Derrick Sontag: State shouldn’t expand Medicaid

02/07/2013 12:00 AM

02/06/2013 6:46 PM

Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators in Kansas must make an important decision. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2012, Kansas must decide whether it will vastly expand its Medicaid rolls.

Adding hundreds of thousands of Kansas residents to Medicaid is the exact wrong policy for our state.

The desire to expand Medicaid is well-intentioned, but will do more harm than good. The plan ignores the realities of the Medicaid system.

Medicaid is a broken, costly system traditionally serving low-income populations focusing on pregnant women, children and the disabled. Its expansion is a key component of the president’s health care law.

Unfortunately, Medicaid is rife with problems. Medicaid’s unique structure – jointly managed by the state and the federal government – results in subpar outcomes for covered families.

Medicaid combines countless restrictions and paperwork requirements for providers while paying significantly less than other insurance plans. This results in a lose-lose situation for providers, forcing many out of the Medicaid market. A recent study found 32 percent of Kansas doctors won’t accept new Medicaid patients.

These problems lead to even bigger problems for Medicaid patients and families. Studies have shown that the health outcomes for Medicaid patients lag those on private insurance or Medicare.

Adding hundreds of thousands of people to this system will only make these problems worse and does not qualify as real health reform.

Even if Medicaid wasn’t a broken system, Kansas can’t afford to expand coverage.

According to the president’s health care law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of expenses for newly eligible individuals for the first three years, stepping down to 90 percent by 2020. This seems like a great deal for Kansas. The state can leverage federal funding to provide for its residents. But not so fast.

The federal government can’t afford these promises. And even if the government honors its generous promises, Kansas taxpayers will pay an additional $525 million in the next 10 years just for this expanded population.

Instead of subjecting Kansans to a broken, costly system, Kansas leaders should refuse to expand the Medicaid rolls in the Sunflower State.

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