Stories & News
Health Forward Foundation is supporting and building inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities by prioritizing people who experience the greatest injustices in health outcomes. We are working to remove those injustices through our leadership, advocacy, and resources.
Our current Kansas and Missouri policy agendas outline the unique challenges each state faces and seeks to address state-centric solutions within the following policy goals:
These goals easily overlap with our newly announced People, Power, and Place purpose areas and Platform strategies.
In 2022, we will track relevant legislation in Kansas and Missouri and lend our voice to support policies that advance our purpose-driven work. This includes working with our national representatives to do the same.
Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion bills were introduced in both the House and Senate early in February. We also saw the introduction of bills that would support greater housing affordability, and even more voting rights bills than had been introduced in January. Gov. Kelly’s SPARK Executive Committee began evaluating proposals submitted in February for allocating the remaining $731 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
Here is what we followed in February:
Gov. Kelly’s companion Medicaid expansion bills were introduced in the House and Senate on Feb. 1. Neither bill has yet to be assigned to a committee. Health Forward provided Gov. Kelly with a statement of support for these bills, reaffirming Medicaid expansion as our most important issue in Kansas.
We will continue to work with our partners to advocate for extending Medicaid coverage to 150,000 hardworking Kansans who would be eligible after expansion.
SPARK Executive Committee
In May 2020, Gov. Kelly formed the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Executive Committee to oversee the distribution of funds from the federal CARES Act and lead Kansas’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SPARK Taskforce was reinstated in March 2021 to make recommendations on statewide distribution of federal coronavirus funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan. The reconstituted committee of seven bipartisan members is supported by several advisory committees of subject matter experts selected for their experience in the areas of greatest need for COVID-19 relief and recovery support.
The advisory committees began work in February 2022 and will spend the next few months reviewing funding proposals.
Health Forward is representing our Kansas service area on the health and education advisory committee and will be assisting the state by evaluating proposals to support the recovery of behavioral health and early childhood education institutions. Our focus is ensuring equity is at the forefront of allocation recommendations and that Kansans in Health Forward’s service area benefit from the allocation of federal dollars.
On Feb. 4, Gov. Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 355, which proposes to redraw Kansas’ congressional districts. Her veto of the “Ad Astra 2” map was subsequently overridden by the Senate.
Two separate lawsuits have since been filed in the District Court of Wyandotte County challenging the map. Defendants in both cases allege that the maps are unconstitutional because they gerrymander district lines in favor of Republicans and discriminate against racially diverse voters.
The map splits the previous 3rd Congressional District along I-70 between Wyandotte County and Johnson County. Under the proposed map, the 3rd District would include a portion of Wyandotte County south of I-70, as well as all of Johnson, Miami, Franklin, and Anderson counties. The remaining portion of Wyandotte County north of I-70 would be placed in the 2nd District.
Health Forward will continue to track Senate Bill 355 through the judicial process. Equitably drawn district lines ensure racially diverse populations, and populations with similar characteristics, have representation in elected offices and are necessary for communities to exercise their power.
Thirteen new voting rights bills were introduced in February, bringing this legislative session’s total to 21. The following bills have been heard by committees:
Health Forward is monitoring these bills since they have the potential to limit community power by restricting Kansans’ ability to engage in the electoral process and exercise their voices in policymaking.
Food Sales Tax
Of the four bills (HB 2484 and 2487 and SB 339 and 342) introduced to eliminate the food sales tax, only SB 339 has seen significant traction in the legislature.
SB 339 passed out of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee last week. Health Forward provided written testimony in support of this legislation. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a full vote of the Senate. SB 339 sets the state sales tax for food and food ingredients at zero percent..
HB 2720 was also introduced in February, which would reduce the food tax rate instead of eliminate it. Both HB 2720 and HB 2711 were heard in the House Taxation Committee last week.
For years, Kansans have experienced some of the highest sales taxes on food in the country. Kansas is currently experiencing a state budget surplus and does not need the food tax that disproportionately hurts Kansans who are paid low wages. Food sales taxes force these Kansans to pay a higher percentage of their income on basic needs like groceries.
Health Forward remains engaged in statewide organized advocacy efforts to ensure every family can afford groceries and put nutritious food on their tables.
Behavioral Health Care
HB 2281 — which establishes and implements the 988 suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline — received a final hearing in the House in February. After deciding that more funding support was needed, the bill was amended to allocate $3 million from the general fund, in addition to the fees assessed to telecommunications companies to fund the hotline. This brings the total allocation for the hotline to $10 million — up from $7 million before the amendment.
Our approach to fostering healthy people integrates whole-person care to include prevention, treatment, recovery, and advocacy. Health Forward supports this bill because it will provide a necessary, timely, and accessible service for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis that will lend to addressing the health care needs of the whole person.
Two affordable housing bills were introduced that would affect the entire state. SB 369 would establish a state low-income housing tax credit program. This bill was heard by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. Fifteen states, including Missouri, have implemented similar programs. Health Forward provided testimony in support of this bill. Health Forward provided testimony in support of this bill, because these tax credits would facilitate economic development by investing in residential housing projects in rural and urban communities.
