WASHINGTON -- Despite over 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kansas, Republicans doubled down on their opposition to expanding Medicaid to over 130,000 Kansans. In a report from KSNT, a representative for Senate President Karen Wagle confirmed that an unprecedented public health crisis hasn't compelled the GOP to reexamine its stance against ensuring health care for its constituents.
Senate President Susan Wagle and Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman have blocked Medicaid expansion from going to a vote in the Kansas legislature. A Wagle representative said that, right now, Medicaid expansion is the furthest thing from their minds during this pandemic.
Governor Laura Kelly and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning had reached a bipartisan deal earlier this year to finally pass Medicaid expansion, only to see Wagle and extremist Republicans hold it hostage in order to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Medicaid expansion passed the Kansas House in 2019 and polling consistently shows a majority of Kansans approve of the measure.
Apart from its public health implications, failure to expand Medicaid has seen Kansas forgo over a billion dollars in federal spending, money that could have prevented rural hospital closures and boosted the state's economy. In the KSNT report, Democratic State Rep. Brett Parker highlighted the unrealized economic benefits of Medicaid expansion.
"The number one impact is public health and in the midst of a public health crisis that's all the more important, but we shouldn't ignore the economic benefit that can be brought to Kansas as well," said Rep. Parker.
"Right-wing Republicans in Kansas can't put their extremist agenda to rest, even during a global pandemic," said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. "Medicaid expansion would give over 130,000 Kansans access to health care and increase funding for rural hospitals. The GOP is standing in the way of better care for their state. Rest assured, we'll make sure the Kansas GOP and Republicans across the country are held accountable at the ballot box this November."