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    Kansas Medicaid expansion debate to be revived when Legislature returns

    By Rachel Mipro,


    In March, Kansans rallied in the Statehouse to show support for Medicaid expansion. Kansans from all over the state sent in 900 testimonies in support of expanding services. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

    TOPEKA — In three weeks, senators will decide whether to give Medicaid expansion a full floor debate or block discussion of health insurance coverage for low-income Kansans for another year.

    Lawmakers rushed to hammer out myriad policy pieces ranging from the tax code to K-12 education funding during a late-night marathon session before adjourning Saturday for three weeks. During the frenzied process, Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, introduced a motion to pull Senate Bill 355 to the floor for consideration.

    The procedural move is designed to override the authority of Republican leadership who refuse to allow the bill to move forward through the usual process. The Sykes motion will require approval from 24 of the 40 senators.

    “This is not a partisan issue, and over 70% of Kansans, regardless of party, support Medicaid expansion,” Sykes said. “Only a few extremists in the Legislature are standing in the way, so Kansans deserve to know where their legislators stand on Medicaid expansion. To quote Beyonce, let’s bring it to the floor now.”

    The quote is an apparent reference to Beyonce’s song “Texas Hold ‘Em,” which contains the line, “Come take it to the floor now.”

    Senators will consider the motion after they return later this month, with a vote scheduled for April 26.

    Gathering 24 votes will be an uphill battle, given GOP leaders’ opposition to Medicaid expansion. Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins have characterized the program as a way to “expand the welfare state,” instead of helping the “truly needy.”

    Medicaid expansion would expand health insurance coverage for lower-income families. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government covers 90% of the extra cost of Medicaid services in exchange for expanding eligibility to those who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty rate. Most of the estimated 152,000 Kansans who would benefit from expansion are self-employed, small business owners and their employees, or suffering from chronic illness.

    Medicaid expansion would unlock $700 million in annual federal funding and could save 59 rural hospitals on the brink of closing.

    “The costs of everyday living continue to rise — including the cost of health care — and Kansas families are feeling it,”said April Holman, executive director of Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. “It is past time for Kansas lawmakers to listen to the people and enact policy change that will ease the burdens of these costs on Kansas families.”

    Kansas is one of 10 states left that have not expanded Medicaid.

    This session marked the first time in four years that GOP leaders allowed a Medicaid expansion bill to receive a committee hearing. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly applied pressure before the session with a statewide tour in which she promoted Medicaid expansion.

    Democrats and health care advocates are hopeful this year’s election will place additional pressure on lawmakers to support Medicaid expansion. All 165 seats in the House and Senate are up for election, and polling shows bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion.

    In a statement to voters Saturday, Kelly said, “Now is the time to make your voices heard.”

    “I urge you to write, call, or meet with your legislators and encourage them to support expanding Medicaid by voting yes on this motion. We have the momentum to get this done this legislative session.”

    The post Kansas Medicaid expansion debate to be revived when Legislature returns appeared first on Kansas Reflector .

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