WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Governor-Elect Laura Kelley, a Democrat who has spent time in the Kansas Senate, made it clear on her campaign trail the Medicaid system in Kansas needs expansion.
This week some lawmakers are already in Topeka working to file bills.
“Conservatives are going to have a difficult decision to make whether they are going to continue their strong opposition or whether they want to mold a bill that will look something to look more like a free-market bill,” says WSU Political Science Chair, Neal Allen. “Indiana, Pennsylvania and a lot of other states have passed a modified Medicaid expansion that has work requirements and other kinds of changes that free market Conservatives like better.”
Republican Representative Emil Bergquist of Park City says Medicaid expansion could be a tough sell to both the House and Senate in Kansas.
“My hope is we can continue to work towards improvements without expanding Medicaid,” says Bergquist.
Bergquist points out many Republicans have concerns about the Federal Government picking up roughly 90-percent of the tab and Kansas funding the remainder. He says some are asking what would happen if the Federal Government would stop funding, leaving Kansas to pay it all.
One Independent says the solution may be in the writing of any bill that makes it up for a vote.
“We need to be able, if the federal government pulls out… we need to find a way, and it needs to be in the statute, that we can pull out if the federal government does,” says Independent John Doll of Garden City.
Doll has worked with Republicans and Democrats in the past, and says he hopes pragmatism will win out in the debate he says is sure to happen over Medicaid in Kansas this year.
Emil Bergquist is on a health committee. Fellow Republican Gene Sullentrop of Wichita says he’s not sold on expansion.
“”I think we need to be very careful in everything we look at. In other states the costs have far outweighed projections. We need to be careful and not add to our cash flow issues,” says Sullentrop. “We may tank (state finances) again in a couple of years.”
Sullentrop also wants long-term projections and data on Federal Government cutbacks and/or projections for Medicaid and Medicare before the state looks into expansion.
“I do think (expansion) gets a good hard look this year,” says Allen.
Doll says there will add ons needed if it is to be sold in the House.
“You know it could pass but it’s going to pass with some things on it, I think, like work requirements,” says Doll. “Which might not be a bad thing but I think it’s very important if they do that, that it’s tied to the unemployment rate.”
Lawmakers get back to work, officially, on the 14th of January.