Kelly Calls Out Kansas Lawmakers to Not Expand Medicaid Without Delay

Gov. Laura Kelly pressed legislators on Monday to vote to extend Medicaid coverage to additional low-income Kansans, saying there is “no valid excuse” for opposing the legislation.

Kelly, a second-term Democrat, laid down the challenge at a news conference in Liberal at Southwest Medical Center, Seward County’s lone hospital. She stated that the first five times she attempted to persuade the Kansas Legislature to expand Medicaid, she used a nonpartisan, collaborative approach.

“That hasn’t worked,” she continued, “so I decided this has become a political issue, so I will take a more political approach to it.”

Kelly spent last summer and fall touring the state, praising the benefits of Medicaid expansion, to put pressure on Kansas lawmakers, all 165 of whom are up for reelection this fall. In December, she announced her most recent Medicaid expansion proposal, which includes contentious work requirements, in a bid to reach an agreement with Republican lawmakers.

Kelly Calls Out Kansas Lawmakers to Not Expand Medicaid Without Delay

“At this point, any legislator standing in the way of Medicaid expansion is going against a commonsense, fiscally responsible proposal that benefits their constituents, their hospitals, their businesses, their community, and our entire state,” Kelly said in a statement on Monday.

Kansas House and Senate lawmakers are slated to undertake Medicaid expansion hearings on Wednesday. This is the first time in four years that legislative leaders have authorized hearings on expansion.

Medicaid expansion, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, enables states to provide healthcare coverage to people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line, mostly at the expense of the federal government.

It is intended to assist adults who cannot afford to purchase health insurance in the marketplace yet make too much money to qualify for the existing Medicaid program, which only covers adults earning up to 38% of the poverty line, or roughly $11,400 for a family of four.

Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal, which would cover 150,000 Kansas citizens, would provide coverage to a family of four earning up to $41,400 per year.

Kansas is one of the ten remaining states that has not expanded Medicaid. Every state that borders Kansas has implemented Medicaid expansion.

Kelly Calls Out Kansas Lawmakers to Not Expand Medicaid Without Delay

Kansas hospital executives have long supported Medicaid expansion, and proponents claim it will benefit rural healthcare providers. The Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform reports that nine rural hospitals in Kansas have closed in the last 20 years. According to the organization, around 28% of the remaining 104 rural hospitals are at urgent risk of closure, with 58% at some risk of closure.

“I don’t know how many more hospitals, health clinics and emergency rooms must close before we expand Medicaid in Kansas,” he said. “The answer should be zero.”

The Care Arc Health Clinic in Eureka shuttered only last month.

Kansas lawmakers approved Medicaid expansion in 2017, but Republican Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill.

According to polling in Kansas, the majority of Republican voters—and an even higher share of Democrats—support extending Medicaid.

Kelly noted that expanding Medicaid might reduce health-care expenses for those who aren’t enrolled in the program. It would minimize the amount of uninsured people who end up in emergency departments, where hospitals must treat them regardless of their capacity to pay.

“And with thousands of people no longer having to forego wellness checks, preventive care, and prescription medications because they can’t afford them,” he added, “our workforce will be stronger, healthier, more reliable, and more productive.”

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