By JIM MCLEAN
Think twice and don’t be in such a hurry to repeal Obamacare.
That’s the message that an alliance pushing for Medicaid expansion in Kansas is sending to members of the state’s congressional delegation.
The Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a nonprofit advocacy organization with more than 100 members, on Tuesday began distributing a letter to its members and asking them to send it to the state’s two U.S. senators and four House members, whom the letter urges to “avoid repealing the Affordable Care Act without putting in place an adequate replacement.”
Download the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas letter
David Jordan, executive director of the alliance, says there are growing indications that Republican congressional leaders are having second thoughts about their “repeal now and replace later” strategy.
“It’s clear that more and more of them are concerned about how repeal of the ACA will affect their voters,” Jordan says.
An amendment proposed by five Republican U.S. senators, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio, would change a repeal date included in a budget reconciliation bill from Jan. 27 to March 3. That would give lawmakers more time to come up with replacement legislation that preserves popular parts of the health reform law.
Jordan says any delay would give Kansas lawmakers time to consider a Medicaid expansion bill.
“It creates a window of opportunity for the (Kansas) Legislature to take action,” he says.
Kansas is one of 19 states that haven’t expanded their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income adults, generally those who make too much under existing eligibility criteria but too little to qualify for subsidies to help them purchase private coverage in the Obamacare marketplace. It’s estimated that expansion would cover more than 100,000 low-income Kansans.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative legislative leaders have prevented any serious debate of expansion for the past three years. But expansion advocates say the defeat of several conservatives by more moderate Republicans and Democrats in the 2016 election may give them the votes to pass a plan.
However, members of the state’s congressional delegation appear steadfast in their desire to repeal the ACA immediately.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican who represents the 3rd District, which includes Johnson and Wyandotte counties, posted a video to his Twitter and Facebook accounts Monday in which he says Obamacare has failed to expand access to affordable coverage.
“That’s why House Republicans are keeping our promise to the American people to repeal Obamacare and replace it with solutions that provide lowers costs, better access to care and places decisions in the hands of you and your doctor,” Yoder says over soaring background music.
Roger Marshall represents the 1st Congressional District, which covers two-thirds of Kansas from the western boarder to roughly Manhattan. He favors immediate action on those parts of the ACA that can be repealed through the budget reconciliation process, which include the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion.
“I expect that to happen sooner rather than later,” Marshall says. “Mr. Trump is a pretty demanding president-elect and he wants us to hop right on that.”
Repealing the ACA would cost Kansas approximately 19,000 jobs by 2019, according to a recent study done by George Washington University for the Commonwealth Fund.
Most of the more than 425,000 Kansans now covered by Medicaid are low-income children, new mothers, people with disabilities or elderly adults needing long-term care who have exhausted their personal resources.
Jim McLean is managing director of KCUR’s Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.