Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Legislators Discuss Medicaid Expansion

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Legislators Discuss Medicaid Expansion

Article excerpt

Salina-area legislators are divided on whether Kansas should expand its Medicaid program, a topic the state Senate will tackle once the Legislature reconvenes May 1.

Sen. Randall Hardy and state representatives Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys attended a legislative forum Saturday morning hosted by the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hardy, Johnson and Dierks support expanding Medicaid. Claeys, however, is opposed.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states that expand their Medicaid programs to cover additional low-income individuals and families can receive funds from the federal government, which will cover 90 percent of the cost of the expansion.

Johnson, R-Assaria, who voted in favor of Medicaid expansion, said he remains concerned about the possibility the federal government might withdraw funding for Medicaid expansion, which would require the Legislature to either foot the entire bill or repeal the law.

Medicaid expansion has passed the Kansas House, and lawmakers in the Kansas Senate will vote May 1 on whether to bring the matter forward for debate, against the wishes of Senate Republican leaders who control the chamber. A total of 24 out of 40 senators must vote to discuss Medicaid expansion for the motion to succeed.

In a phone interview, Kansas House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said Republican legislators are often hesitant to vote against leaders in their chamber on these kinds of procedural votes, even if they support the underlying bill.

Emergency room care

Hardy, R-Salina, said expanding Medicaid would help hospitals across the state.

“Two years ago, when the subject was first brought up, I didn’t have to think very hard to know Medicaid expansion is an important issue for Saline County, Dickinson County and the state of Kansas,” he said. “We need to provide an option for people who are currently using the emergency room as their primary care physician, which is the most expensive way to receive medical treatment in the state. …

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