Health care advocates push lawmakers to consider KanCare expansion again

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The push to expand KanCare is back again.

Earlier this week KSNT News told you about a major backlog that’s preventing current KanCare recipients from getting their benefits, and state revenues are still sluggish.

Right now about 150,000 Kansans are in what experts call a ‘coverage gap.’

They make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for tax credits under Obamacare.

Experts say that gap exists because the state still hasn’t expanded Medicaid.

“We’ve left a billion dollars on the table in our state, by not expanding this program,” said Cindy Samuelson of the Kansas Hospital Association.

A billion dollars in federal subsidies which could be used to help thousands of Kansans pay for health care.

Instead Kansas opted not to expand Medicaid and take the federal money, which means many Kansans and local hospitals are bearing the brunt of those costs.

“31 hospitals in our state of Kansas are vulnerable at this state in time, and a lot of that study is based on the fact that they have been contributing to the affordable care act by having their Medicare payments cut, but they haven’t received any Medicaid back,” said Samuelson.

However many lawmakers still oppose the expansion. They worry the state can’t bear the financial burden of extending benefits to so many additional Kansans. Especially if federal support disappears.

Right now the federal government subsidizes 100 percent of the expansion costs.

Next year that subsidy will drop.

“So the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost, and the state would pay 10 percent. That’s currently a lot less than the state pays for the current Medicaid population,” said Samuelson.

So it could actually save the state money.

Still the question remains can the state handle it logistically?

They’re already struggling to keep up with incoming Kancare applications. Can they really handle 150 thousand new applicants?

“It just takes kind of re-organizing the process and getting caught back on that, but I think they’ll have that solved long before we get to the point where we’ll be looking at increased numbers of Medicaid recipients coming into the program,” said Dr. Robert Moser, Former Director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

There are bills that would expand Medicaid in both the House and Senate currently.

In a statement released last month, Senate President Susan Wagle said they will debate Medicaid expansion sometime this year, but she believes a vote will show a majority of Senators still oppose it.

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