Thirty-seven states have expanded Medicaid, but Kansas has not. Our failure to expand Medicaid has so far cost Kansas $3.4 billion, which is mostly our money since we paid it in federal taxes. But the greater cost is that 150,000 of our working citizens do not have health insurance. This has greatly hurt our working poor, our hospitals and our medical care providers who are often not paid for their services. This has hit rural areas particularly hard as they do not have the resources to make up for the loss. Rural hospitals and clinics have been forces to close and it is estimated that 30% more are at risk .
The Alliance for a Healthy Kansas has a plan to expand Kancare, Kansas’ Medicaid program. Federal dollars will pay for 90% of the cost and Kansas will be responsible for 10% of the cost, making it a great bargain. If the plan is adopted:
- It would provide medical care coverage to 150,000 low-income working Kansans who cannot not afford it. They do have enough income to receive subsidies from the Affordable Care Act but make too much to qualify for the present Kancare system. It would cover preventive medical care and greatly reduce the spread of communicable diseases.
- It would inject $5.3 billion into our economy in just the first 10 years.Those funds would have a multiplier effect on consumer spending, business activity, jobs, personal income, and state tax revenue.
- It would create jobs. A study by George Washington University found that expanding KanCare would create 3,500 – 4,000 new jobs in the next five years.
- It would cut the unpaid bills for emergency services. Emergency room care is very expensive compared to preventive care. Emergency rooms are required by law to treat everyone, and those without medical insurance often wait until they are very sick and then go to the emergency room for care. Unreimbursed costs drive up costs for everyone and endanger the financial stability of medical care providers and hospitals.
- It would reduce bankruptcies. Many of us are just one major accident or illness away from a bankruptcy. A Harvard study found that about 50% of all bankruptcies in the United States are caused by illness and unpaid medical bills. Bankruptcies affect everyone because the health providers, banks, businesses, and credit card companies who lose money in the bankruptcy pass the cost on to the rest of us.
- It would improve everyone’s health. Your family’s health depends on the health of everyone in your community. You and your family will likely come into contact with thousands of people during this next year. People without health insurance are much less likely to receive immunizations and preventative care – and are much more likely to have untreated communicable diseases.
Much of the opposition to expanding Medicaid is related to opposition to the Affordable Care Act. A study by the Brooking Institute found that 37 states who have so far expanded Medicaid are satisfied with results and none wish to withdraw from the program.
The 2019 House of Representatives passed Medicaid expansion by a vote of 69 to 54, and there were enough votes in the Senate to pass it, but the Senate leadership refused to let it come to the floor for a vote. The Senate leadership promised that they would have a bill ready for vote in January 2020, and we are hoping their word is good. That delay will cost Kansas about another $665 million. It is time we tapped into the Federal funds available and made health insurance available to the 150,000 Kansans without medical coverage.
Gov. Kelly and Sen. Denning met over the summer and put together a compromise Medicaid Expansion bill which had 22 cosponsors in the Senate, more than enough to pass it. However, Senate President Susan Wagle, who opposes Medicaid expansion, sent sent it back to a committee whose chairman is also opposed Medicaid expansion. It would have taken 24 votes to bring it back to the Senate for a vote, and so it died in the the committee.
It is likely the makeup of the Senate will change in the next election, making passage more favorable. Unfortunately, many legislators are now concerned about the federal government paying its share of the cost or that funds from Medicaid expansion might be used for abortions. To get Medicaid Expansion passed in 2021, it will need an amendment which will cancel the program if the federal match falls below 90%, or if money from is used to fund abortions.