Medicaid

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Proponents of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas need to change tactics and prepare for a long process, a health policy researcher told them Wednesday.

Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University in northern Virginia, said Kansans who currently oppose expanding Medicaid aren’t likely to be persuaded by statistics from “eggheads” like himself.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas’ rejection of Medicaid expansion has cost the state more than $1 billion, according to the association that represents the state’s hospitals.

“This 10-figure sum represents a loss of nearly 11 Kansas taxpayer dollars every second since Jan. 1, 2014 — funds that go to the federal government to be spent in other states for Medicaid expansion,” the Kansas Hospital Association, which keeps a running total of the amount on its website, said in a news release issued Monday.

Heartland Health Monitor

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook offered an amendment to expand Medicaid last week because she believed it would fail.

A few days later, Senate President Susan Wagle removed Pilcher-Cook as chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee because Pilcher-Cook pushed the amendment even though it was ruled out of order.

Wagle said she opposes Medicaid expansion but wants the Senate to vote on it in the next few weeks.

Confused yet? Welcome to the politics of “Obamacare.”

Pilcher-Cook’s amendment

 Kansas is seeking a renewal of the Medicaid waiver for its KanCare program. As the federal government decides whether to grant the waiver, we discuss  future ideas to streamline the program and how well it provides healthcare for the most vulnerable Kansans. 

Guests:

  • Tim Wood is director of the Community Developmental Disabilities Organization for Johnson County.
  • Kari Bruffett is the policy director for the Kansas Health Institute.
  • Dan Margolies is KCUR's Health Editor.

KHI News Service

A spat over Medicaid expansion and Senate rules caused the leader of the Kansas Senate to replace the chairwoman of the Senate Public Health Committee on Friday.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, said in a statement released Saturday morning that Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook “showed a complete disrespect for the body and its rules” earlier in the week.

KHI News Service

Some supporters of Medicaid expansion say that Gov. Sam Brownback’s rural health task force is little more than political cover. They say that in an election year Republican lawmakers opposed to expansion need to be seen as doing something about the financial pressures that forced a hospital in southeast Kansas to close its doors and that are threatening others.

But Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, the person appointed to lead the group, says the governor’s critics have it wrong.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

House members were denied a vote on Medicaid expansion on procedural grounds in a floor debate Wednesday that mirrored one the Senate had a day earlier.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, tried to attach the amendment to enact expansion during the beginning of an hours-long debate on the state budget.

“This is vital to the future of Kansas,” Ward said, adding that expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act would extend coverage to about 150,000 low-income Kansans and draw federal funds to help struggling hospitals.

KHI News Service

A new computer system for enrolling Kansans in Medicaid and other public assistance programs will generate far less than the expected $300 million in savings, a Legislative Post Audit report finds.

The Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System (KEES) was intended to be a central portal where people could apply for benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and cash assistance, and the state could automatically verify their eligibility.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is already underway in Topeka. On this week's Statehouse Blend, we discuss the most important issues for the 2016 legislature, and speculate on the outcomes. We're talking KDOT, elections, and the budget.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is already underway in Topeka. On this week's Statehouse Blend, we discuss the most important issues for the 2016 legislature, and speculate on the outcomes. We're talking KDOT, elections, and the budget.

Guests:

KHI News Service

A key member of Gov. Sam Brownback’s new rural health working group says he hopes the initiative is a serious effort to address problems facing rural providers, not an attempt to divert attention from a renewed push to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Republican Rep. Jim Kelly represents Independence, the southeast Kansas community that recently lost its only hospital due to budget problems exacerbated by federal reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates and the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t specifically mention Medicaid expansion in his State of the State speech Tuesday night to a joint session of the Legislature.

But he made it clear that he remains opposed to expanding eligibility to cover more than 150,000 low-income adults, many of whom are uninsured.

Seeming to acknowledge that the closure of Mercy Hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence had increased support for expansion, Brownback said “Obamacare” was the main reason for its financial struggles and those of other rural hospitals.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A tentative plan to save Kansas government more than $2 billion over five years relies heavily on proposed changes to the state employee health plan and Medicaid.

The report, written by the New York-based consulting firm of Alvarez and Marsal under a $2.6 million contract with the state, includes 105 recommendations for “achieving major cost savings.”

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

If policy makers in deep-red Indiana can do it, so can their equally conservative counterparts in Kansas.

That was the dominant – though not unanimously held – message at a forum Tuesday at Johnson County Community College, where the topic was expanding the Kansas Medicaid program to cover as many as 150,000 additional Kansans.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Legislature’s auditors say that the rollout of the computer system the state now uses to process Medicaid applications was long delayed in part because the contractor’s software required numerous modifications.

