GOP failure in Congress boosts Medicaid effort
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.