Medicaid expansion for Kansas - finally

Rep. Randy Garber (R-Sabetha) at the legislative meeting here last Saturday morning described Medicaid expansion in Kansas as the extension of health care benefits to about 150,000 of our citizens between the ages of 19 and 64 who can work.

What Rep. Garber did not say was whether the 150,000 citizens that he was referring to could afford health care insurance in the state, as they are currently uninsured.

Can anyone really afford health care these days? There are certainly a lot of people who can’t afford it.

The fight to expand Medicare in Kansas, known as KanCare here, is being wagered at the State Legislature and Sen. Dennis Pyle (R-Hiawatha) said here last Saturday morning that he thought there were enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill to expand Medicaid in the state without his vote.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, supports Medicaid expansion and is urging the Republican-led Senate leadership team to allow a Senate vote on it.

In 2017, the Legislature adopted a bill to extend Medicaid coverage  that was then vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback said then that the expansion bill failed to “serve the truly vulnerable before the able-bodied, lacked work requirements to help able-bodied Kansans escape poverty and burdens the state budget with unrestrainable entitlement costs.’’

Some of what Brownback said may be right. We don’t know what the federal government will do in the future, but if the federal government changes the federal funding matching requirements, then state governments should have the option to end the program at that time.

Kansas is among 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid, which was designed as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2011, which then required states to start offering Medicaid to more people. In return, the federal government agreed to cover most of the costs.

By not expanding Medicaid since then, Kansas has left behind those 150,000 or so citizens that earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but earn too little to purchase insurance on the ACA healthcare marketplace. It has also shortchanged hospitals because the ACA’s Medicaid expansion plan was designed to offset major reimbursement cuts.

Yesterday, Gov. Kelly said Kansas has forfeited more than $3.2 billion of our federal tax dollars over the last several years to other states that have expanded Medicaid. Those are federal funds that Kansans paid in but are not coming back to the state.

Uncompensated care at our rural hospitals would decrease if Medicaid expansion is approved.

The state budget is about $7.12 billion this year. Surely, our state leaders can find enough state funds (an estimated $30 million per year) to cover the state’s annual 10 percent matching fund requirement for Medicaid expansion. 

Proponents of Medicaid expansion in Kansas say they believe there will be a lot of savings to the state government, in other parts of the state budget, to offset some of the expansion costs.

A reduced poverty rate and a healthier and insured population makes sense for Kansas. I am also in favor of the state requiring able-bodied people under retirement age to work. Let’s hope Medicaid expansion  goes up for a vote soon.

There’s no question that health care costs overall are out of control and that there will be extra costs to our state for Medicaid expansion. On the other hand, if state government can’t lend a hand to our citizens who need it the most, then what is state government good for other than maintaining our roads and funding our public schools?

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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