New Kansas proposal breaks impasse on expanding Medicaid

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, center, answers questions from reporters about a new Medicaid expansion plan Thursday at the Statehouse in Topeka.

Governor Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning unveiled a bipartisan proposal for Medicaid expansion Thursday.

The plan shows a measure of compromise between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature, including provisions for job training and a reinsurance program designed to reduce premiums for private health insurance plans found on the marketplace exchange.

“Compromise is hard. It’s messy and it’s slow, but it is so worth it,” Kelly said during a press conference. “While this announcement does not automatically translate into a bill signing, I am more optimistic than ever that Kansas will reach that point.”

Although the House passed an expansion plan last year, Denning and other Senate Republicans refused to move the bill out of committee, citing concerns over potential costs and administration.

“In the spirit of compromise, we have a really good, complete plan,” Denning said.

A majority of Kansas lawmakers support some form of Medicaid expansion, which would extend coverage to an estimated 130,000 to 150,000 Kansas adults and children and unlock a billion dollars in annual federal funding. More than two dozen Republicans and Democrats, from both the House and Senate, stood with Kelly and Denning for the announcement at the Capitol.

Senator Jeff Longbine, a Republican from Emporia, attended Thursday’s press conference. He said he was optimistic that the bill would move successfully through the Senate. He said a number of compromises were made in order to come to an agreement that was favorable to both parties.

“There are some differences that were important that allowed the bipartisan agreement to come together,” Longbine said. “It does expand Medicaid in the State of Kansas up to 138 percent of federal poverty level. That is very, very important to the currently uninsured that fall within that category; it’s important to those who may be the working poor. Between Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning and the governor working out the details, a compromise was made. Not everybody got what they want, but I think we’ve developed a really good plan to the benefit of the most important Kansans who are left in a gap, but also this will be very beneficial to our medical providers, to mental health and to our hospitals.”

Longbine said the bill’s job training component would provide a pathway for unemployed individuals to obtain job training or employment via a job match program through the Department of Commerce. The goal, he said, is to get as many people employed as possible. Conservative Republicans at the Statehouse opposed to expansion had sought a rigid work mandate for able-bodied adults without children. Kelly and other Medicaid expansion advocates have stated such requirements are unnecessary barriers to coverage.

The bill also includes a $35 million annual hospital surcharge that was endorsed by the Kansas Hospital Association and has earned backing of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, the state’s largest Medicaid expansion coalition. Longbine said the plan will help lower the cost of the program to the state’s general fund while still providing additional revenue to the hospitals and providers.

Longbine said the Kelly-Denning bill also includes a reinsurance program that could reduce premiums for privately-insured Kansans by up to 20 percent.

“Those Kansans who make more than what would be covered by expanded Medicaid and, therefore, are not eligible would have some premium reduction on individual policies purchased on the ACA exchange,” Longbine said.

Longbine applauded the governor’s willingness to discuss a reinsurance provision, as that was something Kelly had voiced opposition to just last month during a visit to Newman Regional Health.

“I think that’s a very important component and I commend the governor for being open-minded enough to discuss that and realizing that it’s something that can be in the program,” he said.

The bill, which was set to be introduced today, could be voted on within a few weeks if it comes out of committee. With a number of co-sponsors and commitments to vote in favor of expansion, Longbine said he anticipates the bill would pass through the Senate if given the chance.

Representative Mark Schreiber, also a Republican from Emporia, said he had not yet heard many details about the bill, but was hopeful to see it come to the House for debate.

“I’m glad Sen. Denning and Gov. Kelly were able to meet and really negotiate out a plan that might work — I haven’t seen the details, but several of the pieces seem positive,” he said. “Whenever it shows up at the House, it’s going to be probably a similar debate that we’ve had for the last two or three years. There are some folks that just don’t want to see Medicaid expanded and they have their reasons for that. There are others — and I’m in that camp — that think we should do that. I think it has a good chance in the House, it’s just a matter of what’s in the bill when we see it and what comes over and when we can debate it.”

