Starting next year, states will be able to take part in a sweeping expansion of the health care program Medicaid, and the federal government will pick up most of the cost. But it's still not clear if that expansion will take place in Kansas, where the state's Medicaid program is known as KanCare.
As Lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback consider the expansion, some Kansans are trying to make their voices heard.
Supporters of expanding Medicaid delivered nearly 3,000 signatures to Gov. Sam Brownback's office Wednesday, asking him to support an expansion of the state's Medicaid program.
Anna Lambertson is with a coalition of organizations pushing for Medicaid expansion. She spoke during a rally at the Statehouse.
“We could bring more health care related jobs to Kansas, and improve the health of our workforce," she said. "Healthy workers, as I’m sure you know already, mean a productive workforce. That’s good for our employers and for our state."
Hospitals in Kansas could lose some federal money if the state doesn't expand Medicaid services under the federal health care law. A lawmaker helping to draft the budget says the state needs to consider assisting those hospitals.
Many hospitals receive payments to help them cover the cost of medical care for the uninsured; they are known as disproportionate shared hospital payments. As the federal health care law continues, the focus will move to funding more Medicaid services, meaning the current disproportionate share funds could be reduced or completely eliminated.
A new poll done for the Kansas Hospital Association shows that 60 percent of Kansans support expanding Medicaid to more low-income adults. Association CEO Tom Bell said that support increases to 70 percent when Kansans learn that saying "no" to expansion would cost the state $800 million in increased federal funding.
"Regardless of whether or not we take advantage of this opportunity, our folks in Kansas are going to continue to pay taxes to the federal government, and those tax moneys are going to go to fund Medicaid expansion in some other state," Bell said.
The issue of Medicaid expansion is beginning to simmer at the Kansas Statehouse. Competing cost estimates and a report about the economic benefits of expansion are bringing renewed attention to the issue and the decisions facing Gov. Sam Brownback.
The issue of Medicaid expansion is heating up all over the country.
Wednesday, Florida's Rick Scott joined a growing list of Republican governors who agree to the expansion. Like Brownback, many of them are opponents of the federal health reform law.