U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran will have his first town hall meeting Thursday since announcing his opposition to the Republican Obamacare replacement bill.
Opponents of the bill have been working to generate a big crowd for the meeting, scheduled for 11 a.m. at the McKenna Youth and Activity Center in Palco, a small town just north of Hays in northwest Kansas.
“We want to send a very strong message that Kansans are against the bill and we want him to remain a ‘no’ on it,” said Amy Burgin, a spokesperson for Indivisible KC, a protest group formed in response to President Donald Trump’s election.
Usually not one to seek the political limelight, Moran has taken center stage in the health care debate by joining a handful of GOP senators in publicly opposing a bill backed by Trump and party leaders.
“It’s unclear he thought things through as completely as he might have, because now rather than being pretty much a presumptive ‘yes,’ I think in many people’s eyes in Kansas he’s a presumptive ‘no,’” said Burdett Loomis, a University of Kansas political scientist. “This puts a lot of pressure on Moran politically.”
Tom Bell, president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association, said Moran’s opposition to the bill is rooted in concerns about how its nearly $800 billion in Medicaid cuts would affect low-income Kansans, those with disabilities and rural health care providers.
“When he first came out he said, ‘If this isn’t good for Kansans, it’s not going to have my support.’ I really do think that’s what his guidepost was,” said Bell, who met with Moran in Washington, D.C., the day he announced his opposition to the bill — soon after Senate leaders said a vote on it had been delayed.
Moran also was concerned about how the bill treated Kansas and other states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, Bell said.
“I think it’s pretty easy to look at the figures and see that Kansas as a state is disadvantaged by this bill,” Bell said. “It is locked into not being able to expand Medicaid at the same time that it’s asked to pay for states who are already expanding. And I think he recognized that.”
Between now and 2025, expansion states would receive $685 billion more in federal Medicaid funding than non-expansion states, Bell said. Kansas’ share of that loss will be about $21 billion.
That would be on top of the almost $2 billion that Kansas has already foregone by not expanding Medicaid, said Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project.
“That directly disadvantages Kansas taxpayers,” Weisgrau said. “We’re not paying lower taxes because Kansas is not participating in these programs. So our money is continuing to fund the states that have expanded Medicaid.”
People on both sides of the health care debate will be listening closely to Moran during his town hall event to determine whether he’s locked into his position or open to negotiation.
Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.