TOPEKA — A Tuesday morning Kansas Senate vote approved KanCare expansion and places the controversial issue on Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk, where it could be vetoed.
Kansas senators voted 25-14 to expand the state’s Medicaid program, two votes shy of what would be needed to override a veto by the governor.
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Vicki Schmidt said she “would not be confident” that two additional votes could be obtained for an override. She wouldn’t speculate on whether the governor would veto the bill.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said he was positive a veto would occur. He was equally confident, however, that the House can secure enough votes to override the veto.
“It will get there,” he said, pointing to the House’s preliminary vote last month to expand KanCare, which drew 84 yes votes, the number needed for a veto override. The House’s final action vote on the same bill won 81 yes votes.
Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby on Tuesday reiterated a statement made Monday indicating the governor’s opposition to KanCare expansion.
Before Tuesday’s final vote, Sen. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, said she came to the Statehouse on Tuesday “high on happiness” after Monday’s 25-13 preliminary vote.
“The citizens of this state took a stand in November. Times have changed,” said Bollier, a retired physician. “What the governor will do? I don’t know. If he was consistent with what he said always in the past about bills coming to him from the body, he would approve it. He always has said before, ‘The Legislature has brought me this information, and they have voted, and I stand with the people.’ ”
The opposition vote added Tuesday was from Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, who missed Monday’s vote because of a family emergency.
“This is not a good investment for Kansas at this time because it has an estimated cost of approximately $81 million to the state general fund,” she told the Senate. “It is notable that we attempt this effort, and we do need a Kansas solution, but this is not a Kansas solution.”
Should Kansas fail to expand Medicaid, Ward expects “great disappointment.”
“The overwhelming majority of Kansans voted for candidates who said they would vote for Medicaid expansion,” he said.
During the vote, several Kansas senators explained their votes for KanCare expansion, which is expected to provide an additional 150,000 Kansans with health insurance.
“I vote ‘aye’ on HB 2044 for all the able-bodied Kansans that get up every day and go to work for companies that work them less than 40 hours a week, thereby they don’t qualify for insurance benefits,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita. “This bill would help them and their families. It has been mentioned by expanding KanCare it will create jobs and lower health costs. Well, Mr. Vice President, I also believe that this legislation will prevent unnecessary deaths and save lives, and furthermore, I still believe that whatever the cost, we should put people first before profit.”
But the costly move to expand Medicaid will harm Kansas small businesses, and the future of Medicaid itself is “uncertain,” Dan Murray, Kansas director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a news release. He called on Brownback to veto the bill.
“We understand the desire by many in the Legislature to expand Medicaid, but Kansas can’t afford it,” he said. “We believe expanding an underfunded, cumbersome and poorly administered program like Medicaid would be irresponsible.
“Congress didn’t vote on the American Health Care Act, but that doesn’t mean the issue is going away. There’s no guarantee that Washington will continue to fund an expanded Medicaid program indefinitely. When the federal money runs out, the burden of paying for it will fall squarely on the backs of ordinary Kansans in the form of higher taxes to cover the enormous bills.”
Tom Bell, president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association, said U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan confirmed that the Affordable Care Act is the “law of the land,” and he applauded the Kansas House and Senate for their move to expand KanCare.
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