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Mental Health Drug Change Goes To Kansas Governor

A proposal to allow prior authorizations for Medicaid reimbursements on mental health drugs passed its final legislative hurdle Friday.

The measure, which was requested by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration as part of a budget proposal and projected to save $8 million, passed the House 82-31 as part of a small health conference committee package. It passed the Senate 31-6 earlier in the week and now heads to the governor’s desk.

Until Brownback signs the measure, state law will continue to prohibit any regulation of mental health drugs under Medicaid.

Mental health advocates argued against a bill to repeal that statute, saying it was necessary to ensure there were no delays in getting effective drugs into the hands of people with severe and persistent mental illnesses who could be a danger to themselves or others without the drugs.

Administration officials said the current law kept them from preventing reimbursements for prescribing patterns — especially for young and old patients — that do not fit Food and Drug Administration guidelines for the drugs in question.

But the advocates came together with the administration on the revised bill that was part of the conference committee report that passed this week. It allows the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to require prior authorization for new mental health drugs, subject to a review by an independent advisory board that includes psychiatrists, pharmacists and other health care professionals.

“This is a workable compromise that can lead to positive outcomes for patients and provide more clarity for prescribers,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

The conference committee report passed this week also included a non-controversial provision mandating Medicaid reimbursement for donor breast milk for babies in neonatal intensive care units.

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.
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