As of Tuesday, Aug. 4, 38 states have expanded Medicaid. Kansas isn’t one of them.
Missouri voters approved (with 53% of the vote) a constitutional amendment on the ballot. It effectively expands Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults age 19-65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level or below and requires the state to seek maximum federal funding of Medicaid expansion.
Missouri’s action will extend coverage to 217,000 low-income residents.
We need to expand KanCare, our state’s Medicaid program.
According to healthinsurance.org, 150,000 additional people would be covered if Kansas accepted expansion. Most are adults without children or parents currently ineligible for benefits despite living in or near poverty. Roughly 9 percent of Kansans are uninsured.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states can expand coverage to anybody with an income 138% of the federal poverty level or less (about $17,000 for an individual or $29,000 for a family of three) and receive a generous federal funding match. The state is leaving $7.3 billion on the table over the next decade by not expanding Medicaid.
The majority of Kansans want to expand KanCare. The legislature passed a bill in 2017 but Gov. Brownback vetoed it. Another bill passed in the house is 2019 but died in the senate. Finally, expansion failed in the 2020 legislative session when Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) refused to allow a bipartisan bill to come up for a vote in the senate unless both chambers of the legislature passed a constitutional amendment that would have overturned the Kansas Supreme Court ruling that protects a woman’s access to abortion in Kansas.
According to the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, about 7,400 veterans and their spouses would gain access to quality, affordable health care if Kansas expands KanCare. Taking care of our veterans and the rest of our most vulnerable residents is the right thing to do. But helping our fellow man can be done for purely selfish reasons. The AHK cites a study by an economist from Kansas State University, that found expanding KanCare would create more than 13,000 new jobs.
Expanding KanCare would protect access to care, especially in rural Kansas, and reduce uncompensated care costs to hospitals.
Finally, it would help control everyone’s health insurance costs. As long as thousands of Kansans remain uninsured, they are in the “risk pool.” When they do need care they can’t afford, it ends up raising the costs of care for others in the state — employers, hospitals, local governments and privately insured individuals and families.
We should urge those seeking office in November and those returning to the legislature in 2021 to finally get the job done.