State officials say the system is improving and ultimately will make applying for Medicaid and social services a much more efficient process.

Kansas Hospital Association

Expanding Kansas’ Medicaid program would generate enough offsetting savings to more than cover the cost of insurance for another 150,000 low-income Kansans, according to an analysis released Tuesday by six health foundations.

The analysis done by Manatt Health Solutions, a national health care consulting firm, shows that expanding Medicaid would lower state costs in several areas by enough to cover the annual $53 million cost of expansion with money to spare.

Kansas Legislature

Two Kansas lawmakers who lost their health committee assignments because they support Medicaid expansion say the purge has given the issue more momentum.

Interviewed over the weekend for KCUR’s “Statehouse Blend” podcast, Republican House members Susan Concannon, from Beloit, and Don Hill, from Emporia, said Speaker Ray Merrick’s decision to remove them from the Health and Human Services Committee was a mistake if his goal was to shut down discussion on the expansion issue.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Susan Concannon and Rep. Don Hill provide an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss their removal from the Health and Human Services Committee.

Guests:

Add the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce to the list of Kansas organizations that support expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

Pushed by influential hospital members Via Christi Health and Wesley Medical Center, the chamber’s board voted Thursday to add expansion to its list of policy priorities for the 2016 legislative session, said Jason Watkins, the organization’s lobbyist.

Kansas Legislature

Three Republicans will not be returning to the House Health and Human Services Committee next year.

The reason: Their support for Medicaid expansion.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a conservative Republican from Stilwell, has removed Rep. Susan Concannon of Beloit, Rep. Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills and Rep. Don Hill of Emporia from the panel and given them new assignments. All three are moderate Republicans. 

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A budget deal in Washington, D.C., is helping Kansas balance its own books temporarily with an infusion of Medicaid cash.

But a Democratic senator says the savings should be used to provide home and community-based services to Kansans with disabilities.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, answered lawmaker questions Monday about the administration’s plan to shift about $125 million to the state general fund.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas hope the story of how the conservative governor of another red state found a way to move forward will motivate Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to do the same here.

They invited a delegation of hospital officials from Indiana to come and talk about how they worked with Republican Gov. Mike Pence and large GOP majorities in the Indiana Legislature to pass a conservative plan that expanded health coverage to more than 350,000 low-income residents of the Hoosier state but required them to share in the costs.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, columnists and bloggers speculate about spooky legislation we might see in 2016 and discuss the legislative ghosts that might carry over from 2015. It's a Statehouse Blend Halloween Special.

Guests:

www.kslegislature.org

Kansas Senate Vice President Jeff King is taking issue with Governor Sam Brownback’s reasons for opposing Medicaid expansion.

Melika Willoughby, Brownback’s deputy communications director, outlined those reasons in an Oct. 6 email to supporters. Referring to expansion as a “masquerading component of Obamacare, Willoughby said the governor believes it would “morally reprehensible” for the state provide health coverage to low-income Kansans “who choose not to work” before providing support services to all of the disabled Kansans now on waiting lists.

Kansas Action for Children

An annual report on child well-being in Kansas shows some positive trends, but they’re overshadowed by persistent problems.

Among the improvements cited in the 2015 Kansas Kids Count report: There are fewer uninsured children in Kansas.

Ian D. Keating / Flickr -- Creative Commons

For two years now, the staff at Kansas Action for Children has been trying to unravel a mystery: Why is Medicaid enrollment dropping among the state’s youngest children?

Enrollment of low-income children 1-5 peaked in October 2012 and has been dropping steadily since.

Enrollment of infants younger than 1 in low-income families also dropped during that period. Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, a Topeka-based nonprofit, said she wants more research to determine whether eligible children are missing out on health coverage.

Mercy Hospital Independence

Note: This story was updated at 12:37 p.m. to include a link to the Republican talking points memo.

The Medicaid expansion debate in Kansas is heating up.

Big time.

The pending closure of Mercy Hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence appears to be the catalyst.

Kansas officials announced Tuesday they will delay for six months a plan to consolidate Medicaid support services for Kansans with various disabilities.

The leaders of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said they want to use the time to gather more information from people who would be affected by the changes.

“After discussions with consumers, providers and other stakeholders, we have decided to take additional time to incorporate stakeholder feedback,” KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett said in a statement.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Sen. Jim Denning from Overland Park provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss Medicaid expansion and the Kansas budget.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Democrat Missouri Rep. Jeremy LaFaver from District 025 provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss legislative term limits, Planned Parenthood, and Medicaid.

Guests:

  • Jeremy LaFaver, Rep. from District 025, Missouri General Assembly 
  • Meredith Adams, Citizen
  • Cody Newill, General Assignment Reporter, KCUR

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