Democratic Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas is proposing to expand the eligibility for Medicaid (Kancare). This isn’t a new idea for Kansas, but how she would pay for it is…
Governor Kelly wants to legalize medical marijuana to fund Medicaid expansion. The largest political obstacle to expanding Medicaid is how to fund it. Her proposal is directly aimed at countering this objection.
Why expand Kansas Medicaid?
Here are the top 3 reasons given to expand Medicaid in Kansas:
- Coverage Gap – The coverage gap consists of people that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits. The ACA was designed with the expectation that low income people would be covered by Medicaid. In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid this isn’t true. There is an estimated 165,000 people in Kansas that are in the coverage gap.
- Keep health insurance costs down – Health care costs rise when the uninsured rely on emergency care at their local hospital.
- Rural access to care – According to the Kansas Hospital Association, 1 in 3 rural hospitals in Kansas are classified as vulnerable and “at risk” of closure. One of the reasons for this is that rural hospitals serve more poorer, older and uninsured patients and this results in more free care provided.
Kancare Medicaid Expansion
Kansas is one of 12 states that hasn’t accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act allows the federal government to pay 90% of the cost of expanding Medicaid.
Republican Governor Brownback vetoed legislation to expand Kancare in 2017. At that time, the Kansas Legislature was Republican dominated. Legislation again passed in the Kansas House in 2019, but was rejected in the Senate. The idea is back on the table now and Governor Kelly thinks she has crafted a bill that eliminates the largest obstacle to passing Medicaid expansion – how to pay for it.
Medical Marijuana in Kansas
The medical marijuana model proposed by Kansas is modelled after the state of Ohio. However, Ohio’s model is considered restrictive. For example, patients qualify only if they have specific conditions and then are limited to certain products. This results in lower revenue generated.
In contrast, Oklahoma has a very liberal medical marijuana model that generates much larger revenue. Proponents of medical marijuana in Kansas point toward Oklahoma’s program as one that would generate the necessary revenue to fund Medicaid expansion.
Medicaid and Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicaid recipients can qualify for a special type of Medicare Advantage plan called DSNP (Dual Special Needs Plan). These plans coordinate the benefits between Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, they offer excellent benefits on top of Medicare and Medicaid.
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