Legislators discuss pros & cons of Medicaid expansion

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Thousands of Kansans could soon be covered if Medicaid is expanded. Expansion has failed in the past, but it’s a top priority for Governor Laura Kelly.

Wednesday was the start of a series of three round tables. The hope is to bring more discussion to the issue than a normal committee setting might have.

People crammed into the House Health and Human Services Committee to see lawmakers take on one of the major issues the legislature must decide on.

“We’ve never really sat down, opponents and proponents, legislators and talked about what a plan that makes sense for our state looks like, said Kansas Hospital Association CEO Tom Bell.

Pittsburg Representative Monica Murnan is the ranking minority member in the committee. She said expanding Medicaid is long overdue.

“We left billions of dollars on the table, and people at the local level are absolutely speaking out and saying this is important to them, not only to individuals but also to healthcare systems,” said Rep. Murnan.

The Kansas Health Institute estimated 129,000 new Kansans on Medicaid would cost the state $47.4 million next year.

“We’re not talking about increasing care,” said Michael Austin, director for entrepreneurial government at the Kansas Policy Institute.

“The number of doctors, the number of hospitals, they’re not increasing. All we’re doing is adding more people onto the rolls and if you think about your Economics 101, that unfortunately will just raise prices and cause a bottleneck,” said Austin.

But Murnan believes there are plenty of legislators that want Medicaid expanded.

“I believe that given the opportunity this bill could pass through the Kansas legislature, the problem is getting the opportunity,” said Murnan.

Both the governor and lieutenant governor made stops to tour a Kansas hospital this week. On Thursday, Governor Kelly will hold a news conference promoting the economic benefit to Medicaid expansion.

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