Politics & Government

Kansas bills seek to reduce costs to state associated with early term births

A Kansas Senate bill would eliminate medical assistance coverage for pregnant women who induce labor prior to the 39th week of pregnancy for reasons other than the health of the woman or unborn child.

The proposed restriction is aimed at reducing costs to KanCare, the state Medicaid program that provides health care to low-income and disabled residents.

The bill is one of 13 introduced late Tuesday in the Senate based on recommendations from efficiency experts hired by the Legislature. The firm Alvarez and Marsal has made more than 100 recommendations to lawmakers that it says can produce $2 billion in savings for cash-strapped Kansas over five years.

SB 495 says that medical assistance coverage “shall not be provided for any elective procedure to induce labor and delivery for a pregnant woman prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.” It says that an elective procedure refers to any procedure “not medically indicated for the health of the pregnant woman or the unborn child.”

In 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defined a full-term birth as one between 39 weeks and 40 weeks and six days.

The 292-page report that Alvarez and Marsal produced for the Legislature notes that “maternal and newborn care represent the largest single category of hospital expenditures for Kansas Medicaid” and says the state spent more than $500 million on birth-related costs in 2014, including $160 million through Medicaid and the state employee health plan.

The report also says that “Babies born before 39 weeks of pregnancy have much higher rates of low birth weight and infant mortality” and touts a South Carolina initiative to end nonmedically necessary inductions “with a specific focus on preventing early term births, delivered at 37 and 38 weeks.”

Another bill, SB 497, would require physicians to offer birth risk factor screenings for women in the first trimester to determine whether a pregnant woman uses tobacco, consumes alcohol, abuses substances, suffers from depression or is a victim of domestic violence.

Other bills focus on curbing the costs of K-12 education.

SB 505 would require the Kansas Board of Education to deduct money from school districts if their cash balances exceed 15 percent of their operating expenses, a policy that has already sparked backlash from the education community. SB 499 would require school districts to purchase certain items through the Kansas Department of Administration to save money, including education materials, motor fuel, food for children’s nutrition programs, natural gas for school buildings and materials used to repair or remodel school buildings.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the bills will be reviewed by committees. Those that work will come to the Senate floor for votes, while those that don’t will be discarded, she said.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3