Medicaid Expansion continues to hit roadblocks, delays

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Lawmakers and Kansans are continuing to push for Medicaid Expansion to be passed in Kansas, but the bill seems to be at a standstill.

In January, Governor Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning introduced what they called a ‘compromise bill’ for Medicaid Expansion. The bill had bipartisan support in the Senate and was likely to quickly pass. Then, the Value Them Both bill failed to pass through the Kansas House. Value Them Both is a bill that would change the Kansas constitution and give the legislature power to regulate abortions in the state. Senate President Susan Wagle was a huge supporter of the amendment. When it failed to pass in the House, Wagle vowed that she would not allow a vote on Medicaid Expansion until the Value Them Both bill was passed, essentially stopping all progress.

Senators in the Public Health and Welfare Committee are working on their own Medicaid Expansion bill that has a few key differences compared to the Kelly/Denning bill. The first being, in order to qualify for Medicaid, recipients must be enrolled in school, working or doing some form of public service. The Kelly/Denning bill does not have any work requirements for enrollees, which was a divisive detail among Democrats and Republicans.

Chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, Senator Gene Suellentrop, (R) Wichita, says this is a minimum requirement in exchange for health care.

“It’s a fair trade-off. It’s holding people responsible,” explained Suellentrop.

The Senate bill also has a conscientious objection clause, which allows health care providers to refuse treatment to an individual based on their moral and religious beliefs. The committee also specified in this bill that no taxpayer funds can be used for Medicaid abortions.

Despite these exceptions, the Republican-led committee has still not voted on the bill. Some argue that conservative lawmakers are intentionally stalling all Medicaid Expansion bills from moving forward. says that is not the case.

“There were several attempts to send the bill out of committee and both of those were denied,” said Suellentrop. “But we did not kill the bill. The bill is still in play…There was nobody that I know of on the committee that had the clear intention to kill the bill.”

Originally, Governor Kelly planned to have Medicaid Expansion passed early in the 2020 legislative session. The plan was to have expansion implemented by January 1, 2021. With the continued delays, it is unclear what the future holds for Medicaid Expansion in Kansas.

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