Medicaid, small child care centers, student due process, ‘baby boxes’ measures go forward

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – State House and Senate committee continued a busy week Wednesday, approving a number of measures across a diverse range of topics.

The Kentucky House passed a measure aimed at providing additional oversight and ensuring cost savings in administering pharmacy benefits for Medicaid recipients in Kentucky.

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HB 222, sponsored by Representative Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, would require the Department for Medicaid Services (DMS) to contract with a single independent entity to monitor all Medicaid pharmacy benefit claims.

“In 2020, our state transitioned to a single pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM,” Sheldon said. “HB 222 continues to build on that legislative success by allowing the Department for Medicaid Services to contract with a company that will find administrative mistakes when handling pharmacy benefit claims. These mistakes can unfortunately be very costly, and this bill will continue to promote increased cost savings to the taxpayers and to the state as a whole.”

HB 222 would require the contract to last for no longer than two years, and to be eligible for the contract the selected entity must have at least five years of experience reviewing and auditing pharmacy claims.

The entity would be tasked with identifying and correcting errors in pharmacy benefit claims, as well as identifying underpayments made by the state pharmacy benefit manager to pharmacies.

Total compensation paid by DMS to the contracted entity during the initial two year contract period is capped at 30 percent of the total savings generated by the contracted entity. This means Kentucky would retain 70 percent in savings from discovered errors.

“This is the proverbial win/win,” Sheldon added. “The company is paid based on how much they save the state.”

The bill will now move to the Senate.

The Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 148, sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, as an step to strengthen local options for families seeking regulated home-based family child care.

Kentucky has experienced a dramatic decline in the number of family child care home providers over the last decade, often due to burdensome planning and zoning requirements on in-home businesses.

SB 148 will begin to simplify the planning and zoning process for these home-based small businesses to offer a regulated child care option to up to six unrelated children while meeting state health and safety standards.

“The pandemic has only opened our eyes further to the critical role child care plays for families and economies. This measure begins to address gaps in accessible child care options for parents with nontraditional work hours, such as healthcare workers and first responders, and strengthen the local child care infrastructure by encouraging new providers in the many child care deserts across the commonwealth,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

House Bill 145 would make sure students facing disciplinary action at a public postsecondary education institution have due process rights included in the U.S. Constitution for those accused of a crime or misconduct.

The House Judiciary Committee approved HB 145 today, but not without discussion.

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, one of the primary sponsors of HB 145, testified the bill came to be after hearing from students at colleges and universities across the state express concern about the disciplinary policies at multiple institutions.

Some students reported inconsistent rulings, lack of proper notice of hearings, lack of ability to see evidence against them and more.

Banta said HB 145 would guarantee that the accused and the victims receive fair treatment.

“There’s no consistency in standards, punishments or sanctions,” Banta said about the current system. “Plainly put, our colleges have policies that automatically put the future of our students on the line in these hearings.”

According to Banta’s testimony, thousands of students at public colleges and universities across the Commonwealth are subjected to disciplinary hearings every year and that statistics and information about these hearings are not properly reported. HB 145 would require universities to publish a report annually on the number of student hearings and demographics to make sure discrimination is not taking place, she added.

“I want to make clear that HB 145 isn’t meant to shield students from accountability,” Banta said. “145 is here to ensure that our publicly funded universities provide rights and give fair hearings for thousands of students that are held accountable through their disciplinary processes.”

Under HB 145, students would have the right to be timely notified of a hearing, access to evidence against them, ability to cross examine through counsel and the ability to appeal a ruling.

Banta said she and other lawmakers worked with schools, students, the Kentucky Student Rights Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union and others on the bill.

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, expressed concern for sexual harassment and sexual assault survivors.

“The single biggest problem we deal with on university campuses is that people don’t report (sexual assault) because they just can’t deal with being re-traumatized,” Minter said. “… We want to get this right. We don’t want to cause any harm.”

Banta said those concerns were taken into consideration while drafting the bill, but some compromises were not made due to the desire to make sure those accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

HB 145 will now go before the full House for consideration.

In a separate matter, legislation filed by Rep. Nancy Tate and aimed at saving newborn lives by providing a safe surrender option was discussed in the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection committee meeting Wednesday.

“I’m committed to passing pro-life legislation, and, ultimately, that is exactly what this bill is. Pro-life means supporting parents and children before and after birth. This bill provides parents who may be at the end of their rope a safe option to save the life of their child. We see it working in other states, and I believe Kentucky has a real opportunity if we can get HB 155 to the Governor’s desk this session,” said Rep. Tate.

Baby boxes are temperature-controlled, ventilated boxes that can be installed easily at public buildings or other safe places throughout a community.

They are monitored electronically for safety and 911 is notified as soon as the outer door of the box is opened. Once the infant is placed into the bassinet and the door is closed, a second sensor triggers emergency services. A button on the outside of the box also allows whoever placed the baby in the safe box to trigger another call to 911.

Emergency personnel usually arrives at the site in less than five minutes.

Advocates indicate that this measure would allow a parent who does not feel that she or he can take care of a newborn to surrender the child in a safe place without being recognized or prosecuted.

In 2016, the “Safe Haven Baby Box” program was added to state law in Indiana. Since the program was enacted and the Safe Haven Baby Box program became an option, no infants have been reported as abandoned.

HB 155 will move on to the House Floor. For more information on this measure, visit legislature.ky.gov .