Officials from Medicaid expansion states tout program

Education advocates have recently been discussing whether to support Medicaid expansion because of its potential impact on the health of students and their families. On Monday, officials from two Republican-dominated states that have expanded Medicaid told Kansas officials that expansion has helped their states in numerous ways. 

The officials from Ohio and Montana spoke to Gov. Laura Kelly’s appointed council that is working on guiding principles for a Medicaid expansion bill for the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. Kelly, a Democrat, supports expanding Medicaid health care coverage to as many as 150,000 more Kansans, but was thwarted in her efforts earlier this year by Republican legislative leaders. 

In KASB Regional Roundtable discussions across the state last week and in the KASB Legislative Committee, which recommends legislative polices, the issue of expanding Medicaid has been often discussed.  

Conceptually, there is discussion of putting in the KASB Legislative Committee report proposals supporting Medicaid expansion to help students receive the medical care they need to be able to learn, maintain health care providers, especially in rural areas, and reduce the cost of school-based medical care. Here is a link to preliminary KASB Legislative Committee Report.  

On Monday, Greg Moody, executive-in-residence at the John Glenn School of Public Policy at Ohio State University, and Jessica Rhoades, health policy advisor to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, said Medicaid expansion has worked well in their states. They said more of their residents are enjoying better health and thus able to work. And they said their states have reaped the economic benefits of increased federal health care dollars, which has helped rural hospitals and funded expansion of suicide and drug addiction prevention programs. They also said negative effects voiced by Medicaid expansion critics, such as rapidly increasing state costs and long lines for health care, simply haven’t materialized. 

For example, Moody said Ohio is spending less per person in the Medicaid program than it did five years ago prior to expansion. 

Moody described a political landscape in Ohio similar to Kansas in which Medicaid expansion had been hotly contested with some legislative contests determined on whether a candidate supported or opposed it. But since expansion was implemented under a Republican governor in Ohio in 2014, Moody said, “Everyone embraces it as something that was smart for the state.” He added, “It was like bursting a balloon. The benefits of it have been so clear.” 

Rhoades said since Medicaid was expanded in Montana, the uninsured rate in the state has been cut in half and has helped the state’s economy as a whole. Thousands of Montana Medicaid recipients receive some type of workforce training which has increased the employment rate and wages and decreased crime and medical debt. The 90 percent match rate from the federal government helps replace state spending for some services.  

Here is a link to the information given to the governor’s council. 

Medicaid is a state and federally funded program that provides health care services to approximately 270,000 low-income Kansans, mostly women who are pregnant, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Kansas does not provide a Medicaid option for childless adults, regardless of income.  

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states can expand eligibility for Medicaid to cover more people. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have expanded. Not one state that has approved expansion has turned back.  

Moody advised Kansas officials to build a broad and transparent coalition to help push Medicaid expansion over the finish line. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 29.

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