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Public health ‘transformation’ bill clears committee

Photo: LRC Public Information - Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, testifying before the committee with public health officials and House Health and Family Services Chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, center, on Moser’s “public health transformation” proposal found in House Bill 129.
By LRC Public Information
A bill aimed at improving Kentucky’s public health system by putting it through a legislative “transformation” was approved Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, by the House Health and Family Services Committee.

LRC Public Information (Jan. 16, 2020)

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, chair of the committee and sponsor of House Bill 129, said the so-called “public health transformation” bill’s proposed funding model and operational changes are needed to ensure that mandated and other core public health services are delivered in the face of a nearly $39 million deficit facing public health in Kentucky. Moser said the deficit is largely due to mounting public health pension obligations and health care changes.

“The health care system has undergone changes over the years that have impacted (public health)” without giving health departments the ability to accommodate those changes, Moser said. “Legislative changes are needed to align the statutes with the public health transformation and allow for system changes."

The bill proposes funding criteria for state-mandated services, such as injury and disease prevention, with continued support for other core services including the state’s HANDS home-visiting program for new parents, WIC supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, and certain substance abuse treatment needs. Other needs would be determined locally by the departments.

Approximately 18 local health departments in 41 counties face financial insolvency within the year without “significant fiscal and operational changes” to the public health system proposed in HB 129, Moser told the committee. The Kentucky Health Department Association has said that, while some county health departments could receive less funding under the bill, most departments would receive more funding.

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, worked on the bill with Moser and many other state and local officials over the past year. Graviss praised the process used to gain input for the legislation and asked the committee to support the bill.

“It really was a model for stakeholder involvement and bipartisan support, and I’m very grateful for being able to be involved and would urge the committee to please unanimously approve this bill,” Graviss said.

HB 129 now goes back to the House for its consideration.

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