Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley submitted a motion Friday designed to force Kansas Senate debate on a House bill expanding eligibility for Medicaid health services to about 130,000 low-income Kansans.
The House bill broadening access to Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act has languished in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. The Topeka Democrat's request would pull the bill from committee to the Senate floor for consideration when lawmakers returned to Topeka in May to conclude the 2019 session.
"This motion is made on behalf of the thousands of Kansans who have contacted their senator directly to express their desire for the Kansas Senate to debate this important issue," Hensley said.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, control the debate calendar in the Senate.
However, Senate rules allow for overriding of leadership if 24 of 40 members agree to draw a bill out of committee.
Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, said the Senate would vote on Hensley's motion May 1, the first day lawmakers resume work following a three-week break.
Wagle told a group of Washburn University law students she expected Medicaid expansion to be adopted by the 2020 Kansas Legislature. She also said during a Capitol news conference she remained opposed to expansion in the state.
"I believe Medicaid needs reform — not expansion," Wagle said. "We've moved away from the original purpose of Medicaid, which was to provide health coverage for low-income children, pregnant women, the disabled and seniors."
She said Kansas' Medicaid program, known as KanCare, was "struggling to provide those core obligations." She also said many of these individuals were in "dire need of assistance and adding more people, especially those able-bodied adults, will further exacerbate Medicaid's underlying problems." She said Medicaid was fueling an "entitlement crisis" and bankrupting state governments.
The Kansas House voted 69-54 to pass House Bill 2066, the Medicaid expansion bill, in mid-March. Gov. Laura Kelly endorsed Medicaid expansion while a state senator and as governor.
Hensley said 36 states and the District of Columbia had chosen to expand Medicaid, while Kansas Republicans blocked expansion of Medicaid. The result, he said, was Kansas turning aside $3 billion in Medicaid dollars since 2014. Under the ACA, the federal government must pay 90 percent of expansion costs incurred by states.
Kansas is losing more than $2 million daily by denying coverage to more Kansans under Medicaid while the state's hospitals register more than $1 billion annually in uncompensated health care, Hensley said.
"This debate will build on the deliberative work the Legislature has already done over the past five years," he said. "The action requested for in this motion is not arbitrary, but rather is the culmination of years of work."