SB 375 was also introduced and heard by the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. This bill would enact the Kansas housing investor tax credit act and expand housing programs.
Health Forward will continue to monitor affordable housing legislation in Kansas, as pathways to affordable homeownership increase opportunities for wealth creation for Kansas families.
Bills are moving slowly through the Missouri Senate, in large part due to hearing cancellations because of inclement weather in February and prioritization of Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed budget and redistricting legislation.
Initiative petition changes and vaccine mandate reform occupied much of House members’ attention. The director of the Department of Health and Senior Services also resigned in February, contributing to the backlog in Medicaid expansion enrollments.
HJR 117 made its way out of the Missouri House to the Senate in February. The work requirements of the bill were amended to require a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before taking effect. Such a waiver is unlikely, given the Biden administration’s opposition to tying work requirements to Medicaid.
Under this legislation, the Missouri General Assembly would have the authority to appropriate dollars for Medicaid based on population. A population would not be eligible to receive coverage if the General Assembly did not specifically make an appropriation for them, even if they would otherwise meet the criteria outlined in the Medicaid expansion constitutional amendment. This is in direct response to the recent court ruling requiring the state to fund the expansion of MO HealthNet. The adoption of HJR 117 would create problems for the entire Missouri Medicaid program.
HB 3014, the supplemental budget that included full funding for the entire Medicaid program for this funding year, passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the Governor in late February.
Health Forward is also tracking other bills related to MO HealthNet. HB 2368 provides that, beginning Oct. 1, 2022, MO HealthNet beneficiaries shall be eligible to receive coverage for health home services for children with medically complex conditions. The Department of Social Services shall submit a state plan amendment necessary to implement this coverage. HB 2368 is scheduled for a vote this week.
The Senate Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard two bills (SB 639 and SB 698) extending coverage for postpartum women to a full year. Both bills passed out of committee and are scheduled for debate in the Senate.
Medicaid expansion and access to care remain top priority for Health Forward in Missouri, and we will continue to monitor legislation impacting access to care for Missourians making low incomes.
Although more than 30 vaccine mandate bills have been filed in the Missouri legislature, we are closely tracking three: HB 2358, HB 1485, and HB 1686.
These bills passed out of the House in February and have moved over to the Senate. The provisions in these bills include requiring a religion exemption and a bona fide medical exemption. For example, if an employee refuses and is terminated from employment, they are eligible for unemployment insurance. Additionally, if an employee has an adverse reaction from the vaccine, they are eligible for workers’ compensation to cover their illness.
Health Forward’s interests in these bills are the health and safety of our workforce and children.
The House Special Committee on Redistricting met to hear the federal redistricting bill (HB 2117). Differing opinions on how the map should be drawn continue to stall debate on the Senate floor.
Health Forward supports district lines that are drawn to accurately represent the people living within them, and will continue to monitor redistricting with an eye toward fair representation.
Voting Rights and Initiative Petitions
Numerous bills have been filed that would impact voting rights and the ability of voters to put an initiative petition on the ballot.
The House heard HJR 79, which would require two-thirds approval of any constitutional amendment, whether from the public or from the General Assembly.
It’s likely that HJR 79 will serve as the main legislative vehicle for legislators to amend and add language from similar bills introduced this session to change the current initiative petition process. The bill has been passed out of the House and moved over to the Senate.
HJR 88 proposes requiring signatures in each congressional district instead of just two-thirds, and requiring the measure be approved by a majority vote in two-thirds of the counties when it is on the ballot. It also passed out of committee, and HJR 70 (requiring an initiative petition to pass with majority of registered voters’ support) received an initial vote on the House floor but needs another vote in the House before moving over to the Senate.
Health Forward supports sharing power with the communities we serve, and power is often exercised in policymaking. Health Forward opposes any unreasonable restrictions on the initiative petition process or the ability of voting citizens to otherwise effect change in their communities. We will be closely monitoring these bills.
SNAP and TANF
Health Forward opposes HB 2085, HB 2156, and HB 2255 because of the unintended consequences these bills will have on household members who would be inadvertently impacted by the changes.
We also provided testimony in support of SB 798 that would allow seniors and those with disabilities to use their SNAP benefits in restaurants, which passed out of committee last week, and SB 717 that authorizes a tax credit for urban farms.
Supporting access to healthy food choices, because healthy foods are both preventive and medicine, remains one of Health Forward’s policy priorities. We will continue to track and provide updates on related legislation.
We are also tracking SB 579, which proposes to modify the definition of “telehealth” and “telemedicine”. These definitions would include the use of adaptive questionnaires to establish a physician-patient relationship through telemedicine, including for purposes of prescribing any drug, controlled substance, or other treatment. This bill is scheduled for a vote this week.
Health Forward supports thoughtful innovation in health care, which provides greater access to residents in our rural and urban communities.
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