TOPEKA — Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a nonbinding legal opinion on Friday saying the Legislature has the power to delay work on handing over state Medicaid contracts and pushing that financial and health care decision beyond the Governor Laura Kelly’s re-election campaign.
Schmidt is the likely Republican nominee for governor in 2022, while Kelly is seeking re-election to a second term as governor.
Schmidt was asked by four Democratic House members in February to consider whether the legislature had the power to add another year to the term of contracts allocating $3.9 billion between three KanCare insurance companies. The managed care companies operate networks providing Medicaid health services to 500,000 Kansas seniors, low-income children, and people with developmental, intellectual, or physical disabilities.
“There is no constitutional or statutory mandate that all contracts with the state go through a competitive bidding process, and the legislature, as the competent authority for the state, has the constitutional power to determine how state funds are allocated and spent,” Schmidt said in the notice.
He released the document a day after the House approved a budget bill requiring the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to halt work on new KanCare contracts and negotiate extended contracts with Sunflower State Health. Plan, United Healthcare and Aetna Better Health of Kansas. Existing contracts were due to expire in December 2023, but the finance bill would push that back to December 2024.
House members considered a bill that would require a one-year freeze on KanCare contracts at meetings of the Public Health and Welfare Committee chaired by Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita. The Kelly administration had planned to issue a request for contract proposals in October and select KanCare suppliers next year. If Schmidt were to win the election, Landwehr said, his administration would need time to prepare for the candidacy process.
Other than Landwehr and his Republican peers, no supporters of postponing the new offer have come forward. The identity of the author of the bill has not been publicly disclosed.
“This is the first time in 12 years in the Legislature that I’ve seen a bill that actually has no sponsor,” said Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas. “It smells bad and I’m sure if it continues there will be some sort of investigation into it.”
Instead of scouring the House and Senate for House Bill 2463, which included the postponement of the auction, House GOP members inserted the change into a state budget bill.
“This provision bypasses the procurement process. It strikes me as illegal,” Rep. Susan Ruiz, D-Shawnee, said.
Under the passed Budget Bill 73-49, key Republican and Democratic lawmakers would be required to meet as the Legislative Coordinating Council to approve significant adjustments to KanCare recommended by KDHE during the contract extension. Currently, KDHE has the ability to rapidly pivot Medicaid programs to reflect advances in prescription drugs or medical devices.
More than a dozen House members signed a statement opposing the Medicaid budget provision: “There is no competition, no room for questions, no accountability. This is totally irresponsible and I refuse to spend taxpayers’ money in such a reckless way.
Schmidt said in the five-page legal opinion that the Legislative Assembly relied on its authority to revise government procurement laws in recent years by giving preference to businesses owned by disabled veterans and service providers. paper that used recycled materials.
“The Kansas Legislature has broad authority under the state constitution to establish and modify procurement and appropriations processes for government entities. The procedure by which the legislature does this is by enactment of law,” Schmidt said.
“The Legislature can legally change the procurement process for a state agency through new legislation. This includes modifying, postponing or eliminating the tendering process and directing the secretary in his management of the KanCare system. »
The attorney general said it was possible the federal government or other litigants would challenge the one-year deadline.