Every year around this time, we stop to reflect on what has transpired over the first half of the legislative sessions in Kansas and Missouri.
The legislative spring break gives us a moment to assess where we are with the policy issues that Health Forward is closely monitoring. We use our policy agenda as a road map of when and where to use our voice in support of policies that will benefit our communities.
It goes without saying that this year has been unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted livelihoods, government, and businesses for the foreseeable future. The magnitude of this pandemic has moved us into uncharted territory as the General Assemblies have placed their work on hiatus to ensure public safety and respond to the crisis at hand. Everything continues to be in a state of fluidity, and as of today, General Assemblies in Kansas and Missouri are on hold without concrete plans for when or if they will return.
It’s worth noting that Health Forward is working alongside grantees, partners, and elected leaders to support our communities through this time. Read more about our grantmaking response here. Things are rapidly evolving and we will continue to communicate regarding the changes we are making.
In the meantime, as of April 9th, here is a general overview of where we currently stand with the issues we continue to watch closely.
Government Responses to COVID-19
So far, Congressional leaders have agreed on three bipartisan relief bills to try cushioning the damage from COVID-19. The most recent CARES Act is the largest stimulus package in American history. Some of the $2 trillion package include:
- $180 billion for hospitals to respond to the influx of patients during the pandemic
- $150 billion set aside for states and localities to support their public health departments
- $400 million to help states protect voters from coronavirus and pivot to mail-in ballots
Many experts expect to see additional congressional action as the crisis continues.
Missouri and Kansas
While there has yet to be a national shelter-in-place order, both Gov. Laura Kelly and Gov. Mike Parson have instituted stay-home orders (read more about the Kansas and Missouri orders) requiring residents to only leave their homes for essential purposes.
Over the past few weeks, the Missouri Department of Social Services has worked closely with Gov. Parson’s office to loosen several restrictions related to Medicaid, SNAP and childcare as a response to COVID-19.
Gov. Kelly signed off on the state’s budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which includes $65 million in spending related to managing Kansas’ response to COVID-19.
Before Temporary Adjournment
In a normal year, both states would have been moving into the second half of their legislative sessions where much of the action tends to take place.
We do not yet know what issues, if any, will be taken back up this year and can only guess what future months have in store for the issues we care about. Here is where we stood prior to moving into the temporary adjournment.
Expanding Medicaid in Kansas and in Missouri has been a priority for Health Forward since the Affordable Care Act made it an option for states to expand their programs in 2012.
Health Forward is one of the founding members of Healthcare for Missouri, a statewide campaign to expand Medicaid via initiative petition. The campaign began signature collection early, with an aggressive effort to gain the necessary signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. Thanks to the widespread support from across the state, the campaign collected the required number of signatures and is continuing to move ahead with plans for inclusion on the November ballot.
Efforts to impose work requirements on Medicaid were introduced early in Missouri, and if enacted, would cause consumers to lose health care access due to challenges of documenting compliance. SJR 60, if adopted by the voters, would add work and community engagement requirements to qualify for receiving Medicaid benefits. SJR 60 was passed by the Senate Health and Pensions Committee in March, and the Senate Pro Tem now has control of this legislation. It is unclear how or if it will move forward.
In Kansas, we came closer than ever before to expanding Medicaid thanks to a bipartisan agreement between Gov. Kelly and Sen. Denning that was unveiled in early January. Even as advocates across the state were increasingly encouraged by the forward movement, progress was stalled when the expansion bill was blockaded and prevented from moving out of committee. Advocates shifted their focus to build momentum at the end of the legislative session.
Before temporarily adjourning, the Kansas Legislature passed a budget that included funding for Medicaid expansion to preserve appropriation in 2021. Legislation, such as HB 2066, would still need to be enacted in order for the state to expand its Medicaid program.
Drug Monitoring in Missouri
We are so close to adopting a statewide prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri. While similar legislation has struggled to pass the Senate in previous years, this year HB 1693, was one of the last bills passed by the Senate before postponing their work. This legislation would establish the ‘Narcotics Control Act’ including establishing a statewide monitoring program.
There were a few concessions made in the Senate companion bill. A Joint Oversight Task Force composed of physicians, pharmacists, and others would be charged with oversight of the program. It also includes a three-year information purge of the information gathered through the PDMP. The bill has now been reported to House Fiscal Review before making it to Gov. Parson’s desk for signature. Passage of the legislation hinges on the House taking it up for a vote when they resume business.
Uncertainty looms large and it is unclear how or when business will continue in either statehouse. The Kansas legislature may or may not be done for the year, having passed the budget prior to placing work on pause.
The Missouri legislature is in the capitol this week to pass the Supplemental Budget bill, which is necessary to distribute the first round of stimulus dollars for COVID-19-related expenses.
In the coming weeks we will start to see how resources are directed as Missouri continues the budgeting process. It is likely that it will move into the summer months, as the legislature will remain idle much of the rest of the regular session. There is no way to predict whether there will be any movement on bills that were making their way through the chambers earlier this year.
We at Health Forward are committed to standing alongside our nonprofit partners and elected leaders to create systems and policies that provide our communities with the greatest opportunities to build resilience during this crisis.
We know many of you are identifying issues and advocating for change daily, and your work has become an even steeper uphill climb. We remain open and willing to engage in dialogue about how we can best support and lend our voice to ongoing health policy issues, and to the current COVID-19 public health emergency.