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Kan. hospitals urge no statement on Medicaid move

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2013 at 8:42 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas hospital administrators and medical groups urged legislators Friday to postpone any formal policy statement on expanding Medicaid as a House committee considered a measure critical of the move encouraged by the federal government's health care overhaul.

The House Appropriations Committee had a hearing on a resolution declaring that the Legislature doesn't intend to make tens of thousands of additional people eligible for Medicaid, which covers health care for the needy and disabled. The resolution reflects skepticism that the federal government will keep its promise to pay almost all of the costs associated with the expansion.

The Kansas Hospital Association and the state Department of Health and Environment released conflicting studies this month on the potential costs to the state if Medicaid was expanded. The hospital group's report suggests the state would see a net financial benefit, but the KDHE study said the state would face an additional $600 million in costs over the next 10 years.

The hearing came only days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposed expanding Medicaid in his state for the next three years, becoming the seventh GOP governor to embrace an expansion under the 2010 federal health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama. In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is a vocal critic of the health care overhaul but has said he'll leave the decision about expanding Medicaid to state lawmakers.

The GOP-dominated Kansas Legislature has shown no inclination to expand Medicaid, and the resolution reiterates criticisms circulating among Republicans. Several GOP members of the Appropriations Committee were sympathetic and one, Rep. David Crum, of Augusta, who also is chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, testified for it.

"Many have complained about our escalating national debt," Crum told the committee. "However, do we have the right to complain if we make every effort to pull down additional federal dollars by expanding Medicaid?"

A vote on the resolution hasn't been scheduled yet but could come as early as next week.

But Kansas Hospital Association President Tom Bell said legislators should wait to see how the federal health care law plays out before making a policy statement. He said that view is widely held by hospital administrators.

"We hope that we don't tie the state's hands," Bell said. "Why do we need to pass this right now, given the fact that maybe there are some outstanding questions?"

At the end of last year, about 343,000 people in Kansas were covered by Medicaid, and another 50,000 children in a working-class program were covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program.

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