Coalition calls for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

Associated Press Modified: November 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm •  Published: November 9, 2012
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health care advocates in Kansas on Friday called on Gov. Sam Brownback to accept a federal expansion of Medicaid coverage for some low-income residents.

More than 75 people attended a rally at the Statehouse, arguing the expansion would help about 130,000 Kansas residents who lack health insurance. Approximately 393,000 residents now receive health coverage through Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor.

Anna Lambertson , executive director of the Kansas Health Care Coalition, said leaving so many people without coverage was unjustified when the federal government was offering to pick up most of the cost.

"That's simply unacceptable. We need to fix this," she said.

The new federal health care program, known as the Affordable Care Act, provides for expanding Medicaid coverage to include more low-income residents who can't afford insurance. The federal government would pay the additional cost initially, with states picking up 5 percent beginning in 2017 and 10 percent by 2020. Some governors have rejected the expansion because of the eventual cost to the state.

Brownback has not announced whether Kansas would participate. Any move to expand Medicaid would require legislative approval because it would eventually lead to the appropriation of state revenues.

Brownback's spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the administration was continuing to discuss "options and alternatives" with other states and Kansas legislators. She said any expansion would have budget implications for other core functions, such as public education and prisons.

"There are serious concerns that the federal government will keep its promise to pay for its part of the expansion. It cannot meet the spending commitments it already has made," she said. "It is very unlikely it will be able to meet additional commitments, which means Kansas taxpayers would be stuck with a gigantic bill."