Opinion Columns & Blogs

Lori Lawrence: State’s poor are more important than cattle

Gov. Sam Brownback received a petition with almost 11,000 signatures asking him to expand Medicaid.
Gov. Sam Brownback received a petition with almost 11,000 signatures asking him to expand Medicaid.

A group of five Kansans from Kansas City, Merriam, Olathe, Topeka and Wichita went to the Capitol on May 7 to present Gov. Sam Brownback with a petition with almost 11,000 signatures asking him to please expand Medicaid for the working poor in Kansas. Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, shares our concern, so she set up this meeting and stood with us during the presentation.

The governor listened attentively and seemed to be concerned for the welfare of Kansans. But then he said that he wanted to be sure that all people with disabilities in the state were able to get in-home care first.

Both of these goals are admirable and needed, but they are not the same issue.

Those who need in-home care are already receiving Medicaid to meet their medical needs. There are about 182,000 nondisabled people who do not have any health coverage in this state. These are working Kansans who do not have enough income to qualify for the Affordable Care Act insurance. Why is he ignoring this massive need?

The governor applies for federal disaster aid the minute we have a snowstorm that threatens cattle, but he refuses to accept millions of our own tax dollars for the poor of Kansas. By 2020 he will have refused $2.2 billion that could have benefited our people and our hospitals. That is money that we have already paid in taxes but is not coming back to our state.

Many in the Legislature realize this is wrong, but Brownback’s policy is to not accept this money under any circumstances, and they are following in his footsteps. Based on estimates from a Harvard University study last year, this is causing the deaths of about 330 Kansans per year who do not get access to health care. These low-income Kansans must rely only on “sick care” at emergency rooms, which can’t by law refuse to help them.

Brownback’s philosophy is immoral and costly to the citizens of Kansas. I would hope that Kansans who are too poor for the federal insurance exchange but too wealthy for current Kansas Medicaid eligibility are at least as important to the governor as cattle when it comes to federal funding.

It is our tax money paying other states for expanded Medicaid. We want our money back.

Lori Lawrence lives in Wichita.