Thursday, March 19, 2015

Kansas Holds Hearing on Medicaid Expansion: "We've Never Seen Anything Like It"

Jim Ward (D-Wichita) couldn't have imagined how his plan to force medicaid hearings would go in February.  Today, in Topeka, the answer was made clear as the hearing was forced into larger rooms - and still overflowed the statehouse with those coming to the capital to ask to be heard as to why medicaid expansion matters.

The gathering, which filled the room as well as the outside area led to a hearing filled with the emotions and concerns of Kansans who plead with their state for change.
Today, the proponents of Medicaid Expansion had their say.
“With one stroke, you could reduce the number of uninsured in this state by almost a half,” said Jerry Slaughter, a physician testifying on behalf of the Kansas Medical Society in support of the bill.
The Affordable Care Act granted states the authority to expand Medicaid, which provides health coverage to poor and disabled Kansans. The federal government would fund 100 percent of the costs through 2016, then down to 90 percent by 2020.
What went unsaid was simple.. while one stroke could reduce the number of uninsured in Kansas - an uninsured person who had a stroke would quickly find themselves on the wrong end of bills they simply couldn't pay.
It was an unlikely witness that stirred buzz in the room, as Finn Bullers, a Prairie Village advocate, joined the hearing coming straight from the ICU, as he put it.

Finn, a former writer for the Kansas City Star has found himself at the center of the call for medicaid expansion and issues with KanCare.
Finn Bullers, a former Kansas City Star reporter, is making headlines for his fight against KanCare, the state’s Medicaid privatization plan, which he says will kill him. He was the subject on a Pitch cover story about KanCare’s impact on the poor, and has been featured by just about every news outlet in the city.
Bullers suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy and requires round-the-clock care. The state wants to reduce the number of hours a caretaker oversees Bullers – by 75 percent, according to KCUR – something he told a state panel could have deadly consequences.
“I hate to sound that dramatic,but if this tube comes off I’ve got two minutes tops — and then I die,” he said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Finn Bullers has spent countless hours campaigning for the expansion of medicaid over that time.  When Governor Brownback appeared in Johnson County, Finn Bullers would be present and would make his case in the way only he could.  
But Bullers wasn't alone in his concern over medicaid expansion.  

Hattip: Andy Marso
With a long list of those speaking in favor of medicaid expansion, the real power was held by those who noted the very real impact of medicaid expansion on their life.
It was Republicans though he pointed out that the lack of medicaid expansion was causing serious economic stress within their communities.   Hospitals in Garnett, Beloit, Hays and elsewhere received mentions over funding concerns.
Steve Kelly, CEO of the Newton Medical Center, noted that 70 percent of the people who would benefit from expansion have jobs but can’t afford insurance. He compared the expansion to the economic development benefits the state offers new companies.
Will it be enough to sway Republicans?  That's unsure.   Tomorrow, Americans for Prosperity and KPI will be on the docket speaking against.
Opponents, such as Americans for Prosperity, which has links to Wichita-based Koch Industries, will testify against the policy on Thursday at a second hearing.
Jeff Glendening, Americans for Prosperity’s state director, said the organization has concerns about the costs once the state must begin chipping in after 2016.
“The extreme cost when you’re providing coverage to able-bodied Kansans – we just can’t afford it. We’ve got financial problems right now, and expanding Obamacare is not something we should be doing,” Glendening said.
While AfP stands opposed, for the first time they openly admit that Kansas is facing financial difficulty.
Will Medicaid Expansion come to Kansas?   Right now, it seems as though it remains an uphill battle.   With the help of a few Democrats who put up a fight, though, legislators were confronted first hand with those who are desperate for expansion.



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