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Health

Mental Health Officials Worried About 'Step Therapy' Legislation

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A bill that opponents say infringes on patient and doctor relationships will be heard in the Kansas Senate.

The practice is called step therapy, which requires patients to try older and often generic medications before doctors can prescribe newer and more expensive ones.

Senate Bill 341 would require it for KanCare recipients.

Proponents say it can save the state’s Medicaid program money, and protect patients from newer medications that might have unknown side effects.

The strongest critics of step therapy are those in the mental health field, who say it meddles with doctors’ ability to prescribe what they feel is the best option for their patients.

“For many people who have mental illness, having to first fail on one medication or another can result in delaying or interrupting effective treatment," says Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for the Kansas Mental Health Coalition. "Those interruptions can be life-threatening.”

Campbell says her organization would like it clearly stated that step therapy will not be used with mental health patients.

There is an amendment to the bill that says anyone currently on medication with KanCare will not be forced off their prescriptions.

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Follow Sean Sandefur on Twitter, @SeanSandefur

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