Opinion Columns & Blogs

E.L. Lee Kinch: Expanding Medicaid is a moral question

The issue of the expansion of Medicaid coverage to 150,000 low-income Kansans is perhaps the issue that best illustrates the callous indifference of the Brownback administration to the plight of the disadvantaged.

The administration, speaking through its deputy director of communications, believes that support for expansion of Medicaid coverage is “morally reprehensible” (Oct. 7 Eagle). The scope of the governor’s indictment is, to be charitable, breathtaking inasmuch as 64 percent of Kansans and 58 percent of Kansas Republicans support expansion of Medicaid, according to a recent poll. Moreover, about 30 governors, including Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, also support expansion of Medicaid.

Gov. Sam Brownback is right about one thing – that the question of the expansion of Medicaid is a moral issue. The uninsured are suffering and dying due to their inability to access affordable health care. Health care researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York predicted in January 2014 that the refusal to expand Medicaid would result in up to 3,000 premature and avoidable deaths in Texas and 17,000 deaths nationwide.

The governor’s indictment would also condemn the Kansas Hospital Association, which projects that by 2020 Medicaid expansion will create about 4,000 new jobs and add more than $300 million in personal income annually to the Kansas economy.

Moreover, a recent analysis of the Kansas Health Institute concludes that expansion would provide Kansas hospitals with nearly $100 million more a year than they will lose in Medicare reimbursement reductions.

One wonders whether the governor and his allies are aware of the fact that the federal government is legally bound to pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion through the end of 2016 and no less than 90 percent of the cost thereafter.

The KHA has a ticker on its website disclosing the amount of federal funds that Kansas has lost by not expanding Medicaid coverage since 2014. It has passed $770 million.

Moreover, 55 rural hospitals across the nation have closed and another 283 are at risk, including 15 in Kansas, according to the National Rural Hospital Association.

The refusal of Brownback and his radical conservative allies to expand Medicaid coverage is a product of two factors: their fear of political retribution by the Koch empire and adamantine ideology that will not yield to reason. They do not believe that government has a responsibility to improve the human condition. Theirs is truly a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

E.L. Lee Kinch of Derby is state chairman of the Kansas Democratic Party.