Voters in Missouri have decided to expand their Medicaid program. That makes our neighbor to the east the 38th state to offer coverage to a wider swath of low-income people, following on the heels of Oklahoma.
Kansas must follow suit.
Roughly 150,000 of our fellow residents could end up receiving coverage, a number that is likely only increasing because of the economic toll of the pandemic. Our nation’s profit-driven health care system means that insurance is a basic necessity for everyone, from children to teenagers to adults.
Expanding Medicaid is a simple, easy way to get them coverage.
We already pay taxes to cover expansion in other states. According to the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, we have sent more than $4.2 billion in taxpayer dollars to Washington, D.C., for disbursement. But we haven’t benefited from a single cent.
We’ve been close to passing the program before. During Gov. Sam Brownback’s tenure, both houses of the Legislature passed expansion but were unable to override his veto. Just this year, Republicans in the Senate reached a compromise with Gov. Laura Kelly on an expansion bill, only to see it collapse in the face of abortion politics and a COVID-shortened session.
This can’t go on.
Poll after poll has shown that Kansans support an expanded program. Hospitals have thrown their weight behind it, too, after watching rural health care options dwindle.
Unfortunately, the results of this month’s primary election have only complicated matters. Moderate Republicans in both houses suffered stinging losses. Their votes would have been critical to passing expansion.
Why do ideologues oppose expansion? We can only guess some toxic combination of putting their party ahead of public good, hatred of former President Obama and general disdain for the poor and needy.
Genuine questions may have existed years ago, but they have been asked and answered — no state has gone bankrupt over expansion, and public health has benefited.
So now the job is up to us. Candidates in both parties must be asked and pressured repeatedly about expansion. They must understand how important it is for our state. And whatever candidate supports expansion should receive serious consideration for your vote.
We face many challenges now. But supporting a basic Medicaid expansion bill should be common sense for any candidate this fall.