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by Andy Marso, KHI News Service

Topeka — A health care compact bill designed to get Kansas and other states out of federal health regulations is gaining attention locally for its possible Medicare implications, but a national expert on Medicare says the compact, which would need congressional approval, is not even being discussed in Washington, D.C.

Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of the foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy, said she has read news reports of the compact that nine states have joined, but as far she knows “there’s no discussion of congressional action on the compact,” which would allow states to receive their Medicaid and Medicare money in no-strings-attached block grants.

“The idea of Medicare block grants is not something that has reached the front burner, or even the back burner, in Congress,” she said.

Neuman is scheduled to give the keynote address at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Sunflower Fair in Salina’s Bicentennial Center. The fair, sponsored by the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, is an all-day exhibition for seniors and their caregivers.

Julie Govert Walter, executive director of the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, called Medicare a “national treasure” and said her organization is delighted that Neuman agreed to speak about it.

“Dr. Neuman, a nationally recognized expert from one of our country’s most respected foundations, is devoted to knowing Medicare and in her presentation will answer questions people have about Medicare,” Walter said.

Neuman’s visit occurs as the Kansas Legislature’s vote to join the interstate health care compact comes under increasing scrutiny. The Johnson County Commission on Aging plans to run an article next month in a county newsletter called The Best Times that criticizes the vote for its possible Medicare implications. Conservative Republican legislators who spearheaded the compact’s passage as a repudiation of President Barack Obama’s health reforms have called the draft of the article unfair and have tried to have it altered prior to publication.

The Johnson County League of Women Voters is devoting its Sept. 30 “JoCo in the Know” forum to the health care compact, and promoting the event with fliers that ask: “Have you heard about a new law called the Health Care Compact? Are you concerned that it might change your Medicare?”

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and the retirees group AARP cited Medicare concerns when they testified against the compact bill last session.

Linda Sheppard, formerly special counsel and director of health care policy and analysis for the Kansas Insurance Department who now works for the Kansas Health Institute, is slated to be on a panel at the League of Women Voters event. The Kansas Health Institute is a nonpartisan policy and research organization that also houses the editorially independent KHI News Service.

Neuman said that if Medicare is included in the compact, “then it does raise some questions that I’m sure seniors would want to have answered.”

Block grants are capped payments, she said, whereas Medicare as it is now administered by the federal government is an entitlement program to specific services regardless of costs. So seniors would want to know if they would still be entitled to those same services if the block grant payments from the federal government don’t keep pace with the costs, Neuman said.

“Those are typically the questions people ask when there’s discussion about a block grant,” Neuman said. “A block grant differs from an entitlement because the dollars are fixed, which raises questions about whether or not the same sort of benefits are promised.”

Legislators who supported the compact have said that the state would not touch the Medicare program under the compact or that it would only take it over to save it from a federal government deep in debt.

Though the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback approved Kansas’ membership in the compact, its effects remain purely hypothetical for now.

Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp has co-sponsored a compact approval bill, but it’s has gained little traction at the federal level thus far.

In vetoing the compact in his state, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the United States will “put a person on Neptune” before Congress OKs the compact. Some constitutional scholars say the president also has to approve interstate compacts before they take effect, though the Competitive Governance Action group that drafted the health care compact disputes that.

The compact was adopted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2011, helping it gain approval in South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Missouri, as well as Kansas.

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute. It is supported in part by a variety of underwriters. The News Service is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy-making environment. All News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution, including a link back to when a story is reposted online. More about the News Service at or contact 785-233-5443.

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The Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America Heartland Chapter and Mercy and Truth Medical Missions are partnering to sponsor a free health fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. The health fair will be held at the Mercy and Truth KCK Clinic, 721 N. 31st St., Kansas City, Kan.

Physicians on the Providence medical staff who are members of the APPNA and who will be volunteering at the health fair include Dr. Aman Khan, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist; Dr. Maria Javaid, interventional cardiologist; and Dr. Hussain Haideri, nephrologist. They are among the 40 physicians of Pakistani descent from across the metro that will be providing their services at the event.

