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Eagle editorial: Push for Medicaid expansion

  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, at 12 a.m.

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The public and state lawmakers shouldn’t accept Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to oppose a federal expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. The health and well-being of too many Kansans are at stake, in addition to the economic health of the state and its hospitals.

Brownback had been sitting on the fence on expansion, neither supporting it nor completely ruling it out. But Monday his office issued a statement saying he wouldn’t recommend it this year.

Previously, Brownback raised doubts about whether the federal government would keep its funding promises as an excuse not to expand. On Monday he argued that even if the state has to pay only a small amount for the expansion, that’s money that could go to providing care to disabled Kansans who are on waiting lists for services.

“That’s not a moral choice,” he said.

Was it a moral choice to pass large tax cuts for the wealthiest Kansans when disabled Kansans were waiting on services? But now it’s a moral choice to block low-income Kansans from getting health insurance?

Failing to expand Medicaid also hurts the Kansas economy. A study commissioned by the Kansas Hospital Association estimated that expansion would inject more than $3 billion into the state’s economy and create 4,000 jobs over the next seven years.

Not expanding also costs hospitals. That’s because the Affordable Care Act reduces payments to hospitals that serve low-income uninsured patients (in expectation that these patients would be joining Medicaid).

Because Brownback and the Legislature blocked expansion last year, about 78,000 low-income Kansans are already in the coverage gap of not qualifying for either Medicaid or the insurance premium subsidies offered by the ACA. Maybe if Brownback and lawmakers went without insurance this year, they would show more concern for others.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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