TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas lawmakers weighed in on Medicaid expansion in the recent stimulus package, providing newly expanding states with additional federal funding.
Medicaid expansion has been a controversial political issue. However, social justice advocates for low-income communities in the state, have urged lawmakers to adopt the policy.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said tension surrounding the subject within the legislature has led to roadblocks on allowing that to happen.
“There are just a few people on both sides, in the House and in the Senate, who are in leadership, that are preventing people from having that coverage, and it’s leading to a less healthy society,” Sen. Haley told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau on Friday.
Kansas is one of 12 states that have not opted into expanding Medicaid.
The federal government covers 90% of the costs for expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The incentive in the new stimulus package would allow newly expanding states to receive a 5% increase in the federal funding match for their traditional Medicaid program for two years. Some researchers estimate the state could see a $330 million boost in federal funding over the next two years.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree about protecting the interests of low-income Kansans, but have differing opinions on what solutions work best.
Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, said she would be in support of the policy if the state could afford it, arguing that 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?”
Governor Laura Kelly has pushed for Medicaid expansion in the state, recently tying it to policies, like legalizing medical marijuana to pay for the expansion.
Sen. Haley expressed support for the governor’s policy, which he says would make it easier for the state to support the expansion.
“Governor Kelly has married two very progressive, productive, cost saving and cost generating concepts together,” Haley said. “It would pay for itself, and it would make for a healthier Kansas.”
About 165,000 Kansans would be covered under Medicaid expansion, if the state were to adopt the policy. However, lawmakers would have to reach a compromise if it were to pass.