Capitol Update: Rep. Kessinger recounts ‘stunning’ bi-partisan effort to get Medicaid expansion through House

Rep. Jan Kessinger said it took “courageous” action for some Republicans to push the Medicaid expansion bill through the House.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Jan Kessinger and Sen. Jim Denning are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Kessinger’s filing:

For the most part, time on the floor of the House of Representatives has been quiet so far this session. Most bills that have passed the legislature have done so with overwhelming majorities. Then came Wednesday March 20, the first day of spring, the season of renewal and life. The House floor sprang to life, too, as several procedures were used to pass Medicaid expansion, something that has been in consideration for six years.

In what many consider to be a stunning move, a bi-partisan effort hijacked one piece of legislation in order to force a vote on expansion. A Medicaid expansion bill in the House had been stonewalled in committee and traditional/moderate Republicans and Democrats joined forces to bring expansion to the floor.

The House was set to work and vote on a bill concerning Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). As the APRN bill was brought up, Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (democrat, Wyandotte County) offered a “gut and go” amendment to the base bill. In essence, the move was to replace the APRN bill with Medicaid Expansion – a tactic that has been much maligned in past years, but seen as the only viable way to make Expansion occur.

The amendment was challenged as not being germane (related to the base bill). The rules committee agreed it was not germane and could not be offered. The ruling was challenged and in a vote that had not been seen in decades according to capitol veterans, the rules committee was overturned 62-55 as the bi-partisan coalition held rank and forced expansion to the floor.

A vote against the rules chair is a serious one. As I mentioned, it has been longer than most can remember since it has happened. However, this bill was the best, if not only, chance to bring Medicaid Expansion to the floor. Republicans faced the specter of reprisal for voting against the chair, yet moderates took the courageous vote in order to be able to vote on expansion.

Conservative opposition leaders quickly huddled and developed a parade of amendments designed in an effort to kill the expansion bill. The bi-partisan coalition appeared to waiver as an amendment on abortion was voted on and many expansion supporters voted “yes” on. But the coalition quickly re-united in a consistent repeal of the efforts to kill the bill.

Ultimately, the effort to pass expansion legislation was successful 69-54 (28 republicans and 41 democrats in favor) on final action March 21. It now goes to the Senate where it faces even stronger roadblocks for coming up for a vote. There will be much intrigue as maneuvers are made to expand Medicaid.
In my district (district 20), I conducted a survey of constituents and 70.1 percent strongly support (54.2 perecent) or somewhat support Medicaid Expansion. Statewide, 77 percent of Kansans support Expansion.

What will expansion do if it gets through the Senate? 150,000 hardworking Kansans will be able to have health insurance. The emergency room will no longer be the primary care physician for those who cannot afford insurance. Hospitals will see bad-debt write-offs plummet as more patients are covered.

And Kansans will finally see a return on the more than $3 billion they have paid to federal Medicaid taxes and seen $0 returned. Some critics express fear of climbing Kansas fiscal liability, but the bill is affordable. I close with something conservative proponents of an anti-abortion bill said in the House chamber in response to a question about the value of a human life. She said there cannot be a price on human life. Action by the Kansas House to Expand Medicaid is consistent with that as it will save lives and be a boost to the economy at the same time.