A final push for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Lawmakers will meet on Thursday for just one day to finish out the 2020 legislative session, as while they have no plans to discuss Medicaid expansion, some Kansans are urging lawmakers to pass it.

Medicaid expansion seemed likely to pass this year after bipartisan support on a compromise bill in January. But after delays in the Kansas Senate and the coronavirus cutting the session short, expansion has been put off until next year.

Renee Kuhl is the Executive Director of the Lawrence Community Shelter. She works with the Kansas homeless community each day. Kuhl says many people have health conditions that are going untreated because they don’t have access to affordable health care.

“Very often, medical costs can be a driver of their homelessness,” said Kuhl.

She adds that the coronavirus has made it even more difficult for the homeless community. She says they struggle to get tested or to see a doctor. If they are sick, it makes it difficult to find a place to stay.

“Guests have to stay in a hotel because we can’t allow them to be here in a congregate environment, that costs us money,” added Kuhl.

The Kansas Poor People’s Campaign has been fighting for Medicaid expansion for years. They are now asking lawmakers to bring up expansion during Thursday’s one-day session. They say it is important, now more than ever, to get health care for the estimated 130,000 Kansans that don’t currently qualify for Medicaid.

“And therefore create healthier communities across the state,” explained Reverend Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan of the Kansas Poor People’s Campaign. “It will increase revenues and stimulate our economy and it will stop some of the bleeding that we are experiencing around health care costs, which have only gotten worse in the last two and a half months.”

Under MedicaideExpansion, Kansas would pay for 10% of the cost and the Federal Government would pay 90%. This would bring in one billion dollars from federal funding, at a state cost of approximately $18 million each year. If it passes this year, it would go into effect in January of 2021.

Opponents of expansion believe that able-bodied Kansans should work for their health care coverage. Some have also said the cost of expanding Medicaid is too much for the state to take on right now. Kansas is expecting a $650 million budget hole in fiscal year 2021.


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