Letter from KASB to Sens. Roberts, Moran on ill-considered Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill

Dear Senators,

The Kansas Association of School Boards strongly urges you to protect Kansas students if the Senate debates the Graham-Cassidy healthcare reform proposal. We have serious concerns about the measure’s impact on Kansas public schools.

Our primary concern is that the proposal’s restructuring of the Medicaid entitlement program appears to go far beyond repealing and replacing ‘‘Obamacare.’’ It will directly impact Kansas schools that provide special education services to students under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

As you are likely aware, the IDEA mandates that special education students receive in-school speech, physical, or behavioral therapy and mental health services if their Individualized Educational Program (IEP) indicates those services will help them learn and progress. Kansas schools receive $46 million in Medicaid reimbursements to help pay for those mandatory services.

Kansas school boards and other education advocates fear the annual per-capita Medicaid caps imposed by Graham-Cassidy could limit the program’s scope of service, potentially forcing states to ration care for school children and requiring local school districts to finance mandatory services through state or local funding sources.

The potential loss of up to $46 million in Medicaid reimbursements to schools would quickly wipe out any gains Kansas schools may receive under the state’s pending school finance law, including a proposed $12 million increase in special education funding in each of the next two years.

The Graham-Cassidy proposed block-granting of federal health insurance funding to states is also a concern. Although KASB does not have a legislative position on health insurance, Kansas students’ overall health directly affects their ability to come to school ready to learn. For example, many Kansas school children now receive prescription medications or optometry services that are important to their daily lives and are currently covered by their parents’ health insurance. If those families and their children lose health insurance under the Graham-Cassidy block grant discretionary state authority or its spending limits, students’ academic achievement will suffer.

KASB and its members are disappointed that ill-considered healthcare reform concepts that were soundly rejected only a few weeks ago again appear to be gaining traction in the Senate, mostly in service of a self-imposed political deadline. If Congress merely seeks to repeal and replace ‘‘Obamacare’’ that is certainly its prerogative. However, we urge you to separate that issue from reducing support for programs that help school districts effectively service students with disabilities. This is especially important because Congress continues to underfund the federal commitment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, requiring states and local school districts to make up the difference.

Sincerely,

Dayna Miller, President Kansas Association of School Boards

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