A new push for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – There is a new push for Medicaid expansion during the coronavirus pandemic.

Medicaid expansion has been a topic of debate in Kansas for a few years, but despite having bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, expansion has not been passed.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion say, now more than ever, it can benefit the state. Expansion would provide health care coverage to approximately 130,000 Kansans, that wouldn’t otherwise have it. Supporters say that, while people may not be charged for coronavirus care right now, the lasting health effects from the virus could create issues in the future.

“A lot of these things will require long-term medical care and without the ability to access that there will be a lot of people who will be in a lot of trouble,” said Representative Brett Parker, (D) Overland Park.

It has been projected that expanding Medicaid would cost the state anywhere from $17.5 to $18.66 million dollars each year. Under Medicaid expansion, the Federal Government provides a 90% match of funds. This means if Kansas spends $1, the Federal Government will give the state $9. Supporters say this could bring Kansas upwards of one billion dollars each year.

“The number one impact is public health and in the midst of a public health crisis that’s all the more important, but we shouldn’t ignore the economic benefit that can be brought to Kansas as well,” said Rep. Parker.

When Medicaid expansion was originally passed at the Federal level, it was anticipated that all states would participate.

“The money was sent to the Federal Government, through various ways, and then sent back to the states,” explained Bob Beatty, Political Analyst. “It was actually never even thought of that some states would refuse the money.”

A portion of Kansas taxpayers’ money goes to the Federal Government to provide funding for Medicaid expansion in states that have it.

“Kansans are subsidizing the states that have opted for Medicaid expansion,” added Beatty.

Rep. Parkers said, “The overwhelming majority of states have expanded, which means that they’re taking that pool of federal resources.”

Beatty said that while polls show a majority of Kansans support expanding Medicaid, opponents believe that able-bodied people should work for their health care coverage.

“Some people that simply do not think that some people should get, essentially, free health care,” said Beatty.

Senate President Susan Wagle and Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman have blocked Medicaid expansion from going to a vote in the Kansas legislature. A Wagle representative said that, right now, Medicaid expansion is the furthest thing from their minds during this pandemic.

If lawmakers were to pass Medicaid expansion in the coming months, it would go into effect in January of next year.

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