A drive to increase scrutiny of Gov. Sam Brownback's extensive Medicaid overhaul continued Tuesday as the Senate passed a bill establishing the Joint Committee on KanCare Oversight.
The bill would establish an 11-member committee of House and Senate members to keep an eye on the program, which has drawn a cacophony of protest from advocates for the developmentally disabled.
The legislative committee would be entirely separate from the 20-person KanCare Advisory Council established by the governor that will have its first meeting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The oversight committee that the Senate approved Tuesday would meet at least four times a year and would be authorized to introduce legislation as it deems necessary. Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, said he supports the idea.
"I hope they’re helpful in contributing something positive to this," said Kelsey, who has expressed KanCare concerns.
The bill passed the Senate 39-1. The dissenting voice was Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan. Reitz, a physician, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the health care overhaul, which is scheduled to contract out most of the state's Medicaid services to three private managed care companies by Jan. 1, 2013.
Reitz said his vote was basically a protest against what he saw as a toothless committee.
“There is absolutely no power over (KanCare)," Reitz said. "They could mull it over and their constituents can write to them, but the privateers are going to say this is our baby and we’re gonna do what we’re gonna do.”
The governor's office has said it expects KanCare to save the state $850 million over five years without cutting services, eligibility or provider rates.