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Noonletter, Nov. 21, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

This time, it was in public

Triveece Penelton has endured any number of racist remarks in her 16 years as a city planner. It was the one delivered in a public meeting — a white man making a crack about the “master race” — that tossed her into the spotlight.

On Tuesday, that Leavenworth County commissioner, Louis Klemp, resigned amid growing criticism.

Penelton talked to KCUR’s Andrea Tudhope about the incident and the discomfort of being part of an ugly news story that drew national attention.

“No one wants to have a little micro part of their life all over the world in a negative fashion because someone was disrespectful,” she said. “The magnitude of his comment is so great.”

OK, we’ll pay

Kansas has agreed to cover the cost of drugs to treat Medicaid patients with chronic hepatitis C — without making those people meet a long list of requirements.

The state has entered into a legal settlement in a class-action lawsuit that contends the state made it too hard for hepatitis C patients to get drugs that could save their lives. A judge still needs to sign off on the deal.

State officials had been insisting only patients in the advanced stages of liver damage from the disease, and who agreed to prove they’d not used illegal drugs or booze for an extended period, would be eligible for drugs purchased by the state.

Dan Margolies reports that the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014 estimated that about 35,000 Kansans had hepatitis C, but it’s not known how many of them are enrolled in KanCare, the state’s privately managed Medicaid program.

Little help?

Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly says she wants to overhaul the state’s troubled child welfare system — foster kids sleeping in offices, settlements over child deaths, a pending class-action lawsuit — but wants Republicans to help.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle also says reform is needed, but she’s wary about the cost.

“I’m not interested in spending more money than we’re bringing in,” Wagle said, “but I’m definitely willing to work with her.”

Stephen Koranda reports that Kelly says real change will require real money.

Watch this for a test of how well Kelly, who fancies herself a bipartian pol, can get things done working with an overwhelmingly Republican Kansas Legislature.

Even more help?

Without a Republican governor in charge to drop a veto on Medicaid expansion, the prospect now looks more likely to happen than not.

But former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told Jim McLean that lawmakers should pass a “clean” expansion bill that’s not muddied with work requirements. (Various analyses show that most people on Medicaid either are already working or are unable to hold a job.)

Still, conservatives favor work requirements to promote self-sufficiency, so it might be necessary to include such rules to win over the Republican majority in the Legislature. That majority in the Kansas House appeared to get slightly more conservative in this month’s election.

But Sebelius, who served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, says expansion states attempting to impose work requirements are being taken to court based on the argument that such rules undercut the purpose of Medicaid.

Look for Kelly to spend whatever political capital she has to expand coverage for an added 150,000 low-income adults.

The new boss at Haskell is a temp

Haskell Indian Nations is the target of a fresh, and scathing, inspector general’s report.

In particular, it called out President Venida Chenault for bullying behavior and at least the appearance of nepotism.

So, reports the Lawrence Journal-World, she’ll temporarily hand over command of the school to longtime Haskell professor and administrator Daniel Wildcat.

Wildcat could be in charge for as long as two months while Chenault will be on “special assignment” for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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