KS Legislature blocks Kelly from negotiating new KanCare contracts until after current term

·2 min read
John Hanna/Associated Press file photo

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration will not be able to start the process of renegotiation for $4 billion in contracts for Medicaid providers until January 31, after Kelly’s current term ends.

The Kansas House and Senate voted Monday to override Kelly’s veto of a bill that forced a three month delay of the process, granting full ownership of the process to the winner of the 2022 gubernatorial race.

The move could result in a no-bid one year extension to the current administrators of KanCare, the state’s privately run taxpayer-funded Medicaid system. The current administrators are Aetna, Sunflower Health Plan and United Healthcare.

The legislation could hand control of the renegotiation process from Kelly, a Democrat, to a Republican. Kelly is widely considered one of the most vulnerable governors in the nation this election as the only Democratic governor up for re-election in a state former President Donald Trump won,

The bill also barred church closures during public health emergencies.

In her message vetoing the legislation last week, Kelly said lawmakers must “favor transparency and fair competition over attempts to re-insert corruption into the state contracting process.”

In an opinion earlier this year, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Kelly’s likely Republican opponent in November, said legislative action to delay the request for proposals (RFP) was legal but could expose the state to lawsuits.

While Republican proponents of the bill argued they were simply delaying the process, not forcing a contract extension, Kelly said in her veto message that the constrained timeline would force an extension because state workers would not have time to pick providers and negotiate new contracts.

House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, noted that in 2013 Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration started the program from scratch in just 13 months.

“All they have to do is put out an RFP,” Hawkins said.

If Kelly loses re-election the renegotiation would likely be run by Schmidt, the likely GOP nominee for governor.

The debate has sparked allegations of corruption. Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, insisted the negotiation delay couldn’t be solely due to partisan politics.

“There’s only one way this bill works out in the way the chairwoman suggests and that is if the RFP is already being written behind closed doors with the cooperation of the gubernatorial nominee who thinks he will be governor,” Carmichael said.