Senators Skubal, Sykes talk Medicaid expansion, minimum wage and social services at Johnson County Developmental Supports panel

Leah Wankum - September 3, 2019 9:42 am
State Sen. John Skubal said the waiting list for individuals to receive services through Medicaid is eight years, which is ‘not tolerable.’

Medicaid expansion, minimum wage and funding for social services in Kansas were some of the key topics discussed in a legislative panel with state Senators John Skubal and Dinah Sykes last week.

Hosted by the Self-Advocacy Group of Johnson County Developmental Supports, the panel took place Aug. 30 in the cafeteria at the Elmore Center in Lenexa, where dozens of individuals served by JCDS gathered to learn more about what their state government is doing to serve people with disabilities.

State Senators Dinah Sykes.

JCDS is a county agency serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Self-Advocacy Group is comprised of individuals served by JCDS who advocate for themselves and people with disabilities through civic and political action, personal development and community connections.

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When asked about Medicaid expansion, Sykes, a Democrat, and Skubal, a Republican, said they support it and look forward to the opportunity to vote on it in the upcoming legislative session. Sykes noted that a special committee in October will work on creating a Senate version of a Medicaid expansion bill.

Both lawmakers cited concerns with the waiting list for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities to receive services through Medicaid.

“Our waiting list now is eight years; that’s not tolerable,” Skubal said. “We need to do something with that, and I think that we have a governor that’s going to help us with that.”

Sykes echoed Skubal’s comments, adding that she believes the governor’s cabinet has hired staff who are working to solve those problems so the Kansas government can better provide services to individuals with disabilities.

When asked if they support an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rates, Skubal said he has supported that increase and joined his fellow state senators last year to increase the reimbursement rate for dentists.

One woman asked if funding had changed for Home and Community Based Services. Skubal said he and his fellow lawmakers have found that the state’s social services budget is “hollowed out or there wasn’t as much money going into those programs as we actually need.” He hopes to increase that.

Another woman asked if the practice of sub minimum wage is going away. Sykes said that conversation has been had mostly at the federal level. She added that she wants to hear more feedback from individuals being served by JCDS.

“I think there’s the concern that it will go away and then there won’t be jobs for you — and I know it gives you work, that you feel very good about doing that, and we’re grateful for you doing that,” Sykes said. “So I think there needs to be compensation.”

Skubal added that he supports a livable wage.

When asked if the minimum wage in Kansas will be increased, Sykes said she was unsure if or when that would happen.

A full video of the legislative panel is available on Facebook.

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