Kansas Common Sense
Aug 11 2014
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Introducing Veterans Health Legislation to Research Toxic Exposure
I recently introduced the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2014 with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. This bipartisan bill calls for research of the health conditions of children and grandchildren of veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service. This legislation, as requested by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), would establish a national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions stemming from exposure to toxins such as Agent Orange in Vietnam, Gulf War neurotoxins, burn pits in Iraq and other chemicals from recent overseas conflicts. Click here to watch video of my remarks on the Senate floor about this important legislation.
Attending Vietnam Veterans of America National Leadership Conference in Wichita
Thursday afternoon, I spoke with hundreds of Vietnam Veterans in town for the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) National Leadership Conference. We discussed the Toxic Exposure Research Act and recent efforts by Congress to begin to restore confidence in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This conservation centered on the recent passage of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which will provide Kansas veterans with greater access, choice and flexibility in health care providers and increase accountability and transparency at the VA.
Upholding our nation’s responsibility to its veterans requires transformation of the VA system and culture in order to make certain our veterans receive the care and support they have earned. As a member of the Senate Veterans Committee and VA Appropriations Subcommittee, I look forward to working with new U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald to achieve this goal and will continue to actively push for results at the VA until our veterans and their families receive the quality of care they deserve. Thanks to Larry MacIntire for arranging my visit and to Ron Zink of the Kansas State VVA Council for the kind introduction. Click here to read about the conference and my legislation in The Wichita Eagle.
Kansas Electric Cooperatives Meeting
It was a pleasure to speak at the Kansas Electric Cooperatives’ (KEC) Summer Meeting last week in Overland Park. There were more than 250 members in attendance and I discussed the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants that will do tremendous economic damage to states like Kansas. According to the Energy Information Administration, our state received 61 percent of its net electricity generation from coal in 2013. Another issue of great concern is the lesser prairie chicken. I recently introduced S.2623, legislation to protect producers from the consequences of the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act with Senator Pat Roberts. The legislation would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior from altering any land management practices based on the listing. I am also a cosponsor of legislation to remove the lesser prairie chicken from the list for a five-year period to allow state-based conservation plans to take effect before revaluating the listing. These commonsense solutions would address the effects the listing is already having on organizations like Kansas Rural Electric Cooperatives.
I concluded my remarks speaking about the KEC Youth Tour. It’s extremely valuable for me to remain connected with young people in our state, and the Youth Tour is a great opportunity to meet the future leaders in our state. Thanks to the Kansas Electric Cooperatives CEO Bruce Graham for the invitation to speak.
Kansas Hospital Administrator Roundtable & Hospital Visits
This past week, I met with a number of Kansas hospital administrators at the invitation of the Kansas Hospital Association for a roundtable discussion on a range health care issues. I also visited Salina Regional Health Center, Wamego Health Center and Newton Medical Center. During my time representing Kansans in Washington, D.C., I have visited each of the 128 community hospitals in Kansas. As Ranking Member of Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over most agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that impact hospitals and health care providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and other providers gives me insight on the challenges they face caring for patients in Kansas.
Roundtable with Hospital Administrators
This meeting took place on Wednesday in northeast Kansas at Wamego Health Center (WHC). We discussed a variety of topics, including the future of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), Obamacare implementation, Medicare reimbursements, as well as the federal regulations that make administrative costs unreasonably high for hospitals. Thank you to WHC CEO Shannan Flach for hosting this meeting, and to Chad Austin with the Kansas Hospital Association for coordinating the event. Also, thanks to the Kansas hospital administrators who traveled to Wamego to participate in our discussion.
Salina Regional Health Center
I was in Salina on Wednesday morning to visit with administrators and staff at Salina Regional Health Center (SRHC). SRHC is a 198-bed acute care hospital providing comprehensive health care services to residents of Salina and Saline County. The hospital also offers a variety of specialized care services such as cancer treatment through Tammy Walker Cancer Center. As a member of the Midwest Cancer Alliance, patients of the Tammy Walker Cancer Center have access to many of the latest clinical trials, as well as consultation services with a network of expert oncologists.
I kicked off the tour with an incredible view of the city from the hospital roof’s helipad. The helipad is used about 200 times a year to transfer patients to and from SRHC. Below, I am pictured with SRHC Executive Director of Governmental and Public Relations Tom Bell.
During this visit, we discussed the importance of having quality employees in the emergency unit, recruiting specialty health care providers and staff, and Obamacare in terms of their ability to stay competitive in the region. We also discussed the broken Medicare audit program, which places an unreasonable burden on providers, and has created a two-year appeals backlog within HHS. I continue working to require HHS to address this problem. On July 23rd, I discussed with HHS Secretary Burwell the urgent need to improve the Medicare audit program. I raised these same concerns in an April meeting with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. CMS is the division of HHS responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid. Also, I included language in the Senate Fiscal Year 2015 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill requiring HHS to account for improving the Medicare audit appeals process and addressing the current backlog. Thanks to SRHC CEO Mike Terry and Tom Bell for hosting my visit.
