Topeka Republicans on a House committee Tuesday pushed through a resolution that says the Legislature does not want to expand Medicaid to upwards of 150,000 low-income Kansans under the federal Affordable Care Act.
State Rep. David Crum R-Augusta, urged his colleagues to vote for the resolution, saying that the expansion would cost too much.
"My feeling is at what point are we going to break the bank in Washington," Crum said.
But those opposing the resolution said that Medicaid expansion would help tens of thousands of Kansans get better health care and there was no need to adopt such a resolution without further study.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said there was a moral obligation to provide the opportunity for better health care, and whether people have Medicaid coverage or go uncovered and get treatment in an emergency room, taxpayers will pay for it.
"If we don't pay it on this end, we will pay it on the other end," Ballard said.
Supporters of the resolution said it would give Gov. Sam Brownback guidance on where the Legislature stands on the issue. Brownback, a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, has not said whether he would seek to expand Medicaid.
House Concurrent Resolution 5013 was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote. The measure indicates the Legislature's "intention not to expand Medicaid services in Kansas," under the ACA.
Currently, Medicaid provides health care coverage to about 380,000 Kansans. The largest portion of them — about 230,000 — are children. The rest are mostly lower-income, pregnant women, people with disabilities and elderly people. The $2.8 billion program is funded with federal and state dollars.
Medicaid in Kansas doesn’t cover low-income adults who don’t have children. And a nondisabled adult with children is eligible only if his or her income is below 32 percent of the poverty level, which is approximately $5,000 per year. That is about the most difficult eligibility level in the country.
But starting in 2014, the ACA creates an eligibility level of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,415 per year for an individual and $26,344 per year for a family of three.
Estimates are that upwards of 150,000 more Kansans would be covered under the expansion. The federal government would pay all the costs of expansion for three years and then ratchet that down to 90 percent of the cost over the next several years.
Numerous Kansas hospitals and health care providers had urged the committee to drop the resolution.
A statewide poll conducted on behalf of the Kansas Hospital Association found that 60 percent of Kansans support expanding Medicaid.
After learning that Medicaid expansion would bring $800 million in federal funds to Kansas over three years, 62 percent of Kansans supported the expansion.
The poll of 610 Kansans was conducted in December and has a plus or minus margin of error of four percent.