Why Medicaid expansion never had a chance

As long as Republicans have no need for the truth, the arguments to provide an additional 152,000 Kansans access to healthcare will fall on deaf ears



March 22, 2024 - 3:43 PM

Gov. Laura Kelly renews her call for Medicaid expansion, her fifth attempt in as many years as governor. This week, the measure failed in committee. Photo by KANSAS REFLECTOR/RACHEL MIPRO

Expanding Medicaid in Kansas will never have a chance as long as untruths are allowed to pass as truths.

For example:

“I do look at this as Medicaid Expansion as socialized medicine, and the United States of America is not a socialist country,” said Representative Carrie Barth, Baldwin City Republican, at Thursday’s hearing.

Socialism is generally understood to mean the government is empowered to regulate the economy, including social welfare services such as health care.

As such, far-right conservatives like Barth should demand that Medicare — the widely accepted federal health insurance program for senior citizens — be scrapped.



Medicare recipients have “earned” the insurance, whereas Medicaid is a handout for laggards.

Sadly, that’s the predominant thinking among those opposed to providing an additional 152,000 of our poor and indigent adequate coverage.

Rep. Barth also said, “I know we should be learning from the states that actually have done this and have repetitive errors,” without citing any such regrets.

Of the 40 states that have expanded the program over the past 120 years, none have reversed course.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican and chairwoman of a House committee that heard the latest Medicaid expansion bill on Wednesday, said the expanded program would “displace people from their private plans onto a government program that will stretch the state budget and withhold funds from other vital projects.”

None of that is true.

These people don’t have “private plans,” through employers or otherwise. 

If only.

And Landwehr’s argument flies in the face of what is currently happening in our county jails and state correctional facilities.

According to testimony by Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, the medical costs of caring for inmates is prohibitive primarily because under current law the state terminates Medicaid coverage for those incarcerated, leaving local municipalities to pick up the tab. 

If Medicaid were expanded, it would provide untold relief for local taxpayers, Easter said.

Kansas also would come out on the positive side of the ledger. If expanded, the federal funds would cover the $715 million cost, wipe out the state’s costs and cover an additional $62 million in other social services spending.

Such aid would also ensure that rural hospitals and mental health clinics can keep their doors open.

In testimony against expansion, Dean Clancy of Americans for Prosperity, said it would take away funds from “truly needy patients.”

That’s not so.

Expansion means that for the first time in their lives, thousands of Kansans would have a shot at adequate healthcare. Under the current system, you have to be desperately poor — a family of four can make no more than $11,856 — to qualify for assistance.

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