Kansas Legislature Passes Medicaid Expansion, Remaining States Should Too

On Tuesday, the overwhelmingly Republican Kansas state Senate passed a bill by a 25 to 14 majority that would expand Medicaid coverage to over 150,000 people.  This bill had previously passed the House by an 81 to 44 majority.  Today, Governor Sam Brownback vetoed the bill that would have made Kansas the 33rd state, including D.C., to expand Medicaid.  While this was supported by strong majorities in both Houses, without additional support, they do not have the votes to override the veto.

The Kansas legislature’s vote to expand is a striking departure from current draconian policies. Right now, a working parent in Kansas loses Medicaid eligibility at just 38 percent of poverty, while people without dependent children aren’t eligible at all. Medicaid expansion would ensure these Kansans could finally access coverage.

The 18 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid should follow the Kansas legislature’s lead. Significant federal resources are available to extend the program to people who are too poor to qualify for Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies but who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Expansion states have produced better health outcomes, improved children’s well-being, promoted work and financial stability, and increased economic activity and job growth. And with the failure of House Republicans to repeal the ACA, it’s clear these states will be able to maintain their Medicaid expansions.

David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, commented, “By voting to expand KanCare, policymakers voted to bring back $1.9 million a day from Washington to create jobs, to protect hospitals, and to provide coverage to our most vulnerable neighbors.” States that haven’t expanded Medicaid are missing health and economic opportunities that would benefit their residents. CLASP is deeply disappointed by Governor Brownback’s choice to veto the legislation.  We applaud the Kansas state legislature’s effort to expand Medicaid, urge them to overturn the veto, and encourage other states to seize this important moment.