Kansas is closer to sensible expansion of its Medicaid (KanCare) program.

Bipartisan support of a bill in the Kansas House cleared the way to provide health coverage to an additional 130,000 low-income Kansans, and end the state’s foolish refusal to accept federal funding through the Affordable Care Act. Kansas has turned away more than $3.2 billion — so far — since 2014.

The House plan added a $25 monthly premium for new enrollees that could offset most of the estimated $50 million cost to the state of expansion. The reasonable compromise should ease fears of those who fret over the federal government drawing back on its commitment to fund the vast majority of the cost.

House approval of the bill also was notable considering that chamber's leadership — namely House Speaker Ron Ryckman and House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins — did their best to block it. Ditto for their cohorts in the Kansas Senate — Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning — who discouraged debate and hearings on the issue. Ultraconservatives, after all, aren’t eager to help the sitting governor achieve progress.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly was elected in part because she pledged to help more working-poor Kansans access health care. What shouldn’t be a partisan matter became as much because forces on the far-right resisted anything tied to the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

True fiscal conservatives instead would embrace the return on investment of preventive health care that wards off more costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and the need to support struggling hospitals and preserve good-paying jobs. With many Kansas hospitals operating in the red, it’s no wonder most Kansans polled favor Medicaid expansion.

As for the Senate’s obstructionism, some suggest the upper chamber may be more amenable to Medicaid expansion in 2020, an election year. Indeed, the Senate president no doubt is sizing up how such change could best aid her possible run for U.S. Senate. If so, it's an unforgivably selfish, irresponsible stand that does nothing to help Kansans in need now.

There’s still a chance this year, though, with successful maneuvering of a bill out of committee for a Senate vote. That’s encouraging.

The time has come to stop stonewalling, expand KanCare, and help people and communities throughout the state.

 

GateHouse Kansas