Kansas Makes Moves To Expand Medicaid Amid Obamacare Repeal

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

The Kansas House of Representatives took a surprise step to expand Medicaid, despite the federal government’s ongoing negotiations over repealing Obamacare and, to some degree, its enlargement of the Medicaid program.

A separate bill to expand Medicaid was declared “dead” on Monday, when the Kansas House’s Health and Human Services Committee voted to table it instead of sending it to a vote in the full House.

But the House voted 83-40 Wednesday afternoon to advance a separate health care-related bill containing an amendment that would expand Medicaid. The House had voted 85-40 to add the amendment to the new bill after the original Medicaid expansion measure failed to gain traction.

With the new amendments added, that bill will go to a final up-or-down vote in the House on Thursday. If passed, the measure will still need to be approved by the Senate.

The Health and Human Services Committee had declined to send its previous measure to the full House because an impending Kansas Supreme Court ruling could require the state to spend millions more on K-12 education, according to the Wichita Eagle.

“The timing is not right for this,” Republican Rep. Greg Lakin said, although he ended up voting to advance the bill. Lakin supported “postponing it for a while until we could find out what our tax situation is, until we knew what the Supreme Court was going to do with our schools.”

Under the typical Medicaid expansion through Obamacare, the federal government initially provides all the funding to expand Medicaid to those up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, but that levels off to 90 percent by 2020, leaving states with a small but significant tab to pay themselves.

Kansas state Medicaid officials have predicted that it would add $56 million a year to state costs for Medicaid and $1 billion a year in federal taxpayer funding. State officials expect the expansion would cover over 150,000 Kansans.

The move raised eyebrows as Congress is currently working on a plan to repeal Obamacare, which leaves the fate of the 31 states and Washington, D.C. that have expanded Medicaid so far in doubt.

Democratic House minority leader Jim Ward, who supported the bill, said he believed expanding Medicaid before Congress moves to reform the program would be better in the long run, suggesting that Medicaid expansion states could end up with more federal funding for their programs than others.

‘Thirty-one states have already expanded and they’re fighting hard to keep the expansion dollars in whatever form it turns into, or if it turns into anything, and it’s just a question of how big a piece of the pie will Kansas have,” Ward said, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. “Today we made a big step forward in getting our share.”

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has consistently opposed expanding Medicaid in his state.

Medicaid expansion “moves able-bodied adults to the front of the line, ahead of truly vulnerable Kansans. It is not affordable, costing the state upwards of $100 million in the next two years,” Brownback said in a statement earlier this month. “Kansas should not tie itself to this failed program of the past just before its inevitable demise.”

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Tags : medicaid expansion obamacare sam brownback
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