The following editorial is attributed to Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka:
Hensley: Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do
More than 150,000 Kansans are one step closer to having better access to healthcare now that the House and the Senate have passed a bill to expand Medicaid, which in Kansas operates under the name of KanCare. The bill now goes to governor’s desk for final approval very soon. There is concern Brownback will veto the bill, but expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do.
The Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study recommended that the Legislature make sure federal tax dollars paid by Kansans are coming back to fully fund services that can be provided to Kansans. Expanding Medicaid does just that. Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid has already cost our state more than $1.7 billion in our own tax dollars.
Expanding Medicaid helps close the gap for thousands of working Kansans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford a private health care plan. House Bill 2044 adjusts the income level that qualifies those under 65 for Medicaid to 133% of the federal poverty line, or $16,000 for an individual and $27,000 for a family of three.
Expansion means these Kansans gain access to preventive services, primary care, and other services. It reduces their personal debt load, which improves their credit scores. It also makes them healthier, giving them more opportunity to find and keep better jobs.
Additionally, expansion ensures rural hospitals, clinics, mental health centers, and other health care providers remain open by reducing the cost of uncompensated care. It also creates thousands of new jobs.
Osage County has already experienced the results of Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid with the closure of Stormont Vail’s clinic in Lyndon. Residents in the area not only lost access to health care, they also lost jobs. This is why, as your State Senator, I have continued to fight to expand Medicaid and was proud to cast my vote for this bill.
It’s now time for the governor to do the right thing for Kansans, and sign the bill into law.