It is funny (funny strange, not funny “ha, ha”) that our Republican-dominated Legislature mustered enough intestinal fortitude to pass a bill to expand Medicare in Kansas. It is down-right sickening that come April, this same Legislature cowed and caved, unable to find the guts to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto.
Many of the lawmakers, including some we may all know, were among those who backed away from their original stance from being in favor of the expansion.
In spite of a torrent of phone calls and in-person pleas from constituents over the weekend leading up to the vote, and last-minute lobbying by hospital leaders who said that expanding Medicaid would help save a number of rural hospitals from closing, the vote was 81 to 44, three short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override.
The effort to expand Medicaid to cover 150,000 additional low-income people in Kansas had been closely watched nationally. It fell at a time when the Trump administration and Congress were in the midst of their first failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Even though that was four months ago, this issue remains at the forefront of public discourse in Kansas. The GOP Congress and the GOP White House continue to bicker over their replacement for the Affordable Care Act, and thousands of Kansans and scores of rural hospital remain at risk.
People, this is an issue that impacts us all. We have our own Sen. Jerry Moran, a staunch Republican, who refused to back the Republican health care bill in part because of what it did to Medicaid. Kansas gubernatorial candidates Republican Jim Barnett, a Topeka doctor, and Democrat Joshua Svaty, an Ellsworth farmer, support the expansion of Medicaid.
We all have neighbors who could be touched by this. There are three hospitals and other health care providers in Barton County that could be touched by this.
Regardless of the ultimate fate of Medicaid at the hands of the federal government, we need to support our elected officials who stand behind rural health care, no matter what their political stripe.