Brownback not moving toward Medicaid expansion; criticizes health exchanges

For now, Gov. Sam Brownback is content to not provide health care coverage to tens of thousands of Kansans under the Affordable Care Act.

But Brownback, speaking to a group of reporters this week, said he is watching as other states negotiate with President Barack Obama’s administration to expand their Medicaid programs through what is commonly referred to as Obamacare.

Referring to Medicaid expansion, he said, “I’ve not declared a position on it because you’re seeing the federal government adjust monthly, Obamacare. They may adjust this one.”

Supporters of expanding Medicaid through the ACA say Brownback, by not pushing for expansion, has taken a position of denying health care coverage to many Kansans.

“It really is on his desk and we await his decision,” said state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

Kansas stands to lose $767 million in federal dollars for health care coverage if it doesn’t expand Medicaid, according to a recent report by The Commonwealth Fund, which describes itself as a private foundation working toward a high performance health system.

A key provision of the ACA provides for states to expand Medicaid to residents with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,856 for a person, and $32,499 for a family of four. The federal government will pay all the costs for the expansion through 2016 and phase down its support to no less than 90 percent of the cost.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could decide whether to expand.

Brownback has been an ardent and longtime critic of the ACA.

“I thought the easy piece of it was the health exchanges and that has had huge problems,” he told a group of reporters on Thursday.