Governor Kelly launches statewide tour to support Medicaid Expansion
WINFIELD, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly launched a statewide tour to support Medicaid Expansion.
Officials with the Office of the Governor said on Wednesday, Sept. 20, outside William Newton Hospital, Governor Laura Kelly launched her “Healthy Workers, Health Economy” tour to rally Kansans statewide in support of her top priority for the 2024 Legislative Session, Medicaid Expansion. Throughout the fall, Governor Kelly will travel across the state to share how expanding access to health insurance will reduce costs for every Kansan, preserve and strengthen rural health care, and make Kansas more economically competitive.
Officials with the Office of the Governor indicated Governor Kelly has been a long-time supporter of Medicaid Expansion. This is her first statewide tour to encourage 78% of Kansans who support expansion to pressure state lawmakers to force the issue to a vote in the spring.
“Expanding Medicaid and ensuring that every Kansan has access to affordable, high-quality health care is the smartest, sanest way to keep our state moving forward,” Governor Kelly said. “When the legislature reconvenes in January, I will propose Medicaid expansion for the sixth time so Kansas can achieve a healthier workforce and a healthier economy. I encourage every Kansan to call their legislator and tell them to demand that legislative leadership give them a chance to vote for Medicaid expansion.”
Officials with the Office of the Governor said seven rural hospitals in Kansans have closed since states have had the option to expand Medicaid, and 60 out of Kansas’ 104 remaining rural hospitals are at risk of shutting their doors, which is a higher percentage than any other state in the country. To emphasize that risk, Governor Kelly made the announcement at William Newton Hospital in Winfield, one of the small rural hospitals that would benefit from Medicaid Expansion. She was joined by William Newton Hospital CEO Brian Barta.
“Kansas is one of ten states that continues to lag behind the rest of our country to expand Medicaid and address healthcare inequity for many hardworking Kansans. We greatly appreciate Governor Kelly’s persistence and dedication to move Kansas toward passing commonsense legislation to utilize federal funding that will cover 90% of the cost to expand Medicaid,” said Barta. “It is estimated that Medicaid expansion will help over 150,000 Kansans and continued failure by the state legislature to support Medicaid expansion undermines the physical, emotional, and economic health for all of Kansas.”
According to officials with the Office of the Governor, census data shows that nearly 140,000 Kansans work but don’t have health insurance. To illustrate how a lack of health coverage impacts the Kansas workforce, Governor Kelly was also joined by Chandra Dickson, a Wichita resident whose mother, Jo Anne, passed away in 2016. Working as a waitress and doing other jobs to make ends meet, Jo Anne made slightly too much to qualify for KanCare, the program Kansas uses to administer Medicaid. Without health insurance, she delayed getting treatment for her cancer until it was too late. She would have been one of the Kansans who benefited from Medicaid Expansion.
“Watching my mother be unable to access health care and then ultimately die because of lack of access to lifesaving treatment was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It wasn’t fair to her or my family,” Dickson said. “I want to see Medicaid Expansion in Kansas because everyone should have access to health care no matter their life circumstances or ability to pay. Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do for the state and its citizens.”
Officials with the Office of the Governor indicated Expanding Medicaid would also have an effect on Kansas’ economy, which would create 23,000 new jobs and create a healthier workforce. Governor Kelly was joined by Alex Gottlob, a small business owner with several employees who fall into the current KanCare coverage gap.
“As an employer of both full time and seasonal employees, my wife and I see first-hand the challenges related to health care that our employees face and how it oftentimes affects their performance at work,” said Gottlob, Owner of Gottlob Lawn & Landscape. “Insurance costs grow more and more out of reach for small companies such as ours. Medicaid Expansion would not only benefit individuals but has the ability to bridge the gap when small businesses are not able to provide insurance.”
Officials with the Office of the Governor said by law, 90% of the costs to expand Medicaid would be funded by the federal government with the state providing 10% of funds to match. Kansas has left more than $6.5 billion federal dollars on the table while waiting for Medicaid Expansion, including nearly $80 million so far in 2023.
Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins issued a joint statement reacting to Governor Kelly’s remarks in Winfield.
“The Governor’s Welfare Express Tour will derail the state budget. Big government is not and will never be the answer to increasing health care access to Kansans. We have learned from other states that expanding Medicaid does not solve the problems it promises but actually creates more in the form of unsustainable increases in costs to taxpayers and more government dependency when we desperately need more, not less people in the workforce.”
“People naturally think that Medicaid expansion means expanding services to the elderly and disabled but in reality, those folks are already covered as are low-income families and several other truly needy populations. Medicaid expansion extends services to able-bodied adults who either choose not to work or are already eligible for a free or reduced private healthcare plan and expansion passes that additional cost burden directly onto the backs of Kansas taxpayers who are already strapped due to inflation. When explained correctly, this is something Kansans are overwhelmingly against. Republicans are laser focused on eliminating Medicaid waiting lists to ensure the truly needy get the services they so desperately need.”
Officials with the Office of the Governor noted Kansans can call their state legislators at 800-432-3924.
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