Health care in Kansas

We already know which issues are going to be most prevalent in the 2020 Kansas Legislative Session that runs from January to about May. The Kansas budget, public education, reproductive freedom, and giving health care to working Kansans who cannot get it now. Today, we'd like to talk about Medicaid expansion (Medicaid is called KanCare in Kansas).

For several years now, polls have shown a majority of Kansans favor expanding KanCare. In 2018, Kansans from every political party elected Laura Kelly as their Governor, in part because of her support of KanCare expansion. Last legislative session, a clear majority of legislators, both in the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate, were prepared to vote to expand KanCare.

And yet, despite all their efforts, proponents of extending health care access to thousands of working Kansans who fall in the gap between making too little and making too much could not get a bill passed. Why? Because Leadership in the Kansas Legislature would not allow it to come up for a vote. Their arguments included that they needed more time to study the issue, despite nearly a decade in which they could have done so. That it would negatively impact disabled Kansans, despite those same disabled Kansans being in favor of expansion. That it would hurt Kansas' economy, despite studies showing the economic benefits of expansion to Kansas, and the examples of state around us that have expanded. Despite 35 states having expanded health care. Despite Kansans having spent, as of this moment, over three and a half billion dollars to expand Medicaid in other states, without receiving any of it ourselves.

The truth of that matter? Leadership has their sights set somewhere other than on the benefit of expansion to Kansans.

Rep. Dan Hawkins (R), the Kansas House Majority Leader "calls himself Medicaid expansion’s 'biggest detractor who hopes to stop the abomination of Obamacare.'" To him, it's about the 'Obamacare' bogeyman. But, in fact, not only will real people, actual working Kansans, be able to get life-saving access to health care, but every county in Kansas will benefit economically from expansion.

What's happening now?

Senate Leadership has announced that they will hold committee hearings ahead of the legislative session to study the issue some more, and come up with recommendations. Those meetings are set for October 22 and 23, 2019. Health care advocates in Kansas are cautiously optimistic about this, but will be watching any proposals that come out of such a committee carefully. Leadership say they want to get expansion done, and yet all past experience points to them kicking the can down the road again, or worse, proposing non-starters like work requirements, or paying less to the Federal Government and expecting the same payments fully invested states get. Utah just tried that, and the Federal government refused their gambit.

Governor Kelly is also working on this issue from her end. Two weeks ago she convened a Governor's Council on Medicaid Expansion, and directed it to explore options for expansion in Kansas. This council is made up of legislators, but also policy experts, health care advocates, stakeholders like hospitals, doctors, and insurers, and community leaders from around the state. Leadership wanted to study the issue more, and this group will do just that, presenting recommendations for legislators to consider.

What can you do?

As always, contact your legislators and let them know how you feel. There is no stronger voice than yours, and your elected representatives need to hear from you. We've made it easy, just use the links below to find out who represents you in Kansas, or to send them email directly.

Here's a little something you could say, either on the phone or in an email:

I am your constituent, and I would like you to support KanCare expansion in Kansas, without work requirements or other limitations. Giving Kansans access to health care is the right thing to do, and expansion will also bring jobs to our county. We will all be voting in 2020. I am asking you to please vote for a clean KanCare expansion bill in 2020.

Do you have a story?

Many Kansans, legislators, too, have said that the issue of healthcare really hits home when they heard from someone about a personal story, or when they experience it themselves. Nothing is more compelling.

One of our partners, the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, is gathering health care stories to share with legislators. If you have a story about accessing health care in Kansas, won't you please consider getting in touch with them?

The Alliance is also holding a contest for filmmakers in Kansas! Check out the details, and let your friends know.

Do more than vote.

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