Expansion proponents left with no choice but to stage Senate protest

For seven years, and counting, ultra-conservatives continue to shun all efforts of compromise.



March 12, 2020 - 10:18 AM

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Kansas Republican lawmakers berated protestors Tuesday for taking such extreme actions as lying on the floor before the Senate chambers and effectively blocking the entrance.

“I don’t think it helps their cause,” commented Sen. Richard Hilderbrand of Galena. “It’s not the way to get people to change their opinion.”

Agreed. So let’s sit around the table and thoughtfully discuss Medicaid expansion.

Oh wait. That’s what Sen. Jim Denning, Speaker of the House, and Gov. Laura Kelly did last fall. And lo and behold, they came up with a compromise. And members of the House passed it.

And were it to go for a vote in the Senate, it would pass there, too.

Instead, the legislation is being held up by Senate President Susan Wagle, who in her quest for the U.S. Senate seat, refuses to discuss expansion until lawmakers agree to put an anti-abortion amendment on the November ballot.

No, the two have nothing to do with each other.

And yes, it’s incredibly selfish — and one might argue hurting Wagle politically — to hold Medicaid expansion hostage to something totally unrelated.

For seven years proponents have tried every which way to persuade ultra-conservatives that saving lives is worth the cost of providing health care to an estimated 130,000 disadvantaged Kansans.

And for just as long, ultra-conservatives have refused to believe those costs — of which the federal government will pay 90% — are worth it.

Kansas is one of 14 states that remain out of the loop — a distinct minority.

Ultra-conservatives such as Wagle go out of their way to demonize Medicaid, and all those who depend on it, by referring to it as “socialized government” — the current catchphrase thanks to Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders.

What they’re conveniently omitting is that Medicare and Social Security operate on the same premise. All three programs depend on U.S. taxpayer money, yet most conservatives don’t begrudge, at least publicly, senior citizens for relying on the stipends.

WITH JUST a few weeks left in an exceptionally unproductive legislative session, it gets harder and harder to believe the senator from Galena is open to discussion. But if he is, there’s a coalition of Republicans and Democrats waiting at the table. 

Until then, proponents for Medicaid expansion feel they have no recourse but to get in the face of lawmakers. After seven years, they’ve tried everything else.

— Susan Lynn

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