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Poll finds widespread Kansas support for Medicaid expansion

By Dave Ranney | February 26, 2014

The advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society today released the results of a recent poll that found widespread support among Kansas voters for expanding the state's Medicaid program.

“It’s pretty clear that Kansans recognize the importance of Medicaid and think it should be expanded,” said Reagan Cussimanio, government relations director in Kansas for the society’s Cancer Action Network.

According to poll, 72 percent of the state’s registered voters favor expanding the program, which is known in Kansas as KanCare, including 59 percent of Republicans; 92 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents.

Twenty-four percent of those polled expressed opposition.

American Cancer Society

One of the questions from the poll.

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Almost three of every four respondents said they supported closing the so-called ‘donut hole’ or "gap" that keeps adults with incomes between 32 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level – roughly $350 and $1,300 a month for a single adult – from being eligible for either Medicaid or the subsidies available to purchase private health plans through the insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

The poll, conducted between Dec. 16 and Dec. 18 by a national firm, Public Opinion Strategies, was based on calls to 500 randomly selected registered voters. One-fourth of the calls involved cell phones.

Cussimanio said the survey’s margin of error was “plus or minus 4.38 percent.”

Kansas is one of 23 states that have not chosen to expand Medicaid.

Gov. Sam Brownback has said his administration might be open to discussing the market-based approaches to Medicaid expansion being taken by some other states such as Iowa. But he also has said he fears the potential costs to the state should the federal government backtrack on its pledge to cover most of the costs for states that choose to expand the program.

As yet, Cussimanio said, neither the governor’s office nor legislative leaders have expressed an interest in debating the issue during this year’s legislative session.

The Cancer Action Network, she said, supports Medicaid expansion because it would lead to thousands of low-income Kansans being eligible for cancer screenings and treatments.

The poll was independent of the ongoing advocacy efforts of the Kansas Medicaid Access Coalition, which includes about 50 organizations that are urging state policymakers to broaden the program.

”I can’t say I’m shocked by the results,” said Sean Gatewood, a coalition spokesman. “It’s not like we’re going to get some kind of tax break by not expanding Medicaid. We’re not. We’re still going to pay for it, it’s just that we won’t be getting back all the benefits.

“The fact that you’ve got 72 percent saying they want to get what they’re paying for isn’t too surprising,” Gatewood said. “It’s common sense.”

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