THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2012
Ethics: Several legislators are in health care arena Continued from Page 1A
they work. The challenge is to draw on their professional expertise to form good public policy without unduly benefiting, or appearing to benefit, their industries. Schmidt noted that the bill restricting pharmacy audits was introduced in her committee by the Kansas Pharmacy Association, not her. She also said the final measure that became law was a compromise hammered out between pharmacists and the pharmacy benefit managers who perform the audits. "I did not even participate in the negotiations," Schmidt said. Representatives from multiple groups that initially opposed the bill corroborated Schmidt's account. Schmidt's pharmacy ties were barely a ripple in her heated primary contest against Joe Patton. But Henry, D-Atchison, faced campaign criticism for his work as executive director of Achievement Services, a nonprofit that serves the developmentally disabled. As questions about his Kansas House run mounted, Republican candidate John Gotts sought to shift the focus to Henry, his opponent in the 63rd District. “Perhaps you might write about how Jerry is on every committee that votes tax dollars to his company and companies like his and how he voted against nullification of Obamacare and how that helps him,” Gotts said via email at the end of July. Gotts’ candidacy flamed out weeks later amid news that he faced multiple lawsuits and debt collections in Idaho, where he continued to live despite running for office in Atchison County. But Henry, who defeated Gotts’ replacement handily, may face continued questions about his professional ties as the Legislature seeks to address a burgeoning wait for home- and community-based Medicaid services, such as those his company provides. “The majority of the Medicaid increase is on the medical side, which is not my side,” Henry said in a recent interview at the Statehouse. “If the Legislature starts working on
the waiting list, there would be more people served and the opportunity for my company to serve more people in my community.” Tim Wood heads the Disability Rights Center's End the Wait campaign, which is dedicated to eliminating a developmentally disabled HCBS Medicaid waiting list that now tops 4,000 Kansans. Wood said relatively low administrative costs in the HCBS programs mean that most of Achievement Services' Medicaid dollars don't go to Henry and his co-workers, but to programs for developmentally disabled Kansans in Atchison and Jefferson counties. “Jerry is a strong advocate for this population,” Wood said. “He doesn’t stand to gain personally except that he’d like to see people in those two counties come off the list.” Landwehr said she respects Henry, but her private-sector health business is fundamentally different from Henry's connection to a state
contractor. "I don't make any money off what the state does," Landwehr said. "Jerry works directly for a DD provider." Landwehr lost her election in November but remains chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services budget committee until January. Her company, LT Care Solutions Inc., advertises her nearly two-decade tenure in the Legislature on its website. “Brenda has been a licensed Long Term Care Agent since 1996 and is very knowledgeable of where LTC insurance can fill the gaps government will not pay,” the website says. Last session Rep. Jim Ward, DWichita, accused Landwehr of suppressing a bill that would carve out support services for Kansans with developmental disabilities from KanCare, the Medicaid reform that will contract out those services to three private insurance companies
on Jan. 1, 2014. Landwehr angrily denied the allegation, saying she delayed hearings on the bill until committee members knew who the KanCare companies would be. Landwehr said she never led any efforts to change eligibility for public long-term care and tried to abstain from all votes dealing with insurance. Schmidt, who won’t chair the Senate health committee next year, said she hasn’t abstained from pharmaceutical-related votes because she has "no financial interest in a pharmacy and never have." "I do not own a pharmacy or have any ownership interest in one," she said via email. "Since I work for others, I'm not in a situation where I stand to gain personally from actions on prescription reimbursement." Henry echoed that, saying his salary is determined by a board of directors and not by how much money the Legislature appropriates
for developmental disability services. Regardless, Henry said that if a bill came up appropriating money only to Achievement Services, he would recuse himself from voting on it. “When I first got here I asked the ethics commission how I handled these situations,” Henry said. “Any appropriations bill with a specific amount to my company, I can’t vote for it.” Henry said his profession doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest any more than a farmer serving on agriculture committees or a teacher serving on education committees. Legislators tend to gravitate toward committees that relate to their fields of professional expertise. “Truthfully, I think the founding fathers of Kansas kind of wanted it to happen that way,” Henry said. “That’s why we’re a citizen Legislature.” Crum agreed.
A Republican from Augusta, Crum was a practicing optometrist until he retired in August. Last session,asvicechairmanofLandwehr's committee, he helped shape a bill amending state optometry law. The bill, HB 2525, consolidated the Kansas Board of Optometry's licensing levels from three to one, requiring all optometrists to meet the highest level. It also established an Optometry Litigation Fund, capped at $400,000, to pay the board's litigation expenses and a Criminal History and Fingerprinting Fund to pay for background checks on license applicants. “I never thought in that process that I had any conflict of interest," Crum said. "I thought what I was doing was enhancing the delivery of eye care to the citizens of Kansas.” It was announced Wednesday that Crum will succeed Landwehr as leader of the House health committee.