Apr 02, 2024

🎥Gov. Kelly tells Hays Rotary to 'pressure local legislators' for vote on Medicaid expansion

Posted Apr 02, 2024 10:01 AM
Gov. Laura Kelly, D-KS, shakes hands with Shaun Musil, Hays mayor, at Monday's Hays Noon Rotary Club meeting. Photo by Becky Kiser/Hays Post
Gov. Laura Kelly, D-KS, shakes hands with Shaun Musil, Hays mayor, at Monday's Hays Noon Rotary Club meeting. Photo by Becky Kiser/Hays Post

Hays Post

Gov. Laura Kelly says her administration is "laser-focused" on four specific issues affecting Kansans - Medicaid expansion, cutting taxes, investing in Kansans from birth to post-secondary education, and ensuring resources are available to improve water quantity and quality.

Now in her second term, the Democratic leader was guest speaker at Monday's meeting of the Hays Noon Rotary Club.

She was invited by member Janis Lee, a former Democratic state senator who served in the legislature at the same time Kelly was a state senator representing Topeka. 

Kelly said her top priority this legislative session is to expand Medicaid.

Kelly has introduced an expansion bill each year she's been in office and each time, the Senate President and House Speaker have rejected her proposal

Late last year she unveiled a bipartisan bill called the "Cutting Healthcare for All Kansans Act." 

The Hays city commission passed a resolution in support of the act

Expanding Medicaid would extend healthcare to 150,000 more Kansans, including 700 Ellis County residents, Kelly said. 

Her team estimates expansion would create more than 23,000 new jobs, more than 200 of which would be in Ellis County. 

"It would help address our healthcare worker shortage and it would inject more than $1 billion annually into our urban and rural hospitals and health centers.

"More than $6 million in new annual healthcare spending would happen right here in Ellis County," she told the audience.

Kelly's plan would not cost taxpayers any additional monies, she said, "and in in fact would reduce healthcare costs in the state."

Seven years ago, when Kelly was a senator, the legislature voted to expand Medicaid but the measure was vetoed by then governor Sam Brownback. 

"Meanwhile, Hays Medical Center, one of the largest employers in the county, has been burdened with over $14 million in uncompensated care in 2023 alone," Kelly said. 

The rural healthcare system is in crisis, she said, with eight rural hospitals closing since Kansas became eligible to expand Medicaid, and of those that remain, 58% are at risk of closure. 

In answer to an audience member question on what could be done, Kelly encouraged those present to put pressure on their state legislators.

"I really believe that if the Legislature both in the House and the Senate had the opportunity to debate and vote, that Medicaid expansion would pass," Kelly said. 

"That is exactly the reason the Speaker of the House will not let it come for debate and vote, because he doesn't want it to pass and he knows that it would pass."  

The Kansas House did pass an expansion bill in 2020 but the Senate did not debate it. 

"Now, it's just a complete blockade by both the House and Senate leadership." 

House Speaker Dan Hawkins and Senate President Ty Masterson have resisted her efforts, characterizing expansion as a move that would broaden the “welfare state” and provide care to able-bodied Kansans instead of the “truly needy.”

Since summer, Kelly has been traveling across the state talking with Kansans, and then "hoping that you all will talk to your legislators and give your legislators the support they need to  pressure Senate leadership and House leadership to put it on the floor and let them debate it.

"Right now, the leadership is, quite honestly, just using intimidation tactics to keep the rank and file quiet. They just need to understand there is power in numbers and the numbers are there.  

"There's no way leadership can strip all committee chairs."  

Kelly pointed out that Hays' senator (Rick Billinger, R-Goodland) is "in a powerful position, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee... He could use that position to build that coalition."

Kansas is one of 10 states that has not adopted Medicaid expansion.