Advocates say ObamaCare ruling brings hope for thousands in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA (KSNT) — The Supreme Court dismissed challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from GOP-led states, in a ruling on Thursday.

The governor applauded the Supreme Court’s decision with the following statement.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for more than one million Kansans with a preexisting condition and the future health of our workforce. It’s clear that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and it’s time for Kansas to join 38 states and the District of Columbia by expanding Medicaid to support our economic growth, protect our rural hospitals, and provide quality, affordable healthcare to 165,000 Kansans.”

GOVERNOR LAURA KELLY, D-KANSAS

The law enacted in 2010, also known as “ObamaCare,” expands Medicaid coverage to most low-income families in the U.S. However, many Kansans are not able to get affordable health coverage, as the state has yet to expand Medicaid.

“There’s a whole group who are working hard, some of them are working more than one job, but they just don’t have the luxury of having health care coverage be a part of that, and they’re falling through the cracks,” said April Holman, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.

Holman, a mother and breast cancer survivor, is a passionate advocate for affordable health care, which she said saved her life.

“Your chance of beating cancer is greatly impacted by your insurance status at the time of the diagnosis,” she said.

Holman said she was fortunate enough to have healthcare, but thousands of Kansans have trouble affording it.

Kansas is one of 12 states that have not opted into Medicaid expansion. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 44,000 Kansans fall within the Medicaid coverage gap, with no way of getting affordable care.

Holman said this number could expand to 165,000 Kansans, including low-income families with children needing coverage. She said issues stem from people either not being able to afford the employee contribution at their job, or it’s not offered by the employer.

The health care advocate also noted that expanding Medicaid could help with solving these issues, making it less likely for people to suffer from enormous medical bills, which often leaves them in debt.

She said her efforts to push for expansion have fallen flat.

“We’ve gotten very close, but have not been able to push it over the finish line,” Holman said.

Political analyst Dr. Bob Beatty said conservative Republicans, rather than those who are more moderate, have stood in the way of expanding Medicaid in Kansas. Arguments step from the expansion being unconstitutional, pointing to the federal government requiring people to have health insurance.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who supported challenges to the ACA, said the Supreme Court ruling was “disappointing,” in an email to Kansas Capitol Bureau on Thursday.

“It is disappointing that after all this time and effort, the U.S. Supreme Court still declined to reach the merits and answer the important constitutional question presented:  By what authority does Congress order Americans to buy insurance? That important question about constraints on the limited, enumerated federal powers of the federal government will have to wait for another day “

KANSAS ATTORNEY GENERAL DEREK SCHMIDT

Others have argued that the expansion would be expensive.

Earlier this year, when the governor proposed tying it to policies, like legalizing medical marijuana to pay for the expansion, Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, said she would be in support of the policy if the state could afford it, arguing there would be steep financial consequences from adopting the federal program.

Tyson said the burden would eventually fall on the state and low-income Kansans.

“What keeps getting proposed is a complete expansion of Medicaid that we can’t afford as a state,” Tyson said. “The problem is, that’s one time money, and so the state would be on the hook for the outgoing years. The cost of expansion would go to all Kansans that pay taxes, and so, can we handle that burden?”

However, Dr. Beatty noted that affording the policy shouldn’t be an important issue, with federal incentives to boost the share of costs with hold-out states. Some researchers estimate the state could see a $330 million boost in federal funding over the next two years.

“We’re talking, the state of Kansas in the end, would only pay less than 10% of 100% of the cost,” Dr. Beatty said.

Holman said the Supreme Court’s decision brings hope for thousands of Kansans in need of help.

“That idea that we’re helping them get the care that they need, is what keeps me going,” he said.

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