Democratic Kansas statehouse candidates on the issues: Medicaid expansion compromise

Gov. Laura Kelly (at right, beside podium) and Sen. Jim Denning (speaking at podium) announced they had reached a tentative deal on a plan for Medicaid Expansion earlier this year. Photo via Sen. Denning's Twitter account.

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of this summer’s primary elections. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for Democratic candidates running for seats in the Kansas House.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we have the candidates’ responses to item three:

Gov. Laura Kelly and Majority Leader Jim Denning reached a compromise plan on Medicaid expansion this session — though it did not pass. Did you support their compromise? If not, what would you have wanted to see changed?

Kansas House District 22

Lindsay Vaughn

Overall, the Medicaid expansion compromise is a good bill, and I would support it. Some changes are not ideal. Eligibility and premiums are more complicated in the compromise, and it adds a work referral program, though not work requirements. In some ways the compromise is better. In particular, it removes a provision that locks out beneficiaries who fail to pay their premiums, and this is a change I would want to keep.

In regards to eligibility, for example, the “clean bill”,” HB2066, is 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) across the board. The compromise actually increases this to 138% FPL in the first year, which is great; however, it includes a caveat that this would be reduced to 100% FPL in 2022 if the state shows the federal government that expansion is revenue neutral. This means people making between 100 – 138% FPL would lose their Medicaid coverage and be put back on the exchanges.

In such cases, I would prefer HB2066. Compromise is often essential for passing good policy in Topeka, though, and all things considered, the changes in this bill are just that–a fine compromise. Especially when it means 150,000 more Kansans would finally gain access to the critical health care services they need.

Randen Smith

I thought it was wonderful that Governor Laura Kelly and State Senator Jim Denning were able to arrive at a bipartisan agreement to pass Medicaid Expansion. Even though State Senator Denning’s work requirements would have been a burden for low income earners. At least, they could have an opportunity for healthcare. I believe Kansas and the US should have universal healthcare like all other developed nations. And none of the other developed nations with universal healthcare are trying to repeal their systems in favor of a US type healthcare system. Healthcare should be a right and not an experiment of unfettered capitalism.

Kansas House District 39

Les Lampe

For myself and for the constituents in my district, affordable and easy access to healthcare greatly affects quality of life. Studies continue to show that medical debt contributes to financial instability which affects families heavily. If I had the honor of serving you, I would fight to ensure that if you are your loved ones are sick you would be able to get the care you need without worrying whether you can afford it.

The compromise drafted between Governor Kelly and Majority Leader Denning was a good one. I was disappointed when it did not pass during the recent session. Although the majority of both the Kansas House and Senate supported the expansion, it was blocked for political reasons.

I support the proposed legislation’s focus on benefits in three areas. First is the benefit to individual Kansans and Kansas families. Medicaid expansion would improve the health and financial security for 150,000 Kansans. Residents of states that have expanded Medicaid have increased access to primary and preventative care, reduced medical debt, and continuity of coverage for chronic illnesses. The overall mortality rates in these states is also lower than in states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage.

The second benefit is that Medicaid expansion protects healthcare coverage in both urban and rural communities. Cushing Hospital in Leavenworth recently closed because of financial challenges, and over 30 hospitals in rural parts of the state are in danger of closing. Medicaid expansion may make the difference between these hospitals staying open or closed.

The third benefit of Medicaid expansion is that the state would see substantial economic benefits. Many millions, if not billions, of dollars have been sent by Kansans to Washington to support Medicaid expansion in other states. Ninety per cent of the costs of expansion are covered by Federal dollars. Medicaid expansion in Kansas would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kansas economy and add more than 13,000 new jobs..

With Oklahoma’s recent passage of the ballot measure to expand Medicaid, they became the 37th state to do so. On August 4, Missouri voters will vote on Amendment 2 that would make it the 38th state. The continuing failure of Kansas to move forward with Medicaid expansion adversely affects both the health and the economy of our state. We must move forward with Medicaid expansion, and that is why I support the compromise reached by Governor Kelly and Senator Denning.

Michael Bolton

Medicare expansion is necessary; we have 115,000 underserved Kansans and that should never be. Kansas has lost many rural hospitals and people need access to medical treatment. It did not pass this time, but the fact that some agreement was made shows it’s an important issue for all of us. Kansas has come a long way and illustrates that many in Topeka are willing to work together. A positive sign of forward progress and yes I would have supported the compromise because it’s to the benefit of all Kansans.