February 24, 2024

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House Slams Brakes on Banking Bill as Medicaid Expansion Vehicle

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Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward tried to slip amendments related to Medicaid into legislation dealing with banks yesterday. The House rules committee determined two of his proposals weren’t germane, but Ward’s efforts revealed Medicaid expansion advocates aren’t ceding the legislative fight to add able-bodied adults to Kansas’ entitlement rolls.

Ward first proposed amending a banking bill to include full Medicaid expansion. After the rules committee determined the amen Ward challenged the rules committee’s determination that his amendment wasn’t germane. A majority of lawmakers agreed with the rules chair, voting Ward’s amendment wasn’t relevant to the underlying bill.

“Fundamentally, we’re having this debate because we can’t have a Medicaid expansion debate,” Ward said. “Medicaid expansion has never come to this floor through the process of a committee putting this forward for a debate.”

Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward

The House passed a Medicaid expansion bill last year. As Ward attempted to do yesterday, expansion proponents amended a bill to bring the issue to the floor for a vote. Last year, expansion bills passed both chambers before dying at the swipe of then-Gov. Brownback’s veto pen. An attempt to override his veto fell three votes shy in the House. Though the Senate didn’t vote on override, the chamber initially passed expansion, 25-14, two votes shy of those necessary for override.

Senate Committee

This session, a Senate committee hosted a hearing on expansion and forwarded legislation to the full body. Senate leadership has broad discretion in which bills it allows to reach the floor. The expansion bill isn’t scheduled for debate.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, has said he will not entertain having a Medicaid expansion debate until lawmakers determine how they’ll deal with a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to design a new school funding formula. In the meantime, other health-related bills have stalled because they could be used as vehicles through which a Medicaid amendments could be added.

“The mere threat of launching debate on Medicaid expansion in Kansas has caged up a measure to suspend, rather than terminate, coverage for people while they’re locked up,” KCUR reported yesterday. Legislators adopted a work around for that legislation, but  Ward’s efforts on the House floor yesterday revealed expansion advocates aren’t going to simply let the clock to run out on their pet expansion project.

Getting Colyer on Record

After Ward’s initial amendment was tossed, the Wichita Democrat offered two other amendments to the banking bill. One would have eliminated work requirements and lifetime benefit caps for KanCare recipients. Another would have given Gov. Jeff Colyer sole authority to expand Medicaid.

“Until we find a way to fund it, I don’t see how we can relinquish it to the Governor,” Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, said.

According to a recent study, the 31 states that expanded Medicaid have seen cost overruns of up to 157 percent, and data suggests Medicaid expenses in expansion states are crowding out other discretionary budget priorities, like education. 

Ward and Colyer are both running for Governor, and expansion advocates would like to force Colyer to make a formal decision on the matter in the run up to the 2018 election.

“Let’s let the governor have it,” Rep. Brandon Whipple, a Wichita Democrat said. “If the Governor chooses to expand, I don’t think we should stand in his way.”

Colyer has said he would veto a Medicaid expansion proposal, though it looks increasingly unlikely that he’ll need to. Lawmakers declined to add to the banking bill Ward’s amendment to give Colyer final authority on expansion.

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