© 2021 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Kansas Medicaid Expansion Debate Will Get New Life Next Session

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo

The crop of new legislators and Kansas Statehouse leaders means a new chance for some issues to make headway in the coming session. Stephen Koranda reports on one topic that might get more traction: expanding Medicaid to cover more people.

Expanding Medicaid services under the Affordable Care Act could potentially offer health care coverage for thousands of low-income Kansans.

A Lawrence lawmaker says the Legislature should consider expanding Medicaid, despite uncertainty about federal health care policy under President-elect Donald Trump.

Representative John Wilson will be the top Democrat on the House Health and Human Services Committee next session. That panel will likely consider expanding KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Wilson says Kansas could possibly keep an expanded Medicaid system if it’s put in place before any federal changes take effect.

“I think we are in a better position if we have some well-maintained and well-regulated expanded KanCare system in place for when the federal government decides to do something,” Wilson says.

Earlier this month, incoming Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman said Trump's election raises questions about the future of the health care law and the expanded Medicaid program. But in Kansas, Ryckman is open to the discussion.

“I think things have changed with the presidential race, but I will listen to the health care industry and see what their ideas are. We need to have a chance to have all these ideas debated, especially people that ran on certain issues," Ryckman says.

Ryckman backed that up last week with some health committee appointments of lawmakers who are interested in exploring Medicaid expansion.

The chairman of the health committee, Republican Representative Dan Hawkins, says he's opposed to expanding Medicaid to cover more able-bodied adults. However, he says the debate will happen.

In the past, leaders opposed to expanding Medicaid largely blocked consideration of the issue.

Governor Sam Brownback has also been an opponent of expanding Medicaid. He blasted the idea in his 2016 State of the State Address and tried to combat arguments that expansion would ease funding challenges for rural hospitals.

"It was Obamacare that caused the problem. We should not expand Obamacare to solve the problem," Brownback says.

Brownback's administration has also said waiting lists for disability services should be eliminated before considering expanding Medicaid services for non-disabled, low-income adults.