Politics & Government

Senate Republican leaders ‘never even tried’ to help uninsured Kansans, governor says

Gov. Laura Kelly blasted Senate Republican leadership Friday for refusing to negotiate on Medicaid expansion, calling their opposition “politics at its worst.”

In her first news conference since the end of the legislative session, Kelly said the Senate clearly had the votes to pass a Medicaid bill, but that the measure was bottled up in committee by Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and other conservative Republicans.

She said Medicaid supporters couldn’t muster enough votes to override them and get it to the floor.

“Because of these individuals, thousands of Kansans will go without health care for another year,” Kelly said. “For some, a year without health care could very well make the difference between life and death.”

Medicaid expansion would provide health insurance an estimated 150,000 Kansans who fall in a coverage gap. They are mostly working people in low-wage jobs, who make too much money to qualify for benefits under the current rules, but not enough for subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

In a written response to Kelly, Wagle derided Medicaid expansion as “the Bernie Sanders-endorsed expansion of Obamacare which would collapse our state’s budget. “

“Instead of constantly pointing fingers, Governor Kelly should come to the table so we can find real solutions that won’t lead to another tax increase on Kansas families,” Wagle said.

Kelly said she repeatedly tried to get the GOP leaders to the table.

“I offered one compromise after another to get Medicaid expansion across the finish line,” she said. “I allowed other health care policies I opposed to become law in a good-faith effort to meet in the middle. But they never wanted to negotiate. They never even tried.”

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.