomie State Hospital.

Federal officials decertified the state’s largest psychiatric hospital in December 2015 due to concerns about patient safety and staffing.

The decertification order is costing the hospital approximately $1 million a month in federal funding.

Renewed attention to the financial struggles of several Kansas hospitals is giving supporters of Medicaid expansion a potentially powerful argument as they work to build a veto-proof majority for a new bill.

“The conversation became much more real with the renewed talk about hospital closures,” said David Jordan, director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a pro-expansion coalition. “I think legislators are seeing how motivated their constituents are and maybe rethinking their votes.”

After sitting on the sidelines since his veto of a tax bill in February, Gov. Sam Brownback this week re-engaged with lawmakers working on a solution to the state’s budget crisis.

He needn’t have bothered.

The Senate on Thursday rejected the “flat” tax bill that he was lobbying for by a decisive 37-3 vote.

“This is bad tax policy,” said Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas are preparing to mount an intense lobbying campaign over the weekend to get the votes they need to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of an expansion bill.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, March 28.

Buoyed by the failure of Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Kansas Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a Medicaid expansion bill in a 25-14 bipartisan vote.

The Senate vote sends the bill to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, whose spokeswoman reaffirmed his opposition to expansion in tweets during nearly three hours of Senate debate Monday but did not say whether he would veto it.

Kansas lawmakers are now a step away from what could be a showdown with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on the political football issue of Medicaid expansion.

Reports that Gov. Sam Brownback may soon be leaving the state to take a United Nations post have lawmakers and others at the Statehouse talking about how things might change with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer in charge.

Kansas freshman Republican Congressman Roger Marshall is getting a baptism of fire as he campaigns for the American Health Care Act — the bill Republicans introduced this week to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

It is not hyperbole to say the challenges that members of the 2017 Kansas Legislature face are among the most daunting in state history.

Kansas was out in front of just about every other state in 2013 when it fully privatized its Medicaid program and renamed it KanCare.

The switch to managed care was one of the first big policy changes made by Gov. Sam Brownback, who promised it would both improve health care and lower costs.

KanCare was immediately controversial.

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Kansans succeeded Wednesday in a last-gasp effort to advance a measure, overpowering opponents who thought they had blocked it earlier in the week.

Editor’s note: Due to the illness of a committee member, the vote on Medicaid expansion has been postponed until Monday, Feb. 20. 

Kansas lawmakers are getting ready to do something they have never done before: vote on a Medicaid expansion bill.

For the past three years, conservative Republicans who controlled the Legislature refused to allow a vote on the issue.

Things are different this session due to the ouster of several conservative incumbents by moderate Republican and Democratic challengers.

What appears at first blush to be little more than a contract dispute between a state agency and a University of Kansas research center is actually much more than that.

The state’s failure to renew a contract with the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation is another assault on the state's mental health system, according to the directors of several community mental health centers.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Kansas officials have borrowed a record $900 million from the state’s investment fund but still may need to implement a series of emergency measures to end the 2016 budget year in the black.

Jim McClean / KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain concerned about a Medicaid drug policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Known as “fail first” or “step therapy,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

Jim McClean / KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

The 2016 election could be a tough one for some Kansas lawmakers hoping to return to the Statehouse.

Polls, editorials and reader comments on news websites indicate that voters are paying attention to what’s happening in Topeka, and many don’t like what they’re seeing.

Jim McClean / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Health care problems just one result of the economic decline of rural communities.

Members of Gov. Sam Brownback’s Rural Health Working Group have their work cut out for them.

Representatives of the state’s hospitals and doctors painted a sobering picture of the problems facing rural providers at the group’s first meeting Tuesday evening.

Susie Fagan / KHI

From the Kansas Health Institute:

A Lawrence businesswoman has become somewhat of a poster child for the Affordable Care Act.

Meg Heriford, owner of the Ladybird Diner, didn’t seek the spotlight but has been thrust into the role by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

Sebelius, who also served two terms as Kansas governor, still has a home in the state as well as one in Washington, D.C.

Susie Fagan

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Three Republicans will not be returning to the House Health and Human Services Committee next year.

The reason: Their support for Medicaid expansion.

KHI

Groups working to boost health insurance enrollment in Kansas are concerned their efforts could be undermined by the last-minute departure of one of the state’s largest insurers.

Kansas Health Institute

Sen. Jeff King says private-sector expansion plan could help fix health care system that’s failing ‘hard-working Kansans.’

Kansas Senate Vice President Jeff King is taking issue with Gov. Sam Brownback’s reasons for opposing Medicaid expansion.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

From the Kansas Health Institute:

The debate over the size and role of government isn’t just polarizing national politics.

It is also at the center of a dispute in Sedgwick County over public health funding.

Conservatives who now control the five-member County Commission are seeking to restore “core American values,” which include limited government, said Chairman Richard Ranzau in a recent speech to Republicans at the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Via Christi Health

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Kansas’ “failure” to expand Medicaid is putting health care providers in jeopardy, the head of the state’s largest health system said Wednesday.

Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, issued a statement calling on Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to drop their opposition to expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Mercy Hospital Independence

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Rep. Jim Kelly says closure should serve as warning to other communities

The scheduled closure of the hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence could create new urgency around the Medicaid expansion debate.

Frustrated by their inability to muster more than a handful of votes for any tax plan, Kansas Republican legislative leaders are asking rank-and-file members the “What will it take to get out of here?” question.

They’re getting a variety of answers as the session, on its 103rd day, inches closer to record territory as the longest in state history. In 2002, legislators met for 107 days.

KHI News Service

The chairman of the Senate committee working on a plan to address the state’s projected budget deficit is confident that a tobacco tax increase will be a part of the final package.

However, public health advocates are concerned that the increase won’t end up being large enough to significantly lower smoking rates and reduce expenditures on smoking-related illnesses. They continue to favor the proposal that Gov. Sam Brownback announced at the beginning of the session to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack.

Dave Ranney / Kansas Health Institute

At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, Kansas hospital administrators signaled their willingness to talk about increasing a state assessment on their revenues to fund Medicaid expansion.

They anticipated that the state’s deteriorating budget situation would make it impossible for Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to consider expansion without a way to pay for the state’s share of the costs.

And they anticipated that even with funding options, Medicaid expansion was a long shot to pass.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

 An effort to repeal a 10-year-old law that gives the children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition is alive in the Legislature. But as Jim McLean of the KHI News Service reports, the measure remains bottled up in a committee. 

KHI News Service

News that Gov. Sam Brownback has softened his position on Medicaid expansion wasn’t exactly racing through the Statehouse on Thursday.

But it certainly had some legislators buzzing.

In remarks Wednesday to conservative lawmakers in Missouri, Brownback said if the Kansas Legislature presented him with a budget-neutral expansion bill, he would likely sign it, according to a report in the Missouri Times.

Pages