TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly wants to move administrative operation of the state employee health plan and a worker compensation program to a different Cabinet agency.

Both are based in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, but the Democratic governor proposed the Kansas Department of Administration blend the programs into its menu of employee-focused services. The transition would occur July 1 unless the Kansas Legislature objects.

Kelly said the executive reorganization illustrated her commitment to delivering affordable, quality health care to employees across the state. About 40,000 people are enrolled in the state health plan.

"During past administrations, premiums for state employee health insurance increased drastically each year. This made it more difficult and expensive for our employees to receive important health benefits," the governor said.

During the administration of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the state cut its contribution to employee health premiums by 8.5% during budget turmoil of 2015. From 2016 through 2018, Kansas government employees with spouses or families in the state insurance plan were forced to absorb consecutive rate hikes of 36.7%, 30.4% and 31.7%.

The Kansas Employees Health Care Commission voted in June to shift course by increasing the state's obligation to health care premiums by 4.5% and reducing the contribution of state workers with spouses or families by 6% in 2020.   

The governor's office said Mike Michael, the KDHE's director of the state employee health plan and the worker compensation claim program for state employees, would retain that job and report to Administration Secretary DeAngela Burns-Wallace.

"The Department of Administration provides support and services to state agencies and employees," Burns-Wallace said. "We look forward to welcoming the SEHP and staff to KDOA, where we can better coordinate and support their mission."

Lee Norman, KDHE secretary, said it made sense to transfer the employee programs to the Department of Administration.