Visiting Newton Medical Center
I traveled to Harvey County on Thursday to visit and tour Newton Medical Center (NMC). NMC is a 103-bed acute care hospital providing comprehensive health care services to residents of Harvey County and the surrounding area. In May, NMC announced that its patients now had access to the latest CT scan technology with the acquisition of a new CT scan system that works to minimize patients’ exposure to radiation during the scan. I appreciated Dr. Kent Bradley (pictured with me below) taking time to visit with me about physician recruitment and retention, the importance of primary care, and federal regulatory burdens. Thanks to NMC CEO Steve Kelly for hosting my visit.
Wamego Health Center
On Wednesday prior to the hospital administrators’ roundtable, I toured Wamego Health Center & Wamego Family Clinic (WHC), an 18-bed CAH. During my tour, we visited about concerns regarding Obama Administration proposals that would cut reimbursements to CAHs and eliminate hospitals from the CAH program. Whether Kansans may remain in the communities they call home, and whether their children will return to raise families of their own is dependent upon access to quality health care. When federal policies fail to take into account the realities of providing care in rural communities, we risk losing access to important health care services provided by Kansas hospitals and other health care providers. Thanks to WHC CEO Shannan Flach for hosting my visit as well as hospital administrators’ roundtable. Click here to see WIBW 13’s coverage of my tour.
Hearing from Businessmen and Women at Wichita Independent Business Association Membership Meeting
On Tuesday, I spent time with more than 100 Wichita-area businessmen and women at the monthly Wichita Independent Business Association (WIBA) luncheon. We discussed numerous topics including the need for fiscal responsibility in our nation’s capital, a less burdensome regulatory environment, the need for a federal government that functions, and economic growth sparked by entrepreneurship. We need to make certain that as Americans face an increasingly competitive global economy, our kids and grandkids have the opportunity to pursue careers right here in Kansas. Thanks to WIBA president Tim Witsman for the invitation to speak and board chair Joe Johnson for the kind introduction.
Kansas Ag Network Interview
On Tuesday, I joined Kelly Lenz on the Kansas Ag Network to discuss a number of important issues facing Kansas producers, including my efforts to stop EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. I also discussed legislation I introduced to protect producers from the consequences of the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The legislation would prohibit federal agencies from altering any land management practices based on the listing. Finally, I discussed my commonsense legislation that was signed into law last week, which allows veterinarians to carry vital medicines outside of their clinics when they are practicing in the field. Click here to listen to the interview.
Pepsi Bottling Plant in Wichita
On Tuesday, I had an informative tour of the Pepsi bottling plant in Wichita. The facility has 2,200 customers within a 90-mile radius including grocery stores, convenience stores and third party vendors. On numerous occasions, this bottling plant has won the President’s Award, which recognizes the highest quality producer of Aquafina water of any PepsiCo facility in the nation. During my visit, we also discussed the labeling of genetically-modified organisms. Thanks to Wichita Pepsi Plant Director Tom Dewaelsche, Pepsi Regional Sales Director Elizabeth Earl and their management team for coordinating my visit.
Sumner County Town Hall
On Tuesday I continued my Kansas Listening Tour in Sumner County at the Wellington Public Library. I appreciated the area residents who attended and shared their thoughts on the future of our country, survival of rural communities, agriculture, EPA regulations, dysfunction in the U.S. Senate, health care and VA reform. Thanks to Wellington Chamber of Commerce President Shelley Hansel for coordinating my visit. Thanks also to Sumner County Commissioner Jim Newell for attending.
Celebrating the Marriage of Our Daughter
My wife, Robba, and I are proud to announce the marriage of our daughter, Alex, to Cole Grieves, son of Kevin and Jane Grieves of Topeka, Kansas. Alex and Cole were married this weekend at the First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Kansas.
On Saturday evening, I had the joy of walking Alex down the aisle as she and Cole began a new chapter in their lives together. It was a beautiful wedding, and Robba and I are thankful so many friends and family members could join us in the celebration.
Alex and Cole first met when they were undergraduate students together at K-State, and were engaged to be married last September. Alex is a third-year student at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Cole will continue his work at K-State as an assistant coordinator of New Student Services and is pursuing a master's degree.
Kansas in the Office
Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition
Brenda Brandy of Manhattan
Jill Blomgren of Lawrence
Miles Blomgren of Lawrence
Aiden Blomgren of Lawrence
Michael L. Cann of Kansas City
Brandy L. Cann of Kansas City
Matt Nyquist of Topeka
Tara Nyquist of Topeka
Molly McGaughey of Manhattan
Rob McGaughey of Manhattan
Nicholas McGaughey of Manhattan
Jill Wolters of Topeka
Michael Turner of Topeka
Maggie Turner of Topeka
Emma Turner of Topeka
Eric Larson Jr. of Wichita
Terri Grinstaff of Wichita
Rick Reed of McPherson
Brandon Sanders of Salina
Cheron Wallace of Salina
Tanya E. of Salina
Dajou Samuels of Salina
Teja Edwards of Salina
Brittani Thompson of Salina
Semai Smith of Salina
Dwight Smith of Salina
Maggie Browning of Salina
Elizabeth Walker of Salina
Maceo Brazton of Salina
Meek Hudson of Salina
Jonathan Boase of Salina
Robert Cunningham of Salina
Cynthia Jimenez of Salina
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.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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