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Feb. 26, 2013
TOPEKA A majority of Kansans support expanding Medicaid to help low-income people gain health coverage, according to a poll done in December for the Kansas Hospital Association and released this week.
According to the survey results, 60 percent of the state's residents would support expanding Medicaid to include persons earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $15,420. Expansion was opposed by 24 percent of those surveyed and 16 percent said they weren’t sure.
Kansas currently has one of the most restrictive Medicaid programs in the nation. Generally, it covers pregnant women, children, the elderly and the disabled who are poor. Adults without children are not eligible regardless how little they make.
The survey, which sampled views of 610 Kansans, was conducted for the hospital association by the ETC Institute of Olathe. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Support for expansion increased slightly to 62 percent when those polled were told that it would increase federal Medicaid spending in the state by $800 million over three years. But that additional 2 percent is considered negligible given that it is within the survey’s margin of error.
More than 70 percent said that keeping federal Medicaid dollars from going to other states was a good reason to expand the program in Kansas.
Tom Bell, the hospital association’s chief executive, said if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid it would result in “real cuts to hospitals that are currently serving as the primary safety net for many uninsured individuals.”
Photo courtesy Kansas Hospital Association
As originally passed, the federal Affordable Care Act would have required all states to expand their Medicaid programs. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law made the expansion optional for states.
Several Republican governors who oppose the federal health reform law have nevertheless announced recently that their states will implement the Medicaid expansion.
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who also opposed the law, has not made a decision about opening up the program, but has questioned whether the federal government can be trusted to keep its funding promises. The law requires the federal government to shoulder expansion costs for three years. After that, the federal share would gradually drop to 90 percent, where it would remain.
The Brownback administration has estimated that the state’s share of those expansion costs would total approximately $600 million from 2014 to 2023. However, the same estimate predicts that state Medicaid costs would go up by approximately $513 million over the same period even if it doesn’t expand eligibility. That would happen, the report says, because more Kansans who already are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled would become aware of the program and sign up.
Last week, the hospital association kicked-off its lobbying campaign in support of Medicaid expansion by releasing its own report, which estimated the expansion would increase federal spending in Kansas by $3 billion by 2020 and create 4,000 new jobs.
The Legislature hasn’t acted on the expansion issue, yet. There has been a bill introduced that would authorize it but there also is a resolution being considered that states the will of the Legislature is to oppose it.
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