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Kansas Gov. Kelly Urges Medicaid Expansion Workaround

The governor wants Congress to expand Medicaid coverage to those eligible at no cost to the state government. The workaround could be passed through the Medicaid Saves Lives Act or as part of the annual federal budget.

(TNS) — Gov. Laura Kelly urged Congress Thursday to approve a federal workaround that would expand Medicaid in Kansas and 11 other states that have yet to do so under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and budget committee chairs Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. John Yarmuth, Kelly endorsed creation of a federal "look-alike" program. Her letter comes a week after Rep. Sharice Davids announced she would seek to add the initiative to the federal budget this year.

The program would provide Medicaid coverage to those eligible under expansion at no cost to the state government and could be passed through the Medicaid Saves Lives Act or as part of the annual federal budget.

"For the better part of a decade, our efforts to pass this common sense legislation, despite its widespread popularity and tangible economic benefits, have been blocked by Republican leaders prioritizing their future political ambitions over the health of their constituents," Kelly said.

"Medicaid expansion is now a matter of life and death for Kansans."

Kelly and other Kansas Democrats have sought for years to expand Medicaid coverage to those with household incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $26,500 for a family of four in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. The expansion is a provision of the ACA, passed under the Obama administration in 2010. The federal government would pick up most of the cost.

In Kansas, that would account for about 165,000 people.

The Legislature, controlled by a GOP super majority, has been vehemently opposed.

Congressional committees have two weeks to assemble their respective pieces of the budget bill, which is being called Build Back Better.

House Budget Committee chairman John Yarmuth has said a provision to expand Medicaid in Kansas and 11 other states is "a priority" for the budget bill. Republicans have denounced the bill, meaning that Democrats, with narrow majorities in the House and Senate, will need the complete support of their caucuses to win. Already, some of the moderate members in the Senate have balked at how much it will cost.

U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican, voted against a procedural motion advancing the bill last month.

"At a time when our national debt is approaching $29 trillion and rampant inflation is causing the price of consumer goods to soar, Democrats continue to put their left-wing priorities ahead of hard-working Kansans," LaTurner said at the time.

Sen. Roger Marshall has called the bill "socialist" and said it is a "tax and spend bill from hell."

(c)2021 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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