Prairie Politics

Governor’s press office calls Medicaid expansion ‘morally reprehensible’

Brownback
Brownback Wichita

Gov. Sam Brownback’s press office blasted Medicaid expansion as an “Obamacare ruse” in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday, signaling that the governor won’t back expansion anytime soon.

Melika Willoughby, the governor’s deputy director of communications, pushed back against the claim that the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid helped cause the closure of Mercy Hospital in Independence.

“Those who say Medicaid Expansion would save the Independence Hospital are lying. It wouldn’t,” Willoughby said in an e-mail to the governor’s supporters. “Instead, this Obamacare ruse funnels money to big city hospitals, creates a new entitlement class, and fails to rightly prioritize service for disabled citizens.”

Hospitals have sought to expand Medicaid, which provides health care for low-income and disabled Kansans, under the Affordable Care Act. Via Christi, the largest hospital system in the state, has said it will continue to push for expansion in the next legislative session because of declining revenue.

Willoughby’s e-mail comes as the administration is encouraging state workers to sign their children up for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP, something only possible through the Affordable Care Act.

The premiums under the state health plan will shoot up in January and funding for a health subsidy for low-wage state workers will be reduced as the state looks to reduce costs.

The “goal is to minimize the effect of any changes” for state workers’ families, said Sara Belfry, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. She blamed the rising premiums in part on the Affordable Care Act.

Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, accused the Brownback administration of hypocrisy.

“The way this administration has condemned the Affordable Care Act, I think it is highly hypocritical that the administration has utilized the Affordable Care Act and the things it has allowed to provide coverage for Kansas children rather than making sure that people who work and live in Kansas can make a sufficient living to provide that for their kids themselves,” she added.

This is not the only time the administration has turned to the Affordable Care Act to help its finances.

Brownback used $55 million from a Medicaid pharmacy rebate program, possible through the Affordable Care Act, to help plug the state’s budget hole in December. In July, the administration used $17 million in additional federal funding for CHIP to reduce the state’s contribution to the program.

Even so, Willoughby’s e-mail – which was originally sent out to supporters from Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s account by mistake – makes clear that the administration has no plans to expand Medicaid and bring coverage to 150,000 uninsured Kansans.

“Liberals know the political toxicity of Obamacare, so they’ve continued their call for government run healthcare under the name of Medicaid Expansion,” Willoughby said.

“This masquerading component of Obamacare is riddled with fiscal solvency issues, but Governor Brownback’s primary objection is a moral one: Medicaid Expansion creates new entitlements for able-bodied adults without dependents, prioritizing those who choose not to work before intellectually, developmentally, and physically disabled, the frail and elderly, and those struggling with mental health issues,” she continued. “This isn’t just bad policy, this is morally reprehensible.”

The administration has repeatedly said it will not expand Medicaid until it removes disabled Kansans already on Medicaid from the waiting list for home services. Critics have said these two policies are unrelated and that the waiting lists should not be used as an excuse to not expand Medicaid.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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