May 18, 2024

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Colyer’s Position on Medicaid Expansion Veto Unclear

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Gov. Jeff Colyer won’t say whether he’ll veto Medicaid expansion, but he may have a choice to make on the subject soon. Members of the Senate Public Health and Welfare committee will host a hearing on expanding the program tomorrow.

Lawmakers passed Medicaid expansion in 2017 with overwhelming, but not veto-proof majorities. House members approved the 2017 legislation 81-44, and the Senate adopted the measure 25-14.

It died with a stroke of then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto pen, and the House fell three votes shy of over overriding it. The new Governor is opposed to expanding Obamacare, according to his spokesperson, Kara Fullmer.

“Dr. Colyer is opposed to Obamacare and is opposed to expanding it Kansas,” she said.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer

With a hearing scheduled for Wednesday and a virtually identical legislature, passage of Medicaid expansion in the House and Senate appears likely. What’s less certain is whether Colyer would veto the bill.

“The Governor waits to see all bills come to his desk,” Fullmer said. “He would be happy to look it over, but he won’t be making any decisions about passing or vetoing it until he can see it.”

Obamacare and Medicaid expansion aren’t the same thing, though Obamacare, a federal policy, allowed states to expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults. Kansas is one of a handful of states that hasn’t expanded the program. The states that did have been stricken with cost overruns, sometimes tallying overruns of 76 percent.

Sunflower State officials project 150,000 Kansans would be added to Medicaid rolls, if the program is expanded. The 31 states that have expanded Medicaid also have seen enrollments explode beyond projections–in some cases by as much as 157 percent.

According to media in Manhattan, the Governor avoided answering questions on expansion during a short stop at a Little Apple restaurant over the weekend. As he left the meet-and-greet, expansion proponents followed him to his SUV and into Varsity Donuts. They videotaped their exchanges.

“This is the only place in the state where that’s been the whole question for everybody,” Colyer said. “For me, on the issues that we have–we’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us. We have to deal with our school finance and some other things as well.”

He told people Kansans aren’t interested in expanding Obamacare, because it took money from Medicare, which serves seniors.

“And it has damaged all of our hospitals. And it’s really had a terrible effect on our state. And it’s driven up the cost of everybody’s insurance–mind, yours,” he said.

The bill before the Senate health committee would refer non-disabled adults utilizing Medicaid to work more than 20 hours per week to the workforce training programs and other employment resources while establishing a premium assistance program for individuals with income

The bill before the Senate health committee differs from last year’s legislation in that it includes some work eligibility requirements.

The difference between Obamacare and Medicaid expansion may give Colyer some wiggle room, but expansion advocates believe Colyer will veto the proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley told the Kansas City Star Colyer gave Democratic legislative leaders a convoluted message on expansion during a recent meeting.

“He’s not going to support Medicaid expansion, so we’re going to have to do it over his veto,” Hensley said.

Whether the proponents of expansion can wrangle an extra handful of votes necessary remains to be seen, but whether they’ll need to do so is a question only Colyer can answer.

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