Schreiber said he was interested in learning more about the reinsurance program outlined in the bill.

“It’s an interesting concept and it sounds like it has that potential to hold down the premiums and costs of health insurance a little bit,” he said. “I’m hopeful there.”

Overall, he said the compromise was what good public policy was all about.

“I think that’s how good public policy occurs is when two opposing sides come together and work out the details,” Schreiber said. “Everybody feels like they protected their issues, but yet they understand that we need to do something. This sounds like a good compromise.”

If passed, the expansion goes into effect no later than Jan. 1, 2021.

“It’s a big win at the end of the day, if we get this passed through legislature,” Longbine said. “I’m optimistic and hopeful that we can get it through.”

(9) comments

Kansasforever

In 2015 ACA reported Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement fell 57.8 billion short of actual costs. Most rural hospitals in Kansas get at least 75% of their money from these payors. So for those who think this will save hospitals and add more jobs and economy, think again!

Kansasforever

Add too that they will now pay a surcharge to care for patients they lose money on.

Happy

Not so Aim_High, Brownback gave us all a tax break which benefited all working people in the state. Now most likely it will be taken back in the name of "we all have to sacrifice a little'. Nothing is free, there is always a price to be paid for free.

Aim_High

Kansas couldn't afford Brownbacks tax cuts, as they were at the expense of education, KPERS, highway funds, etc... His experiment decimated the state budget. New businesses didn't come, and current businesses just kept the extra cash instead of hiring new employees. The entire experiment has been deemed a complete failure by almost everybody, including republicans, with the exception of the extreme right wingers who still insist it would have worked "eventually". Brownbacks experiment taught us nothing is free, there is always a price to be paid for free. That price was a 350 million dollar hole.

Republicans were also fine with Brownback not paying into KPERS and using that money to help fill his budget hole... now we are hearing the same people whining "Don't Touch My KPERS" to the governor who is fixing Brownbacks mess. So Silly. Zero taxes is crazy, we should all have to sacrifice a little.

aulani

A tax break? For that to be true, the break would have to last a long, long time. I agree with Aim High, "we should all have to sacrifice a little." Before the screams of "welfare state" begin, the sacrifices are minimal. Those sacrificing still have their shirts on and are not having to wonder where their next meal is coming from.

Kansasforever

Not only will tax base increase but those hospital surcharges will be paid for by those with private insurance!

SnowGypsy

I hope Kelly and Longbine have thought about the increase in people coming from neighboring states seeking free insurance and how much that is going to cost. They are grossly underestimating the cost, and we all know when the state government underestimates their needs who ends up paying. At least, the moving companies will see a profit from those taxpayers fed up moving out and those seeking the free insurance by moving into the state. It is unfortunate that neither Longbine or Kelly are talking about bringing in jobs to improve the outcome for the citizens of Kansas, but giving freebies gets more votes from those that seek them. I didn't know that Longbine was still in the state as he doesn't answer email or phone messages and actually neither does the governor. Brownback actually responded better to people on the issues, neither Longbine or Kelly bother - Longbine siding with the governor may explain his disregard for conservative citizens who believe that those elected should serve the people that elected them. Both need to be voted out of office next go round.

aulani

Doom and gloom over a move expecting most of us to make a few sacrifices. Wow! You sound like Trump did when he screamed about the horde crossing the border. I'm guessing you support what Brownback did to our state. What jobs did he bring in to Kansas while he busied himself with ripping off highway funds, Medicaid, and KPERS? This was a fine move made by Kelly and Republicans in making difficult concessions for the good of the state. It was a cross-the-aisle move that should teach Washington D.C. a thing or two on how to get along for the good of the country.

Aim_High

Very well done. Governor Kelly has done more for the people of Kansas in one year than Brownback did during his entire term.

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