KanCare

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are now a step away from what could be a showdown with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on the political football issue of Medicaid expansion.

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday advanced an expansion bill to the full Senate for a vote supporters say will take place Monday.

“Hallelujah,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, immediately after the committee approved the bill on a voice vote with little debate.

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

Updated Thursday 11:06 a.m.

A dispute about the cost and potential benefits of expanding Medicaid eligibility heated up ahead of a Kansas Senate committee vote on a bill. The committee voted Thursday morning to send the expansion bill to the full Senate, which is expected to hold a vote Monday.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service/File photo

Opponents of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are challenging supporters’ claims about how much it would cost.

Susan Moiser runs the state agency that oversees KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. She’s challenging claims made by the Kansas Hospital Association and others that expansion would generate more than enough in revenue and cost savings to pay for itself.

Moiser says the estimates are based on flawed assumptions about the economic benefits of expansion and the extent to which federal funding could supplant state dollars.

Kansas lawmakers know they are late to the Medicaid expansion party, but they appear determined to show up anyway.

"I feel like now is as good a time as any," says Anthony Hensley, the leader of the Democratic minority in the state Senate.

For the past three years, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders were able to block debate on expanding health care for the disabled and working poor via Medicaid, a component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Not anymore.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

With all of the talk in recent years about Kansas’ budget problems, it can be hard to keep track of what programs have been cut and by how much.

So, some Kansans may not remember that last summer Gov. Sam Brownback ordered more than $56 million in cuts to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Including the amount of federal matching funds lost, the cuts amounted to $128 million.

Kansas News Service/File photo

The first weeks of the legislative session are a time for lawmakers to put forward their favorite ideas that have little chance of becoming law. In most years, that list would include changes to Medicaid, but things are different with the 2017 Kansas Legislature.

All three of the private insurance companies that manage the Kansas Medicaid program made a profit on it in 2016 — the first year that has occurred.

UnitedHealthcare was by far the most financially successful of the three, with $30.2 million in profits. Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene, had a $5.5 million profit and Amerigroup made about $3.4 million.

The three companies lost millions in 2013 and 2014, the first two years of KanCare.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio/File photo

The Kansas House has approved a bill that would expand the Medicaid health care program in Kansas to include people making 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Expanding KanCare would potentially offer health insurance for thousands of low-income Kansans.

The legislation passed on an 81-44 vote, but must still go through the Senate and face a possible veto from Gov. Sam Brownback, who has been a critic of Medicaid expansion. Republican Rep. Susan Concannon says supporters are not deterred.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

This is the second in a two-part series on KanCare. Listen to part one here.

Kansas was out in front of just about every other state in 2013 when it fully privatized its Medicaid program and renamed it KanCare.

The switch to managed care was one of the first big policy changes made by Gov. Sam Brownback, who promised it would both improve health care and lower costs.

KanCare was immediately controversial.

Kansas News Service file photo

Update Thursday, 11:23 a.m.: In final action, House Bill 2064 passed the House 81-44. It now goes on to the Senate.

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Kansans succeeded Wednesday in a last-gasp effort to advance a bill, overpowering opponents who thought they had blocked it earlier in the week.

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