Kansas Common Sense
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Millions of Health Insurance Cancellations Caused By Obamacare
On Thursday, President Obama announced his plan to address the more than four million health insurance cancellations caused by Obamacare. Contrary to the President’s often stated promise that no one would lose his or her health plan under this law, the unfortunate reality is many more Americans have lost their health insurance than have enrolled in coverage under Obamacare. Under the President’s new executive mandate, insurers could continue to offer existing individual policies, which are set to be cancelled at the end of this year due to the law, through 2014. This option will be subject to the approval of insurance regulators in each state. The announcement comes a day after the Administration reported that only around 106,000 individuals signed up for health coverage in the Obamacare exchanges as of November 2, 2013. These figures are well short of Administration’s goal of having 500,000 sign-ups during this time. There are many concerns surrounding the legality and uncertainty of the President’s executive “fix” for this matter, and at this stage I don’t believe anything the President is doing will solve the problems Americans are facing.
The President cannot snap his fingers and make all the problems with this defective law go away. Obamacare’s problems run much deeper than website problems and implementation. The true issue is the flawed underlying basis for the provisions of the law: the idea that the government must determine what coverage is acceptable for Americans, regardless of what Americans want. Rather than working with Congress on a solution, the President again wants to issue an executive mandate in an attempt to give Democrats political cover for next year’s elections. The President needs to stop prioritizing political damage control over real policy solutions while millions of Americans are losing their health insurance due to his broken promise. Click here to see my remarks on the U.S. Senate Floor about the real-world consequences one Kansas couple is facing due to Obamacare.
McConnell Air Force Base Environmental Impact Study Public Hearing
On Tuesday, the Wichita Community held a successful public hearing in support of McConnell Air Force Base to make certain it is the new home of the KC-46A. McConnell’s selection by the U.S. Air Force as the Preferred Alternative for the Main Operating Base of KC-46A Tankers codifies what Kansans already know—we are and will continue to be the Supertanker base for the nation. I’m encouraged that the Environmental Impact Study is well underway, collecting data and relevant information to shine a light on all McConnell has to offer, including the great work that has already begun to plan for the transition from KC-135s to KC-46As. I trust the analysis from this study will confirm that McConnell is best suited for this mission from an operational and environmental perspective, affirming McConnell’s excellent scoring that occurred during the basing selection process. The hearing on Tuesday night demonstrated the strong beliefs and principles Kansans embrace to support our military.
It is vital that the Air Force finish this important selection process and identify McConnell as the Main Operating Base for the KC-46A. As recent as last week, the Air Force indicated the KC-46A program was in jeopardy due to the government shutdown and a lapse in appropriations. I will continue to work with Air Force leadership to make certain this program remains a top priority for implementation and delivery of tankers to McConnell in 2016. In fact, I’m meeting with the Commander for Air Mobility Command, General Paul Selva, this week and will visit with him about the importance of this mission and the Air Force programming to see it through.
A special thanks to the Friends of McConnell, Wichita Chamber and many others for all the hard work that went into this event. Click here to see my video message expressing support for McConnell.
Hearing of Janet Yellen, Nominee for Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board
Last month, President Obama nominated Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair Janet Yellen to replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman. On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee conducted a hearing on her nomination. Prior to the hearing, I had an opportunity to sit down with Vice Chair Yellen where we discussed the Federal Reserve’s ongoing monthly bond buying program — quantitative easing and other topics including bank supervision, Dodd-Frank implementation, and international capital standards for banks known as Basel III. While she has rich experience and is clearly knowledgeable about our national economy, I continue to have concerns about the direction Vice Chair Yellen will lead the Federal Reserve should she be confirmed. As seniors and working adults look at the performance of their retirement accounts, continued low interest rates resulting from quantitative easing has slowed the growth of those accounts considerably while exposing our economy to increasing inflation risks. I am also worried about how the Federal Reserve will continue to treat the hundreds of community banks they are tasked with supervising under new leadership. I have submitted several questions and look forward to hearing Vice Chair Yellen’s response in the coming days. I expect this nomination will be considered by the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing this week. In the meantime, I welcome your input as I weigh Vice Chair Yellen's nomination.
Senate Passage of Compounding Pharmacy Legislation
Today, the Senate passed H.R. 3204, the Drug Quality and Security Act, legislation to clarify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of compounding pharmacies and establish a prescription drug track and trace system. The House of Representatives passed this bill unanimously at the end of September, and now it will go to the President to be signed into law.
Pharmacists play an important role in the delivery of health care in our communities. This is especially true in Kansas and other rural states, where the local pharmacist is often the most accessible health care provider in a community. Drug compounding is a process where a pharmacist combines, mixes or alters ingredients to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient. Traditionally, compounded medications are made in response to an individual prescription from a licensed health care provider in the context of a pharmacist’s and that provider’s professional relationship with a specific patient. Compounding provides patients access to alternatives to standard commercially-manufactured drugs when these drugs do not meet the unique medical needs of a patient or are unavailable due to shortages. The objective of the Drug Quality and Security Act is to address gaps in the oversight and safety of compounded medications following the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak that began last year. Additionally, this bill will implement a system to enable drugs to be traced from the manufacturer through the distribution system to prevent counterfeit drugs from entering the market.
