Archive for Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brown to introduce health-care option

December 31, 2008

Anthony Brown said the difficulties confronting the Kansas Legislature in the coming session was underscored by a message Republican members received last week from Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal.

“The speaker of the House said don’t introduce a bill unless you have a good idea it would be worked and passed,” the Brown said.

The reasoning behind the request is that with a $4,000 printing bill and other expenses it is costly to introduce a bill, the Eudora Republican said.

A state revenue shortfall of $1 billion for the $13 billion 2010 fiscal year budget will limit what the Legislature can do, Brown said.

“That’s a huge hit for us — almost 10 percent” he said. “We’re going to be in huge trouble. We have to control our spending.

“We have some very unpopular decisions ahead of us.”

With Republican committee assignments announced earlier this month, it appears Brown will be in the middle of the action. Brown, who was elected to his third term to the 38th House District seat in November, was appointed to the House Taxation Committee and named chairman of the Financial Institutions Committee.

Although mindful of the speaker’s request, Brown does plan to introduce at least one piece of legislation this year. The legislation would expand health care coverage to the working poor, or those people don’t qualify for state assistance but without employee provided health insurance.

The concept is for insurance companies to provide low-cost insurance for a temporary period of something like six months to two years for those without health insurance for six months or who have never had insurance, Brown said.

To make the temporary policies affordable, the state wouldn’t require the companies provide all the 30-plus mandated coverage items required of other policies, Brown said. Without identifying which might be relaxed, Brown said examples of mandated coverage items are colon and breast cancer screening.

“The plan is to offer stripped down mandates, not get rid of them all” he said.

The goal is to provide the working poor with a policy that would provide co-pay for routine wellness like visits to the doctor and for catastrophic illnesses, Brown said. Another goal is that those who take advantage of the program would get in the habit of buying health insurance once they experienced its benefits, he said.

Brown said he discussed the plan with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, medical professionals and lobbyist to help pave the way in the coming session. All are supportive, he said.

Financial oversight is a big issue on the federal level, but Brown doesn’t believe his chairmanship of the Kansas House Financial Institution Committee generate publicity.

Kansas has not seen the kind of mismanagement as banks elsewhere, Brown said, and credits Kansas Banking Commissioner J. Thomas Thull, a Democrat, for that.

“I think he runs a pretty tight ship,” Brown said. “The Banking Commission does a pretty good job.”

Brown said he wanted to assure Thull had the tools to keep doing that job in the face of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ call for 2 percent across the board spending cut for all state agencies.

The banking commission is a fee-based agency, meaning its budget is based on the fees it collects from banks to regulate them, Brown said. The banking commission has

As for his position on the Taxation Committee, Brown said remained adamantly opposed to any tax increase as a way to enhance revenue. With no reduction in fees, the commission would have $1 million in fees it was not using, the Legislature could “sweep” into the general fund, he said.

With the example of bank failure problems elsewhere in the country, that would be the wrong thing to do, Brown said.

“There are certain agencies we can do that with, but banking isn’t one of them,” he said, identifying the Kansas Department of Labor as an agency as a department with an excess that could be rolled into the general fund.

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