Since 2014, there’s been a push by some in Kansas to expand Medicaid, and an almost equal push back by those against Medicaid expansion. While on the one hand it doesn’t make sense to not accept Federal money we as taxpayers are paying out anyway, it also makes sense to make sure Kansans know just what we’re getting when we say yes to Medicaid.
In recent weeks, expansion has been kicked around like a soccer ball in our state legislature, with those of us on the sidelines wondering will they or won’t they, the legislature, finally pass a bill allowing it to move forward in Kansas. In just the past few weeks,Senate Majority Leader Susan Wagle’s disappointment in the failure of passing the Value Them Both constitutional ballot question initiative resulted in her essentially taking her ball and going home. She refused to hear any health related bills during the remainder of this session in order to avoid the possibility of an amendment advancing Medicaid expansion. We’ve also had nuns from around Kansas sign a letter asking for the passage of Medicaid expansion immediately with no strings attached because there are poor people suffering without adequate healthcare in Kansas.
At the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce legislative coffee Saturday morning, an impassioned plea from one Ellinwood man, Kent Roth, demanded an explanation of when Kansans can expect expansion to pass, followed by responses from Sen. Mary Jo Taylor and Rep. Alicia Straub . Their understanding and informative answers shed additional light on an already complicated problem.
Expansion will provide money to struggling Kansas hospitals, and provide a path to healthcare for many poor Kansans, yes. But how much assistance, who will benefit most, and which hospitals will receive it were also addressed, and the answers were surprising. Our western Kansas rural hospitals, both legislators said, will not receive much in the way of dollars compared to two of the largest hospitals in the state, both located east of the US-81 dividing line. But, every little bit helps, they also agreed. And for some, employers may benefit a little bit while employees already on healthcare plans may see coverage diminish.
And then there’s the question of who will be keeping an eye out so fraud isn’t given free reign. Our Kansas legislators are aware of the needs, but aren’t yet in agreement of how much extra help we need, and perhaps that is one question that needs a definitive answer before anything else is decided.
Often it’s frustrating when it takes a long time to realize change, but sometimes taking that time ensures all of the facts are allowed to surface. Then, with a clear picture in mind of what we can expect, sometimes it still makes sense to move forward. And that may be the case with Medicaid expansion in Kansas. In the interim, it was clear Saturday that the people representing Barton County are hard at work learning what they can so a sound decision can be made when the time is right.