Bipartisan Medicaid Expansion plan introduced

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Kansas is now one step closer toward becoming the 37th state to implement Medicaid Expansion.

Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning announced an expansion proposal at a press conference on Thursday. The proposal already has bipartisan support.

Medicaid Expansion would give an estimated 150,000 Kansans access to healthcare they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Reverend Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan has traveled across the state for the last three years hearing their stories.

“We’ve met folks who have put off getting care, put off getting important tests and who have ended up in debt,” says Oglesby-Dunegan.

She also recalled a story of a person who put off medical testing due to the cost. Eventually, when they were able to afford the testing, it led to a cancer diagnosis, unfortunately, it was too late to begin chemotherapy.

The compromised Medicaid Expansion plan would bring healthcare to 138% of the federal poverty level. Enrollees will be asked to contribute up to $25 per month for health services or $100 per month for a family of four. A hardship provision is also included in the plan.

The compromise will not have work requirements, which was a big sticking point for many Republicans. Senator Denning says when more research was done, the cost to implement and maintain work requirements would be too expensive and take a lot of time. Instead, the plan offers a work referral program.

“Let’s have a pathway to work. Let’s do a workforce assessment, find out by the patients themselves, ‘why am I not working?’, and then the Department of Commerce engages and helps them find a job,” said Senator Denning.

The Federal Government covers 90% of Medicaid Expansion. The proposed Kelly-Denning plan would include $35 million per year, which has been endorsed by the Kansas Hospital Association. The plan does not require a tax increase. The plan includes a section that terminates Medicaid Expansion if federal funding drops below 90%.

A big pushing point for Medicaid Expansion was the assistance it could give to rural Kansas hospitals. The proposed plan would create an advisory committee within the Department of Health and Environment to support rural hospitals.

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, this would be accomplished by “assessing viability and identifying new delivery models, strategic partnerships and implementing financial and delivery system reform to improve the health of rural communities”.

The plan also hopes to implement further availability in hospitals for mental health and substance abuse treatments.

“This proposal embraces Democratic priorities and Republican priorities. It honors House ideas and Senate ideas,” said Governor Kelly. “Compromise is hard. It is messy. It is slow and it is worth it.”

The proposal already has bipartisan support with 22 senators co-sponsoring the bill. Only 21 ‘yes’ votes are needed for it to pass in the Senate. However, Governor Kelly says the process is far from over.

If Medicaid Expansion is passed this year, people will be able to sign up by January of 2021.

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