TOPEKA — The Brownback administration struck back at former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday after she criticized its handling of Medicaid.
Comments Sebelius made to the Lawrence Journal-World were “wildly inaccurate,” said Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability.
Bruffett’s response to Sebelius is the latest contribution to an argument that has dominated Kansas politics since a Brownback staffer sent an e-mail calling Medicaid expansion “morally reprehensible” earlier this week. That e-mail contended that expanding Medicaid prioritizes “able-bodied adults … who choose not to work” over disabled Kansans.
The e-mail, set to Brownback’s grassroots supporters, got national attention, with some commentators saying the majority of people who would benefit from Medicaid expansion would be people who work but whose employers do not provide health insurance. Others have taken issue with the administration citing concern for the disabled community as a reason not to expand Medicaid.
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Brownback has said he will not expand Medicaid to cover 150,000 uninsured Kansans until the state gets disabled Kansans already on Medicaid off a waiting list for home services.
States can expand Medicaid coverage to more residents under the Affordable Care Act. Kansas is among 20 states that have chosen not to expand so far.
Sebelius, who as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services spearheaded implementation of the Affordable Care Act before resigning last year, told the Journal-World that the comments from Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby were “just nuts” and “flat-out wrong.”
“I think what the governor is probably talking about is that they have built an incredible waiting list because of budget shortfalls,” Sebelius told the newspaper. “And to somehow suggest that this is the moral high ground, to leave people without health care is, to me, just an unbelievable argument to make.”
Bruffett blamed Sebelius for policies that caused the waiting list to grow in the first place, and praised Brownback’s efforts to reverse that.
“The Governor and the Legislature have made significant investments in increased funding to provide services to people with disabilities by investing in bringing people off waiting lists and into services, more than $65 million to date,” she said.
Bruffett said funding for services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities “has increased every year the Brownback administration has been in office.”
“We remain committed to providing the services needed to allow individuals with disabilities to continue to live in their homes and communities,” she said. “Placing a priority on ensuring services are available to people with disabilities – including some who have been waiting since the previous administration – is very much the right thing to do.”