Visiting Phillips County Hospital
On Friday, I traveled to Phillipsburg to tour the Phillips County Hospital (PCH). I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the challenges health care providers are encountering in the delivery of health care in Kansas communities. PCH is a critical access hospital that provides a wide range of health services to North Central Kansas residents, such as emergency, cardiac rehabilitation, oncology, radiology, surgery, rehabilitation, laboratory and nutritional services. PCH also operates clinics in Phillipsburg and Logan. This year marks PCH’s 60th year serving patients in Phillips County.
While touring the hospital, I learned more about the partnership between the City of Phillipsburg and PCH to construct and operate the Phillipsburg Aquatic Facility (PAF) enabling the hospital to provide aquatic therapy to patients. Before the PAF was built in 2012, the nearest option for this particular therapy was 30 miles from Phillipsburg. Recognizing that providing these services in their own community would significantly benefit patients and reduce overall costs, PCH and the city partnered with residents to design and carry out a plan to support the construction and operation of the facility. The PAF includes a large outdoor pool and an indoor therapy and exercise pool, which can accommodate up to 15 patients at one time. This initiative is a great example of what community leaders and residents can achieve when they work together to improve the health of their community.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, it is valuable for me to visit Kansas hospitals and talk with health care providers to fully understand how they utilize resources to care for patients and support their communities. Thank you to Rhonda Kellerman for coordinating my visit. Click here to see a photo of me with Dr. Ben Stephenson, one of two physicians serving Phillips County.
Joining Aspiring Entrepreneurs at Startup Weekend Hays
On Friday, I joined entrepreneurial students and community members at the first ever Hays Startup Weekend hosted by Fort Hays State University’s (FHSU) College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Startup Weekend is a global startup based in Seattle, Washington, with the goal of bringing together individuals to build startup companies over the course of a weekend. During my remarks, I thanked participants for their willingness to pursue ideas and also shared my thoughts on the value of entrepreneurs to our economy now and throughout our state’s history. Research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that new companies are responsible for nearly all net new job creation between 1980 and 2005, and startup companies create roughly three million jobs annually. Congrats to all the students and participants on a successful weekend. Special thanks to Mark Bannister for inviting me to participate, to Henry Schwaller for organizing the event, and to FHSU alumnus Dylan Bathurst for traveling from Las Vegas to share his story of entrepreneurship with the participants. Click here to see a photo from the event. Click here to learn more about my legislation, Startup Act 3.0, in this Wichita Business Journal piece that will make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses.
Israel Action Forum
On Sunday, I joined Kansans in Overland Park for the 2013 Israel Action Forum. Israel is one of our nation’s closest allies and the ties between our two countries are deep and strong. At the event, I participated in a discussion with Senator Pat Roberts about Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. and international sanctions have been effective in bringing Iran to the negotiating table but have so far failed in their real goal, which is to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear program. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have expressed hope that a deal can be reached with Iran, but two rounds of negotiations this fall have failed to yield an agreement. Meanwhile, as negotiators talk, Iran’s centrifuges keep spinning. Secretary Kerry briefed me last week about the negotiations with Iran, and I believe the United States and our partners should not trade away sanctions while allowing Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Special thanks to Kansas City Israel Action Co-Chairs Lisa Bernard and Carol Katzman, Council Chair Bonnie Siegel, Rob and Miriam Glueck, and Audrey Asher.
Over the weekend in Northwest Kansas, I stopped in Stockton and enjoyed visiting with Kansans at the Rooks County Courthouse, post office, public library, Stockton National Bank, K-State Extension Office, Webster's Supermarket and Shirley May's Deli. Thanks for the good dose of Kansas common sense.
Celebrating the Life of Patricia Felts
This week, I was saddened to learn the passing of Patricia “Patt” Felts. On Friday, I joined friends and family in celebrating Patt’s life at her funeral service at SS Philip and James Catholic Church in Phillipsburg. Patt was a kind and caring person, loving mother and wife and devoted member of her church. I have been honored to call her devoted husband of 59 years, Tad, my longtime friend. Patt also leaves behind two sons, Gregg of Houston and Marc of Junction City. Robba and I extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to Patt’s entire family and friends during this difficult time.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Kari Presley of Topeka
Mike Wasmer of Olathe
University of Kansas
Jeffery Vitter of Lawrence
Steve Warren of Lawrence
Joe Heppert of Lawrence
Justice Nancy Moritz
Nancy Moritz of Topeka
Navy League of the United States
Ward Cook of Prairie Village
Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute
Paul Kerens of Leawood
National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors
Lacie Leatherman of Wichita
Bob Reynolds of Salina
Rhonda Knudson of Great Bend
Kansas Procurement Technical Assistance Centers
Jason Porch of Overland Park
Terri Bennett of Wichita
Gary Shorman of Hays
USDA Rural Development
Patty Clark of Topeka
Kari Presley of Topeka
Mike Wassmer of Olathe
Kari Presley of Topeka
Kansas Independent College Association and Fund
Ed Leonard of Lindsborg
Matt Lindsey of Topeka
Dennis Erickson of Topeka
Jamie Erickson of Topeka
Tom Fleener of Kansas City
Carol Moritz of Salina
Sarah Landis of Topeka
Steve Gasper of Salina
Kathleen Gasper of Salina
Rose Morrow of Topeka
Beth Morrow of Topeka
Larry Moritz of Salina
John Mortiz of Hays
Ryan Roe of Topeka
Patricia Clark of Topeka
Michael Corpstein of Tipton
Gregory Belshe of Overland Park
Ethan Belshe of Overland Park
Sophia Belshe of Overland Park
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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