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KMA Legislative Update

KMA Legislative Preview
By Cody Hunt, KMA Health Policy Manage

Every year, in the earlier part of the year, from January to March in odd numbered years and January to April in even numbered years, the state legislature meets in Frankfort to make laws and set the state’s policy agenda. This year’s legislative session is the long session, in that it is 60 days rather than 30 days, and it will run from January 2nd to April 15th. Being the long session, it is the budget session, this year the general assembly will pass the 2-year budget for the state, it is the only piece of legislation that the General Assembly is constitutionally bound with passing. Which is primarily why the session during the even-numbered years is 60 days instead of 30 days, they get the additional time to iron out the budget.

We are a little over halfway through the session and up to this point there have been over 800 bills filed in the House and Senate combined. Based on recent trend, by the bill filing deadline next week we will likely see close to 900-1000 bills filed in total, and roughly 18-22% of those will pass and become law. Thus far, only one bill – an emergency measure regarding candidate election filings – has been sent to the Governor’s desk.

To briefly discuss some of the legislature’s focus outside of healthcare policy. The legislature’s number one priority this session will be the budget, House Bill 6. It has been introduced and passed out of the House, where it awaits action by the Senate. Budget negotiations between the House and Senate will enter the public in the coming weeks. The House and Senate will come to an agreement on the budget language and like all other bills, it will go to the Governor for his signature or veto. In many ways, all other bills hinge on the appropriations set forth in the budget, as such, it will be one of the last bills that they finally pass before the veto recess.

HB 6 totals $124.8 billion and covers the operating budget for the state. HB 6 includes money for KSP trooper raises, millions toward the safe and clean drinking water funds, a number of infrastructure projects, an increase of 6% in the SEEK formula over two years. It comes out to a $281 million increase. The formula is how the state calculates funding on a student-by-student level. It also puts more money toward student transportation, $950 million to pay down state pension debts, and it allocates a record amount to the state’s Medicaid program to support its operation and grow the number of the waiver spots for the states most vulnerable. This year’s budget proposal seeks to be fiscally responsible, while investing heavily in education, infrastructure, and the economy.

Some of the other priority bills for the legislature this session includes HB 5, a sweeping 72 page criminal just bill that would harshen penalties for drug trafficking relating to fentanyl,  it would create a three-strikes law where repeat violent criminals would receive a life sentence following a third violent crime conviction, the bill also expands what classifies as a violent offense. Now including arson, strangulation and second-degree robbery. It makes murder of a first responder a capital offense. It also establishes Misdemeanor penalties for unlawful camping.  The bill has passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate.

The other main focus of the General Assembly this session will be education. These proposals include a ballot initiative to allow the general assembly to fund charter schools with public funding. Legislation seeking to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion offices from Kentucky public colleges and universities. Legislation allowing home school graduates to access KEES scholarship dollars. And legislation establishing an electoral process for the states board of education.

Some of the healthcare bills that have been filed and that I wanted to make note of tonight include:

HB 10– sponsored by rep moser Known as the “Momnibus” bill, it is an omnibus maternal health bill, thus the name momnibus. It includes provisions that adds pregnancy to the list of qualifying life events for the purpose of health insurance coverage, which in turn provides incentives to seek prenatal care, including screenings, and leads to better risk management and lower maternal mortality rates. Other provisions provide mental health consultation and access to care through the establishment of a maternal mental health hotline; it expands the HANDS maternal health program to include lactation counseling and assistance, education on safe sleep, and the bill strengthens an existing advisory council to provide ongoing policy guidance to increase collaboration, improve data collection, among other components.

HB 169 – Sponsored by representative Palumbo of Lexington would require portable AEDs to be in all public-school buildings and at school-sanctioned athletic practices and competitions.

HB 159 – Sponsored by rep Nemes of Louisville,would establish that health care providers are immune from criminal liability for harm arising from a health services-related act or omission other than gross negligence or wanton, willful, malicious, or intentional misconduct. This bill comes as a result of a former Tennessee nurse who was convicted of homicide last year after a medication error killed a patient.

HB 194 – Sponsored by Rep Moserwould make causing or attempting to cause physical injury to a healthcare worker employed by or under contract with a hospital, if the event occurs in or on the premises of a hospital or hospital-owned outpatient facility, to be enhanced to assault in the third degree, which is a class D felony. This is an effort to help curb the violence against healthcare workers taking place in healthcare facilities.

Our KMA priority for this session is once again prior authorization reform. HB 317 sponsored by Representative Moser would establish a prior authorization exemption program designed to automatically waive prior authorization requirements if a physician has historically been approved for a specific procedure/service most of the time (e.g. 90 percent). This prior authorization exemption program would ensure patients have timely access to the care they need, reduce administrative burdens for physicians, and lower healthcare costs.