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Inviting the CMS Administrator to Kansas Hospitals


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On Tuesday, I hosted Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), on a tour of Kansas health care facilities to meet with a variety of health care providers across the state. Ms. Tavenner is the head official at CMS, the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid. As a member of the Senate subcommittee that appropriates the budgets of HHS and CMS, I arranged this tour for Ms. Tavenner after she accepted my invitation to visit Kansas in order to learn more about the unique challenges facing health care providers and patients in our state. Many of Kansas' hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, nursing facilities and other health care providers operate on tight margins to provide quality care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries spread across a wide area. Each time I visit one of these facilities and meet the individuals providing this care to Kansans, I learn something new and useful for analyzing federal health care policy.

Tuesday's tour included the following six meetings in northeast Kansas:

Visiting Providence Medical Center -- The day began with a visit to Providence Medical Center in Kansas City. We toured the hospital with Providence's president and CEO Randy Nyp, and met with a group of hospital administrators from across Kansas to discuss policies that ensure all Kansas communities have access to quality, affordable health care. This access is critical for not only improving Kansans' health, but also for economic development in our state. Thank you to Randy, Betty Gearheart, Libby Knox, and the rest of the Providence staff, and Tom Bell with the Kansas Hospital Association for organizing this tour and discussion.

Home Health Care Visit -- Following the hospital tour, we traveled to Lawrence to observe a home health care visit at the home of Shirley Webb. Shirley graciously invited us into her home, on her 88th birthday nonetheless, to see how Visiting Nurses of Lawrence provides care and support to patients in their homes to aid their recoveries and avoid costly inpatient hospital stays. Judy Bellome, CEO of Visiting Nurses, and nurse Lori Lee, also showed us how they use telemonitoring technology to monitor patients vital signs and share health information electronically with doctors and nurses to alert them of potential problems before they become emergencies. Thank you to Judy and Jane Kelly with the Kansas Home Care Association for setting up this visit. And finally, Happy Birthday to Shirley and thanks to her for welcoming us into her home.

Tour of KU School of Pharmacy -- After the home health care visit, we drove to the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy where we met with KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and School of Pharmacy Dean Ken Audus. Dean Audus gave us a tour of the new 110,000 square-foot School of Pharmacy, which includes state-of-the-art technology to connect the building with KU's campuses in Kansas City and Wichita. KU is our state's sole provider of pharmacy graduates who go on to serve the health care needs of Kansans. KU's pharmacy program ranks among the top public university programs (18th nationwide), according to U.S. News and World Report, and is fourth among all pharmacy schools for utilizing National Institutes of Health research funding. Thank you to Chancellor Gray-Little, Dean Audus, Jackie Hosey and KU staff for coordinating our visit.

Pharmacists Meeting -- The Kansas Pharmacists Association was holding its annual Kansas Pharmacy Summit during our visit to the School of Pharmacy. This allowed us to speak with Kansas pharmacists to learn more about how they provide medication, counsel and care to Kansans across the state. Thank you to Mike Larkin and Lauren Tice of the Kansas Pharmacists Association for hosting us at their Summit.

Physicians Meeting -- Ms. Tavenner and I also met with physician members of the Kansas Medical Society to discuss initiatives to protect the physician-patient relationship and regulations dealing quality of care and medical innovation. Thank you to Jerry Slaughter with Kansas Medical Society for organizing this meeting.

Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Meeting -- We concluded our day with a meeting with members of the Kansas Health Care Association and Kansas Center for Assisted Living to discuss how skilled nursing and assisted living centers serve our state's most vulnerable citizens. We also visited about ways these providers are striving to improve patient health and satisfaction. Thank you to Cindy Luxem and Kathy McLaughlin with the Kansas Health Care Association coordinating this meeting.

These and all the health providers in Kansas are the foundation of our communities. Thanks to Ms. Tavenner for accepting my invitation to come to Kansas and accompany me on these visits. I know the conversations she had with Kansans will give her valuable perspective for her work in Washington.

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