GOP fail­ure in Congress boosts Med­i­caid ef­fort

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Hanna

Leg­is­la­tors and ad­vo­cates in Kansas push­ing to ex­pand the state’s health cov­er­age for the poor to thou­sands of adults are buoyed by the fail­ure of Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton to re­peal for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health care law.

The GOP-con­trolled Kansas Leg­is­la­ture was more re­cep­tive this year to ex­pand­ing the state’s Med­i­caid pro­gram, thanks to elec­tions last year that put more mod­er­ates and lib­er­als in of­fice. The state Se­nate gave an ex­pan­sion bill first-round ap­proval Mon­day on a 25-13 vote and planned to take a fi­nal vote Tues­day to de­ter­mine whether it goes to con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brown­back.

Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act en­cour­aged states to in­crease the num­ber of peo­ple el­i­gi­ble for Med­i­caid by promis­ing to pay most of the costs. Some states where Repub­li­cans hold power had been re­luc­tant to do so, but 31 states, in­clud­ing some led by GOP gov­er­nors, have ex­panded Med­i­caid. Other states now pur­su­ing ex­pan­sion in­clude Maine, North Carolina and Vir­ginia.

The ef­fort in Kansas could prove largely sym­bolic be­cause Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors re­main deeply di­vided and Brown­back is a long­stand­ing critic of health care poli­cies cham­pi­oned by Obama, a Demo­crat. Yet sup­port­ers have scored a sig­nif­i­cant gain by get­ting a bill so close to pas­sage. Un­cer­tainty about what Congress would do rep­re­sented a ma­jor ob­sta­cle. Kansas’ Med­i­caid pro­gram cov­ers about 377,000 poor, dis­abled and el­derly res­i­dents. The bill would ex­pand cov­er­age to up to 180,000 more adults. It passed the House last month.

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