Kansas governor approves budget including extension of postpartum coverage

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TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly signed Wednesday a $16 billion state budget backed by most lawmakers from both parties, including an extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage, a fully funded water plan and rainy day money.

The budget for 2022 and 2023 places $500 million in the state’s budget stabilization fund. This record deposit leaves the fund five times higher than ever before, providing a cushion should revenue falter. In addition, the budget fully funds the state water plan for the first time since 2008.

A notable inclusion is the extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months, which advocates hope will reduce pregnancy-related complications. More than 30% of Kansas births are covered by KanCare.

“We commend Gov. Kelly and the Kansas Legislature for extending postpartum KanCare coverage to 12 months,” said David Jordan, president and CEO of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund. “This will positively impact 9,000 Kansas mothers each year — reducing maternal mortality, improving health outcomes, and reducing disparities.”

Representatives backed the budget, 104 to 12, and Senators followed suit, 33 to 5. The governor vetoed two items: an allocation of $200,000 to the Benedictine college engineering program and an opportunity for legislators to reverse their decision not to join the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

The budget does not include funding for the Kansas State Department of Education or school districts, about $6.4 billion. Lawmakers are still at odds over allowing students to enroll in out-of-district schools if there is space, among other matters.

The added postpartum coverage provides an extension of temporary federal aid in response to the pandemic to provide 12 months of coverage. Proponents of added postpartum coverage say this extension will lead to early identification and intervention of conditions among infants and, in turn, improved health outcomes.

In addition to the extension of postpartum coverage, the budget will increase funding for mental health services in home and community-based services and behavioral crisis stabilization for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It also approves enhancements for emergency medical services, newborn screenings, cancer screenings and more.

Kelly, who is running for reelection, was optimistic about the changes made to improve Kansan’s health, but she said there was more to push for.

“With all the budget does accomplish, it could do more to ensure that all communities in the state have the access to healthcare that Kansans deserve and that prospective new residents expect,” the governor said. “Given how new business growth requires a healthy workforce, I will continue to urge the Legislature to make the commonsense decision to expand Medicaid and return Kansas’ federal tax dollars to our communities.”

A rare budget surplus eased contentious budget debates and allowed for the appropriation of $16 billion in the next fiscal year, in addition to $1.2 billion of largely federal funds in the current year ending June 30.

As of April 1, the state has accrued just over $300 million, or 5%, more than anticipated in total tax revenue.

Additional allocation in the budget includes increased funding for the Office of Broadband Development, and the Kansas Highway Patrol will also have $20 million to purchase two aircraft and replace the executive aircraft used to transport officials around the state. The budget restores higher education funding, including one-time investments in need-based aid and workforce development efforts at community and technical colleges. It also provides a 5% pay increase for state workers, their first bump since 2018.

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes said this was one of the better starting points for a budget during her tenure in Topeka.

“I’m particularly proud of the investments in intellectual and developmental disability services, higher education, and public safety,” Sykes said. “I’m anxious to return for veto session to address K-12 education funding and to come together to eliminate the sales tax on food.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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