TOPEKA, Kan. — Democratic and moderate Republicans lawmakers worked together last year to try to make Kansas the latest state to expand Medicaid, only to see their bipartisan effort rewarded with a veto from former conservative GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

The election this month of a governor who supports Medicaid expansion seemed to remove the big­gest hurdle for those ho­ping to bring health coverage to thousands of the state’s poor. But it’s not that simple.

In the same election that put Democrat Laura Kelly in the governor’s office, Kansas voters also elected a more conservative Legislature. Any bill seek­ing to expand Medicaid will have a tougher time getting to the governor’s desk.

“I’m still looking at every possible way that we can stop that,” said state Rep. Dan Hawkins, a conservative Republican from Wichita who is chair­man of the House’s health committee.

Republicans retained their large majorities in both chambers and will appoint the leaders of the committees, who can help them bottle up or kill legislation they don’t like. In this month’s elec­tion, conservatives gained at least half a doz­en seats in the House and might replace the cham­ber’s majority leader, a mod­er­ate, with someone who leans further to the right. Haw­kins is vying for the post.

In the Senate, the health com­mit­tee chairwoman is a moderate Republican who was instrumental in pushing Medicaid ex­pan­sion last year but is leaving her position after being elected state insurance com­mis­sioner. Her re­place­ment is likely to be more conservative.

With conservatives in control of the majority party, Kelly will likely have to make concessions on Medicaid expansion to get enough support to pass the Legislature. One could be a work requirement for recipients, something other Republican-leaning states have imposed.

For her part, Kelly, a veteran state senator from Topeka, has promised to have a working group create a bipartisan plan.

“I’m not exactly sure what it will look like yet,” she told The Associated Press recently. “I’m a fiscal realist, and I need to make sure whatever we present is doable.”

Medicaid provides health coverage for lower-income and disabled Americans, including 377,000 in Kansas, and is funded jointly by states and the federal government.

Thirty-five states have expanded Medicaid under the health care law signed by former President Barack Obama. Voters in Idaho, Utah and neighboring Neb­ras­ka approved ex­pan­sions earlier this month.

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(1) comment


Watch as the Kansas economy improves, while sending the dependents to states like California and New Jersey, who will in turn increase their taxes to compensate for the new "dependents" (aka voters).

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