Dr. LeAnne DeTar Newbert, a family practice physician with Providence Medical Center Primary Care—Basehor, and medical director of Mercy and Truth, also is assisting with the health fair. JoAnn McIntosh, a registered nurse, and a member of the Providence nursing staff who is a volunteer with Mercy and Truth, is taking reservations for the health fair.

“There is a definite need in our community for this event,” said Karen Orr, chief nursing officer for Providence. “We are happy to make a small contribution to support the health fair, but want to acknowledge the importance of the partnership between our on-staff physicians and the APPNA, along with all the efforts of JoAnn McIntosh, one of our surgical unit nurses. Their involvement is key to reaching out to our community.”
“This is a wonderful event where Muslims and Christians are working side by side for the good of the underserved people of Wyandotte County,” Dr.DeTar Newbert said. “Mercy and Truth is in the business of caring for people with the servant’s heart of Christ and APPNA desires to give back to the community and serve the poor.”

Dr. Khan, who is a past president of the APPNA and is assisting with organizing the health fair, agreed and added, “By working together, we will be able to make the most of our resources and reach people who need medical care in Wyandotte County.”

Dr. Abdul Ahad Haleem, current president of the APPNA and a physician on staff at the Veterans Administration Hospital, added that the clinic will provide much-needed health care to the uninsured and underprivileged in Kansas City, Kan.

“Our health fair is part of the APPNA’s preventive health initiative, which will take place in 30 cities in the United States and Canada,” he said.

Approximately 40 physician specialists of Pakistani descent from across the area will be on hand to consult with individuals. Patients who are referred to the health fair by other safety net clinics or private providers will receive a copy of their consult notes and a copy will be sent to the referring provider. Patients who have no provider will be given a list of providers participating in the Wyandotte Safety Net clinic network and encouraged to follow up with the consultation information provided.

Specialties represented at the health fair include: internal/general-family medicine/pediatrics; pathology; neurology-neuro-intervention-strokes; pulmonary (sleep); cardiology (heart); allergy-rheumatology; nephrology (kidney diseases); gastroenterology nutrition/dietary; orthopedics (joint, back pain); pain evaluation and management; psychiatry-psychology; and hematology-oncology.

The providers will be administering free flu shots to the first 200 participants. Basic blood tests (cholesterol and glucose), EKGs and cardiology consults, also will be available.

Health fair appointments are free, but pre-registration is recommended. Contact McIntosh at 913-396-2575 to schedule a free appointment.

Sponsors of the health fair include Providence Medical Center, Walmart, Walgreen’s, Target, Starbucks, Cameron Regional Hospital and Panera Bread. Burmese, Nepali and Spanish interpretation will be available.
- Story from Providence Medical Center

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Sept. 2
Aggravated burglary, 2700 block of North 85th Terrace, Chevy Uplander, $5,000 value.
Burglary, 2100 block of South 14th, power painter, mower, weed trimmer, $875 value.
Burglary, theft, 600 block of South Valley, television, iPad, laptop, $1,500 value.
Theft, criminal damage, 1800 block of Foxridge Drive, business, fence, post and groundings damaged, cast-iron concrete mixer part stolen, heavy metals stolen, sheet metal stolen, $1,900 value.
Theft, criminal damage, 3200 block of Harvester Road, business, van stolen, gate damaged, steering column damaged, $9,600 value.
Theft, auto, 2100 block of South 74th, car, $4,000 value.
Theft, 4400 block of Shawnee Drive, automobile, $10,000 value.
Theft, 600 block of South Ferree, Honda Accord, $1,000 value.

Sept. 1

Theft, 3000 block of Puckett Road, Honda Accord, $2,000 value.

Aug. 31
Theft, 9400 block of State, earrings, ring, $3,000 value.

Aug. 27
Identity theft, 800 block of North 4th.

Aug. 4
Attempted identity theft, 6100 block of Ann.

Aug. 2

Attempted burglary, 4000 block of Metropolitan, door, $300 value.