In 2010, President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. A large part of that act was an expansion of Medicaid for people up to 133% of the poverty line. The federal government would pay 100% of the cost of Medicaid eligibility expansion in 2014, 2015, and 2016; 95% in 2017, 94% in 2018, 93% in 2019, and 90% in 2020 and all subsequent years. This expansion of Medicaid was one of the provisions that was intended to help bring costs down, by increasing the number of insured in a portion of the population that were uninsured mostly because they could not afford to pay for insurance.
Medicaid expansion was to begin in 2014 across the country. Unfortunately for millions of Americans who would have been helped by Medicaid expansion, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that individual states had the ultimate say as to whether they would implement expansion of Medicaid in their state or choose not to implement Medicaid expansion. For Governors and state legislators who had the best interests of their constituents in mind, the decision to expand Medicaid was an easy choice. It would allow hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of uninsured citizens in each state the opportunity to gain insurance, and it would cost each state relatively little.
However, for many Republican Governors and state legislators, it was more important for them to refuse to take part in a new program that was put into place by Democrats.
Because the Federal Government is picking up at least 90% of the cost, the residents of states who have chosen not to expand Medicaid have essentially been subsidizing the states who have expanded Medicaid, as none of the portion of taxes they pay for Medicaid expansion is coming back to their state. In many cases, states who have chosen not to expand Medicaid have been foregoing potentially billions of dollars. States that have expanded Medicaid are also seeing better access to care, utilization of services, affordability of care, and financial security. Most importantly, the failure of some states to expand Medicaid has resulted in millions of people remaining uninsured because they do not qualify for Medicaid or for Affordable Care Act marketplace subsidies, falling in what has become known as the coverage gap.
The same year that President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Kansas elected Republican Sam Brownback as Governor. Sam Brownback quickly proved that rather than helping the people of Kansas, he was more interested in doing everything he could to push anti-government and pro-corporate ideologies that included refusing Medicaid expansion. After public support for Medicaid expansion started to grow, and after studies showed that Kansas had lost out on over $1 Billion in federal funding, state legislators in Kansas, including some Republicans, ultimately passed a bill to expand Medicaid. Republican Governor Sam Brownback vetoed the bipartisan bill.
The residents of Kansas decided to switch gears in this year’s election for Governor, and elected Democrat Laura Kelly, a well-respected state politician who has a history of working on bipartisan solutions to help the people of Kansas. One of Laura Kelly’s first actions after being elected was to announce that Medicaid expansion was one of her top priorities:
Just two minutes into her first speech as Kansas governor-elect, Laura Kelly outlined Medicaid expansion as one of her top priorities.
“It’s long past time to expand Medicaid, so that more Kansans have access to affordable healthcare,” she told a cheering crowd Tuesday in Topeka. “Our rural hospitals can stay open, and the tax dollars that we’ve been sending to Washington can come back home to Kansas to help our families, our state.”
Medicaid expansion could help thousands of Kansas residents be able to afford health insurance for the first time, help rural hospitals stay open, and bring billions of federal dollars into the state:
The topic is critically important for the 150,000 Kansans who will receive insurance once expansion occurs, Bell said.
“It provides them a mechanism to access the system that they frankly don’t have right now,” he said. “It allows them to access services that will help them to stay healthy. That is absolutely the No. 1 most important thing.”
As Kansas hospitals struggle to stay financially stable in the ever-changing market, expansion also would provide support for them, Bell said. In 2016, Stormont Vail closed two area clinics, citing Medicaid cuts and failure to expand Medicaid. Two hospitals in the state have closed, and some have attributed that in part to failure to expand.
Peterson said expansion allows Kansans without health insurance access to primary care services, which may keep them from getting expensive care in emergency departments.
This is why you vote for politicians who prioritize helping constituents, not right-wing ideologues who would rather see their own constituents suffer than take part in a bipartisan solution. This is why you vote for Democrats.