It’s easy to get swept up in the politics of the Affordable Care Act. What is more difficult is putting politics aside to ensure that the requirements of the law are implemented in a way that best serves the people of Kansas, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld it. But that’s what we must do if we want a healthy and prosperous state.
One of the most talked-about provisions of the ACA is the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid provides health care coverage for poor children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. The expansion would allow adults without disabilities who earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level – $14,856 annually – to participate in the program.
As Kansas contemplates how it will move forward with the expansion of Medicaid, there are a number of practical considerations.
The expansion has the potential to reduce the number of uninsured Kansans by providing access to health care coverage for more than 150,000 people. Kansas children who are eligible for Medicaid but not currently enrolled in the program are also likely to benefit. Studies demonstrate that providing parents with coverage increases the likelihood that children will enroll and utilize health care services that are important for healthy development.
Without a Medicaid expansion, many Kansans will continue to go without routine and preventive care and instead rely on costly emergency room visits, driving up the cost of health care for everyone.
Kansas must also consider the impact of the Medicaid expansion on hospitals that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. Currently, hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of uninsured people receive federal money to help offset the cost of providing uncompensated care. These supplemental payments are slated to be phased out starting in 2014. In 2010, Kansas hospitals received more than $40 million.
It stands to reason that if Kansas does not expand Medicaid, these providers will face a tremendous financial burden that will be passed on to other health care consumers.
Finally, Kansas must consider the federal funding that will support expansion of Medicaid. For the first three years of the expansion, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of providing Medicaid coverage to newly eligible individuals. By 2020, Kansas will be responsible for 10 percent of the costs.
Without a Medicaid expansion, not only will hundreds of thousands of Kansans remain uninsured, but Kansas will leave federal dollars – including those contributed by Kansas taxpayers – on the table for other states.
While a few governors in other states across the nation have been quick to reject the Medicaid expansion, state leaders should put politics aside and take the course that best protects the health and economic security of all Kansans.