Following Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning’s announcement Thursday about bipartisan Medicaid expansion plans in 2020, some area representatives are rejoicing, while one is not.
“I am very encouraged by the announcement and pleased to see a bipartisan effort to advance Medicaid expansion into the state of Kansas,” said Rep. Tom Phillips, R-Manhattan.
Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, and Rep. Suzi Carlson, R-Clay Center, shared similar sentiments about the plan, which still must pass the legislature.
“The medical community is behind this plan,” Carlin said.
“I think it sounds like a good plan,” Carlson said. “And I hope we can get it through.”
The expansion would cover an additional 150,000 Kansans. It also would push down private health insurance premium costs so people are less likely to drop private plans for Medicaid coverage, according to the Associated Press.
“This proposal embraces Democratic priorities and Republican priorities,” Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday on Twitter. “But we’re not finished yet. This is just the start.”
The push for Medicaid expansion has been on the forefront of discussions heading into this year’s legislative session, which starts Monday.
“There’s lots of pre-work that’s been done that lays the ground work to have a very positive session,” said Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan.
Republicans and Democrats couldn’t reach a consensus on expansion by the end of 2019’s legislative session.
“I promise to do everything I can to get expansion over the finish line this year,” Kelly said. “We will get it done, and we will get it done right.”
Hawk, who was present at Kelly and Denning’s announcement Thursday, said he is optimistic about the plan.
“I loved what (Gov. Kelly) said: ‘Compromise is very hard, but it’s well worth it,’” Hawk said.
He was one of 22 co-sponsors of the plan. Hawk said 10 other Democrats and 11 Republicans signed it.
Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, disapproves of Medicaid expansion, he said, because the state is already in debt.
“My concern in general with Medicaid expansion (is) we don’t have all the details,” he said.
“What we’re doing is borrowing from our grandchild and great-grandchildren, which I think is something we probably shouldn’t be doing,” he continued.
Ascension Via Christi extended its support, stating expansion will benefit Kansas as a whole.
“Expanding Medicaid will bring hundreds of millions in federal dollars to our state, giving Kansas residents increased access to health care coverage while supporting healthcare providers and our entire Kansas economy,” said Don King, chief executive officer of Ascension Via Christi.
Carlin said she is glad the state is working toward Medicaid expansion.
“I think it’s really, really good progress,” Carlin said. “Individually, it means everything to those people who have been waiting.”
Carlson’s district — 64 — is very supportive of Medicaid expansion, she said.
“I do feel like this is the plan for the working poor,” Carlson said.
She emphasized the need for taking care of people — especially those with children — who make about $12-$14 per hour and are unable to afford health insurance, but make enough that they don’t qualify for Medicaid already.
“Those are who we need to take care of,” she said.