TOPEKA — A new coalition promised Tuesday to lobby Kansas officials to expand the state’s Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul, even if the Republican-controlled Legislature passes a resolution opposing it.
The Kansas Medicaid Access Coalition launched its pro-expansion lobbying campaign with a Statehouse news conference. The coalition includes more than 30 advocacy and health care groups, including AARP Kansas, Kansas Action for Children, the Kansas Mental Health Coalition and the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Medicaid provides health coverage for the needy and disabled. The 2010 federal health care overhaul championed by President Obama encourages states to expand their programs by promising to pay almost all of the cost.
Many Republican legislators strongly oppose the federal health care law and are skeptical the federal government will keep its funding promises. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback also is a vocal critic of the overhaul but has said he’ll leave a decision about expanding Medicaid to lawmakers.
A resolution opposing an expansion is before the House, but no debate has been scheduled. Anna Lambertson, the pro-expansion coalition’s coordinator, said it will lobby at the Statehouse and get groups’ members to contact lawmakers in hopes of stopping the resolution, but if it passes, “That’s certainly not the end of the road.”
The Rev. Barbara Gibson, deacon at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wichita, said, “Shame on us as advocates if we can’t help the legislators save face and find a way to change that stand-firm position, to find a way to make it easier for our legislators to say yes to Medicaid expansion.”
Brownback’s administration commissioned a recent study saying a Medicaid expansion would cost the state $600 million over the next 10 years. The Kansas Hospital Association also commissioned a study showing the expansion would be a small, net financial gain for the state.
Both studies assume the federal government keeps its promise to fund all of the expansion through 2016 and to cover at least 90 percent of the cost after that. Brownback has expressed doubts about the commitment, and many GOP legislators believe the federal government will be forced to back off as it attempts to close its budget deficit.
“We’re on the hook,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, who backs the resolution. “When the carrot goes away, all you get is the stick, so that’s the scary part.”