Legislative update from Daniel Elliott: New committee to focus on health issues

Published 2:08 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023

With part one of the 2023 legislative session behind us, lawmakers are now focused on what we can accomplish for our commonwealth during the remaining 26 legislative days of this year’s regular session of the General Assembly. In order to be more effective, we modified our legislative committee structure and I thought I might use this update to focus on that change, as well as provide a summary of last week’s joint meeting of the House and Senate Health Services Committee.

Until this year, the Health and Family Services Committee was the first stop in the House Chamber for almost all legislation and regulations pertaining to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Topics such as Medicaid, health care delivery, regulated child care, and public assistance were at the forefront of every agenda. It was an honor to serve on this committee, but as you can probably tell, that is a mighty workload for one committee. These are also some of the most pressing issues our commonwealth faces and consume a giant chunk of our state budget. To put it into perspective, consider for a moment that more than a third of Kentuckians are now receiving Medicaid benefits, and Medicaid alone accounts for $4.4 billion of our general fund dollars over the two fiscal years covered in the current budget.

To provide greater oversight and allow for deeper, more productive conversations, we separated the two policy areas into two committees: The Health Services Committee and the Family and Children Committee. We also transitioned the work of two statutory committees, Child Welfare Oversight and Medicaid Oversight, into the appropriate standing committees. To be frank, this change is aimed at helping our efforts to increase focus on these two critical areas in order to ensure we are doing all we can to help those who need it, while making smart decisions when it comes to setting policy.

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The Health Services Committee will cover topics that include health care and health care delivery; human development; health outcomes; disabled persons; mental health; health, medical, and dental scholarships; public health; local health departments; hotel, restaurants, and trailer park regulations; sanitation plants; sanitation districts; suicide prevention; physicians, osteopaths, and podiatrists; chiropractors; dentists and dental specialists; nurses; pharmacists; embalmers and funeral directors.

I will serve on the Committee on Families and Children which will cover policy and legislation pertaining to child welfare and services aimed at assisting lower income families such as WIC or SNAP regain financial independence.

Due to the nature of the legislature and how we have elected to run things as a body, it is not very often that committees meet jointly during session. However, committees do meet jointly as the need or opportunity arises. Last week, the Health Services Committees of both chambers held a joint meeting to hear testimony from the Cabinet of Health and Family Services on the current metrics for Medicaid in Kentucky.

In Kentucky, roughly 38% of the population is on Medicaid. To break it down further, that means that 1,694,881 out of 4.5 million Kentuckians receive benefits. Recipients include 661,714 are children, 9,170 of whom are in foster care. Again, for perspective consider that slightly less than 692,000 students are enrolled in Kentucky schools.

On the other hand, the need is great. We have a high number of uninsured, while the state leads the nation in the number of cancer cases, as well as in diabetes and addiction. With Medicaid utilization at an all-time high, this comes with a hefty price tag. Approximately $14 billion in federal money flows through our state annually to maintain access to Medicaid funded programs and providers. Considering these statistics alone, the Health Services Committee is incredibly vital to ensuring our most vulnerable populations are taken care of while ensuring the state’s resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

As our short break before we resume session continues, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at Daniel.Elliott@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information, please visit the legislature’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov.