Tribute to Rep. Bob Bethell
One of life’s most difficult challenges is saying goodbye to a friend. Those in the healthcare arena knew Rep. Bob Bethell (R-Alden) to be a knowledgeable, compassionate friend to healthcare and quality of life. Many who are disabled, elderly, or otherwise vulnerable had a perhaps unknown friend in Rep. Bethell. On Sunday, May 20, we all lost a good friend, as Bob Bethell perished in a car accident on his way home from Topeka.
Bob’s last act as a legislator was to carry a bill that would have provided legislative/stakeholder oversight to the state’s new Medicaid managed care system. The bill passed the Senate, but was killed by the House. Whether people liked the bill or not, they knew Bob was sincere in his desire to protect vulnerable patient groups and healthcare providers – and that he would have continued to fight on their behalf in coming years.
Rep. Bethell lived in Alden, Kansas, a small community in Rice County. He had worked in school and nursing home administration for many years, as well as a Baptist pastor in Alden and Randolph. He lived out his faith every day – as he often said, “By loving God with all (his) heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving others as (him)self.” While impassioned about many issues, he served as a calm, steadying legislative influence for the past 14 years.
Bob is survived by his wife, Lorene, a registered nurse, and by his daughter, Aletha, her husband, and two children.
Goodbye, dear friend. May you rest in peace and may we all learn from the prodigious example you set for us.
Legislature adjourns on 99th day
One of the state’s most contentious and challenging legislative sessions ended on Sunday evening – nine days over the allotted 90 days. The session was challenged by major reform proposals – Medicaid managed care, tax policy, school finance, KPERS – as well as redistricting and election year politics. Adding a seeming unquenchable fuel to the overall fire was an announcement early in the session that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce would be seeking to unseat moderate Republican senators.
Most know by now that the Legislature was never able to finalize redistricting maps, a task needed every decade and based on the most recent census data. This issue has moved to the federal court, where three judges will likely determine the new boundaries for Congressional, state senate, state representative, and state school board districts. Hearings on that case are scheduled for the end of May, with an expedited decision expected soon after.
The new Medicaid managed care system, KanCare, is moving forward, although including the aging and disabled populations in that reform will be delayed until next year. A number of legislators and advocacy groups had unsuccessfully sought to have these populations carved out of managed care altogether, due to concerns that cost-savings measures in the plan would compromise health care quality.
By now, most know that the largest tax reduction bill in Kansas’ history, HB 2117, was signed into law by the governor this past week. While providing income tax relief to many small businesses, the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department has estimated – even factoring in 4% growth in the economy – the state will reach a deficit of nearly $250 million in FY 2014 (no new spending included) and $2.5 billion by FY 2018.
House and Senate negotiators were able to come together on a plan to fix the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) and to meet the unfunded liabilities. However, the governor’s school finance plan proved to be too complicated and under-funded to get far in the 2012 Legislature. An interim study of that is planned.
Kansans have seen many legislative sessions come and go, but few will likely match the challenging and contentious nature of this year’s. Elections are nearly upon us. In order to choose the best policymakers to represent us, it is incumbent upon each of us to become learned, active, and informed voters. Now, onward to 2013!
Summary of 2012 legislation
A summary of health-related legislation that passed and did not pass will be available at the KAFP Annual Meeting and on the website following that.