Your Turn: Don’t let Medicaid expansion be a hostage

I write as an advocate for Medicaid expansion in Kansas and as a promoter of Republican-Democrat compromise. I served as a state senator from Lawrence from 1983 to 1992, and I also serve as chairman of Save Kansas Coalition Inc., a bipartisan group. I am concerned that this important advance in Kansas health policy will not pass, as it may have been “taken hostage” by ultraconservative forces out to bully a few legislators into changing their votes on a constitutional amendment on abortion. Let’s not let that happen.

This bipartisan Medicaid proposal combines elements from both parties and both chambers. Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican Sen. Jim Denning included elements of every Medicaid expansion plan offered to date, including the bipartisan plan vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback in 2017, the Kelly plan introduced in January 2019, the plan that passed the Kansas House in March 2019 and the plan offered by the Senate Select Committee in October 2019.

Current proposal highlights and benefits:

• No barriers, no delays: Full expansion of Medicaid to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) with a 90/10 match, to be effective no later than Jan. 1, 2021. No delays, no super waivers.

• Medicaid funding: The proposal includes an annual hospital Medicaid expansion support surcharge of up to $35 million, which has been endorsed by the Kansas Hospital Association. This compromise proposal does not require a tax increase.

• Promoting personal responsibility: The agreement includes a robust work-referral program that promotes self-reliance for nonworking Medicaid beneficiaries, while limiting costly administrative red tape that drives up overall costs to taxpayers.

• Cost-sharing measures: Enrollees within the expansion population will make a modest contribution for health services through monthly premiums of up to $25 per month or $100 for a family of four.

• Expanding Medicaid would provide health care to more than 150,000 hard-working Kansans — more than two-thirds of which are families.

• Countless religious leaders — including archbishops within the Catholic Church and more than 75 nuns across Kansas — support Medicaid expansion.

• States that have expanded Medicaid have seen (1) an overall reduction in abortions; (2) infant mortality rates fall by 50% more than nonexpansion states; (3) fewer maternal deaths; and (4) an 11.6% reduction in divorce rates.

As a former State legislator and chairman of Save Kansas Coalition Inc., a bipartisan group of concerned Kansans, I know that Medicaid expansion is pro-family, pro-life and pro-common sense. Let’s all get behind this and tell House and Senate leadership to stop playing games with the health care of vulnerable children and adults in Kansas.


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