Medicaid expansion cleared its first key hurdle this week when Wichita Rep. Dan Hawkins, the chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, agreed to allow a debate and committee vote next week.
Committee members should heed the compelling testimony they heard and send a bill to the full House.
More than 180 people and organizations urged lawmakers to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. The crowd was so large that dozens of chairs had to be set up in the hallway, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Surveys also show overwhelming public support. A poll recently released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network found that 82 percent of Kansas voters favor Medicaid expansion.
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Many of the people testifying spoke of how expansion would enable about 150,000 low-income Kansans, most of whom are working, to obtain health insurance. It also would help hospitals and other providers recover some of the cost of their uncompensated care, which is especially critical for struggling rural hospitals.
Gary Plummer, CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, testified about the larger economic benefit of expansion.
“Expanding KanCare is a pro-growth policy that will bring hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Kansas annually, which ripples through the economy,” he said. “The state’s economy will grow by an additional $300 million per year.”
But the most compelling testimony came from individuals who shared about struggling without insurance.
Rob Freelove, CEO of Salina Family Healthcare Center, also focused his testimony on what matters most – and why lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback need to allow expansion.
“What we’re talking about is people’s lives,” he said. “People’s lives.”