Get accurate Medicaid expansion picture in Kansas
The Kansas City Star
A new study calculates that a broad expansion of Medicaid eligibility would cost Kansas an additional $1.1 billion over 10 years, more than double the anticipated increase if the state maintains its current low eligibility threshold.
That’s a hard-to-swallow commitment for a governor and legislators who are viscerally averse to most government spending and all aspects of “Obamacare.”
But the findings from the Aon Hewitt consulting firm can’t be considered in isolation. Leaders have a responsibility to seek a complete and accurate picture of what a Medicaid expansion, as called for in the federal Affordable Care Act, would mean for the state.
- How would an expansion affect the state’s economy?
The U.S. government would pay 100 percent of the costs for three years, and never less than 90 percent. That would mean billions of dollars to provide jobs for health care workers and related businesses in Kansas.
Refusal to expand Medicaid would have a counter effect. Hospitals in the state would face the financially devastating burden of having to serve uninsured patients, but without federal compensatory payments, which Washington is phasing out.
Hospital associations in Missouri and other states have commissioned studies showing significant economic gains resulting from an expansion. The Kansas Hospital Association expects to release a study done in cooperation with George Washington University as early as this week, a spokeswoman said.
- What costs would the state save by expanding Medicaid?
Many Kansans who receive state-subsidized mental health services would be covered if the state expanded eligibility from its current level of 26 percent of the poverty level for adults to 133 percent of the poverty level. An expansion might also relieve the state of some costs it pays for care of disabled citizens, legal work and obligations to children aging out of foster care.
- What would an expansion mean for low-income working Kansans?
Aon Hewitt estimated that 226,000 additional children and adults would be served. That would result in more healthy and financially stable families, fewer costly and chronic illnesses, and a more productive workforce.
By not expanding Medicaid, Kansas would create a “doughnut hole” in which citizens would be unable to access services available to Kansans above and below their income range.
In a statement last week, Gov. Sam Brownback’s office said the expansion would be burdensome and subtract resources for other state responsibilities.
But other conservative GOP governors in states like Arizona, Ohio and Michigan are coming to the opposite conclusion and pushing for the move.
Brownback owes it to his citizens to have more complete information before announcing whether he’ll support the expansion.