Kansas Governor Laura Kelly welcomed the members of the Governor’s Council on Medicaid Expansion to the Statehouse today (Monday, Sept. 30), calling expansion the No. 1 priority of her administration for the 2020 session. Expansion has repeatedly passed the Kansas House only to be bottled up in the Senate by Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) and Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), both of whom remain steadfastly opposed to the idea.
Polls show overwhelming support for expansion among the public and a majority of legislators in both chambers support it only to have the issue killed repeatedly by Wagle and Denning who refuse to allow a vote on the Senate floor.
The Council is chaired by Hemi Tewarson, director of the Center for Best Practices at the non-partisan National Governors Association. Members of the Council include representatives of health care advocacy organizations, insurance industry representatives, and incumbent legislators on both sides of the issue.
Today was devoted to presentations starting with an overview of the Medicaid program by Ms. Tewarson and an overview of the program in Kansas by Adam Proffitt, director of Kansas Medicaid.
This was followed by a detailed examination by Cindy Mann, managing director of Manatt Health, of what has happened around the country since expansion was first allowed. Mann gave detailed information about the impact of the program in the 33 states that have passed and implemented expansion and debunked many of the myths repeated by those who oppose expansion.
In the afternoon, the Council heard from two states. First up was Jessica Rhoades, the Health Policy Advisor to Democratic Governor Steve Bullock of Montana. She was followed by Greg Moody who served as an advisor to Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Both told remarkable stories of successful implementation that has resulted in dramatic reductions in the number of uninsured citizens in those states as well as improved health outcomes.
Most interesting in the state stories were the other savings the states were able to get thanks to expansion. Both states mentioned savings to the Department or Corrections when dealing with inmates’ health needs and dramatic reductions in uncompensated care such as when uninsured people use the emergency room for care. Also noted were increases in employment and better fiscal stability for low-income families.
Moody also noted that the regions in Ohio that benefited the most from expansion were the most conservative areas where a majority of voters supported President Donald Trump in 2016.
The Council is tasked with considering two key questions. First, what are the goals we wish to achieve in Kansas? And secondly, what can we learn from other states that will help or hinder the achievement of those goals?
Kelly asked the Council to craft three to five broad guiding principles around which the legislative debate can take place. “We must get this right,” she said.
The Council will meet again on October 29.