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’It’s hard and it's heartbreaking’: Kansas decides against expanding Medicaid

Advocates react to Kansas Senate stopping proposal to expand Medicaid
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Posted at 9:16 PM, Apr 26, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas senators decided Friday morning not to discuss and formally vote on a proposal to expand Medicaid.

The move essentially stopped any hope of passing Medicaid expansion this year in Kansas.

The Senate needed 24 votes to place SB 355 on the floor. Only 18 senators voted in favor, but several Republicans joined every Democratic senator in voting yes.

Medicaid is low-cost or free health insurance from the federal government that goes to low-income individuals and families. Each state can expand eligibility criteria for Medicaid. Kansas is, and now remains, one of about 10 states in the country not to expand the benefit.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion said this proposal would’ve made about 152,000 more Kansans eligible for Medicaid.

Stephanie Barr qualified for Medicaid in 2010 when doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer.

“Taking the burden of thinking about the cost of treatment off of me was what enabled me to put on those fighter pants and say, ‘Ok, I don’t have to worry about how am I going to be able to afford to pay for any of my treatments,’” Barr explained.

Unfortunately, when Barr’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020, she did not qualify for Medicaid and had no insurance. Her mother died in 2021.

Barr believes her mother would’ve been eligible for Medicaid under the proposal senators denied Friday. The House of Representatives also decided not to bring a similar bill to the chamber for a formal vote in March. The legislative session ends next week.

“I think we should really be focusing as Kansans on how healthy our communities can be and what we can do,” Barr said. “I think expanding Medicaid would be a great starting point for just making a healthier community all around.”

Advocates for Medicaid expansion said they won’t stop pushing for their cause.

“It’s hard and it's heartbreaking,” said April Holman of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. “We meet people through the course of our work all the time who are in the coverage gap and who desperately needed this to happen five years ago. So it will be very difficult to tell them that they're not going to be able to qualify again for the upcoming year.”

The organization argued expanding Medicaid helps stabilize rural hospitals and positively impacts the economy.

Opponents said they’ve expanded Medicaid waiting lists, they don’t believe constituents want expansion, and believe the system needs repairs before it expands.