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Across Kansas, it’s not hard to find support for Medicaid expansion. In the Governor’s office and in the state legislature, many leading voices have agreed on compromises to expand the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare, to more than 130,000 Kansans. And following the August 2020 primary election, every one of Kansas’ neighboring states has signed on to expand their own Medicaid programs.

It might seem counterintuitive, then, that passing Medicaid expansion in Kansas has been an uphill battle. While a wide, nonpartisan coalition of groups — from chambers of commerce to faith-based organizations — have supported the expansion of KanCare, a handful of state legislators do not, and have actively used their positions of power to block expansion. This is especially concerning now, as Medicaid expansion would have provided additional health care coverage for more Kansans during a global pandemic.

This spring, Kansas came incredibly close to a KanCare expansion plan in a bipartisan compromise drafted by Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning. With bipartisan support, it seemed that the 2020 legislative session would be marked by this historic win for Kansans and public health across the state. But shortly before the session came to an end, anti-abortion politicians in the state legislature positioned Medicaid expansion as a bargaining chip for an unpopular ballot initiative that would challenge the right to bodily autonomy outlined in Kansas’ constitution. 

This loss was felt by our community in Kansas, especially as we braced for the largest public health crisis of the last century. Kansas stands to gain significant revenue, job growth, and medical talent recruitment and retention if KanCare is expanded. For the moment, those benefits remain just out of reach.

Other states, such as Missouri, have initiative petition processes that allow issues like Medicaid expansion to go directly before voters. Since Kansas does not have this ability, the future of Medicaid expansion in our state depends on who we choose to represent us in the state legislature. Without strong supporters of access to care, whether it be the KanCare program or reproductive health care, it’s unlikely that legislation that gives health care to all Kansans will pass in 2021. Let’s vote for expansion now by voting for health care champions in the November election.

Tags: Medicaid Expansion