Kansas just might finally do what they’ve not been able to do since 2013: expand state health coverage to 150,000 of the state’s most impoverished citizens. It’s an option that was available to states under the Affordable Care Act, but Kansas’ Republican-led legislature had continually refused to opt for expansion.

That was until 2018, when a bi-partisan coalition of legislators voted to expand Medicaid. However, the bill was vetoed by then Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a vocal critic of the 2010 federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. Although the bill had bipartisan support, that support fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Brownback’s veto.

Kelly made Medicaid expansion a key issue during her campaign last year.

“It’s long past time to expand Medicaid,” Kelly said in a statement.

Thirty-six other states, including GOP-led ones, have done it.

In Kansas, Medicaid currently covers about 360,000 poor, disabled and elderly residents but not any childless adults, nor parents who earn more than 38% of the federal poverty level, or $658 a month for a single parent and two children.

Since the Affordable Care Act only insures individuals who make above 100% of poverty, individuals in the gap – those earning between 39% and 99% of poverty – have struggled to afford, or gone without, needed health care services.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states are eligible to expand Medicaid to cover individuals in the state who make up to 138% of the Federal poverty level. Kelly’s plan would cover all adults under 65 earning up to 133% of the poverty level, about $2,300 for a family of three.

Even though House Bill 2101 and Senate Bill 54 are closely modeled after the bill that passed the legislature in 2017 there’s still a chance expansion may not pass the Legislature. The 2018 elections left the Kansas House and Senate leaning a little more conservative than before, and top Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature continue to strongly oppose Medicaid expansion.

They argue it will prove costly, even with the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act’s promise that the federal government will cover most of the expense.

Expansion supporters are optimistic and believe they still have solid majorities in both chambers. If expansion passes, it would be effective in January 2020.

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