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Oct. 22, 2013
TOPEKA Democrat Paul Davis is not making Medicaid expansion a front-and-center issue in his campaign to unseat Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
It’s an issue that could get forced onto the campaign agenda in the coming months as thousands of uninsured Kansans realize that the federal health reform law won’t help them gain medical coverage because the state’s GOP leaders have chosen against it.
Brownback and Republican legislative leaders had the opportunity earlier this year to approve the Medicaid expansion called for in the Affordable Care Act, but chose not to, citing concerns about the program’s future cost.
KHI News Service
As a result, an estimated 58,000 to 85,000 low-income Kansans are expected to go without health insurance coverage in 2014 because they will remain ineligible for Medicaid but are too poor to qualify for federal subsidies to help buy private insurance through the new Obamacare marketplace.
Medical providers may also push to make expansion a campaign issue. An analysis done for the Kansas Hospital Association concluded that expanding Medicaid eligibility would inject another $3 billion into the state economy and create 4,000 jobs by 2020.
Rejecting expansion will cost Kansas an estimated $5.3 billion in federal aid between 2013 and 2022, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
During the 2013 legislative session, Davis — the House minority leader, who has represented Lawrence since 2003 — criticized Brownback for not joining conservative Republican governors in New Jersey, Ohio, Florida and other states in calling for Medicaid expansion.
Those governors, said Davis, are “saying I’m going to put the people of my state above whatever political considerations are out there. And I’m disappointed that (Brownback) has decided to continue hurling the political football on this issue rather than doing what I think is the right thing for the state.”
KHI News Service
Davis didn’t mention Medicaid expansion Tuesday during a rally at a Topeka High School to introduce his running mate, Jill Docking of Wichita. But in response to a question after the event he said, “Certainly Medicaid expansion is an issue that a lot of Kansans are interested in and we’ll be talking about it during the campaign.”
Brownback, an opponent of Obamacare since his time in the U.S. Senate, has repeatedly said he is concerned about the potential costs of expansion. The reform law obligates the federal government to pay the full cost for those newly eligible for Medicaid during the first three years of Obamacare and 90 percent after that — versus the roughly 60 percent of costs the federal government currently pays. But Brownback has said he isn’t convinced that the federal government can afford to keep its funding promises.
Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, spoke with reporters after the Davis campaign event. He predicted the Republican majority in the Kansas House would continue to oppose expansion.
“My sense — and I can’t speak for the governor because I’m not on his staff — is that he is against it (expansion) because he doesn’t know what the state’s future liability under it will be," Barker said. “He said he wants the Legislature to approve it and I believe the House is not going to approve it so Medicaid is not going to expand.”
Though the state won’t take part in the first year of expansion, Brownback hasn’t ruled out the possibility of participating later.
Such ambiguity isn’t fair to voters, Davis said.
“I’m just not sure what the governor’s position is because he’s said he’s constantly undecided about this,” Davis said. “I think he needs to take a position.”
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