TOPEKA – Yesterday, Governor Laura Kelly announced legislation to expand Medicaid (Kancare) and provide health insurance for 165,000 Kansans. The legislation also establishes a regulatory framework to make Kansas the 48th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Here’s what they’re saying:

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, President and CEO of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce: “Making health care available to thousands of low-income, uninsured Kansans would help working Kansans and their families, resulting in a healthier, more productive workforce and benefit employers across the state. We know that people who have health coverage are generally healthier and more productive at work. From a business perspective, that’s why Medicaid expansion is so important. Until we expand Medicaid in Kansas, we risk falling further behind our neighbors. We should not stand as an island on this issue, creating expensive challenges for our residents and our businesses.”

April Holman, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas: “Expanding Medicaid is one of the most cost-effective tools our state can use to protect our residents, health care providers and economy during the COVID-19 crisis and later as we rebuild. With that in mind, we commend the governor for her commitment to this issue. We will need to discuss the full scope of Governor Kelly’s proposal with our coalition. However, we remain unified in urging the Legislature to act on expanding Medicaid now. On its own, expanding KanCare will prove to be a budget positive proposal that will create thousands of jobs. Medicaid expansion is central to a productive workforce. Expansion will provide tens of thousands of Kansans with access to affordable health coverage so they can maintain their health, get back to work and help drive economic recovery from the pandemic. Moreover, expansion will strengthen health care in all parts of our state, benefiting rural and urban areas. 38 states — including all of our neighboring states — have expanded Medicaid. This puts Kansas at a severe disadvantage when it comes to recruiting health care workers and competing for new economic opportunities. Dozens of studies have demonstrated the positive benefits of expansion, providing Kansas a roadmap for how to proceed. The time to deliver a viable health care solution for Kansans is now!”

Community Care Network of Kansas: “Community Care Network of Kansas long has supported expanding the state’s Medicaid program. As the state’s largest provider of comprehensive care for medically underserved populations, we know how increasing the number of individuals with access to KanCare would result in improved patient outcomes and overall community health. Expanding Medicaid is a practical and cost-effective way to help healthcare consumers, providers and communities by closing the coverage gap, reducing uncompensated care costs and bringing desperately needed federal dollars into the Kansas economy. There are an estimated 150,000 deserving Kansans who don’t make enough money to afford quality health insurance but have incomes that are too high to qualify for KanCare. Most are employed and many work multiple jobs to provide for their families. In addition to helping so many individuals, expansion would strengthen the healthcare system and the economy overall. We are pleased to support Governor Laura Kelly’s leadership on this issue this legislative session. We have yet to see the details of her proposal, but remain steadfast in our plea for legislators to expand Medicaid at the earliest opportunity. In the midst of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the corresponding mental health crisis, expanding the KanCare program makes sense now more than ever. Thirty-eight other states already have expanded their Medicaid programs – including all of our neighboring states. Kansas is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to recruiting healthcare workers and competing for federal resources. The time to expand Medicaid is now.”

Kansas Hospital Association: “The Kansas Hospital Association continues to support KanCare Expansion and the benefits it will bring to Kansas. Expansion improves the health of Kansans by improving access to tens of thousands of hardworking Kansans who cannot afford to wait another year for affordable health care coverage. We must have a Kansas-based solution—a solution that brings hundreds of millions of our federal tax dollars back home to Kansas – creating jobs, boosting our economy and improving the health of Kansans. At present, thirty-eight states have implemented expansion or are moving toward expansion. With all of Kansas’ neighboring states having taken the steps to expand Medicaid, it’s critical Kansas have a serious policy discussion about how the issue impacts our ability to attract and maintain a quality workforce in the health industry. A majority of Kansans support expanding KanCare because they understand how it protects local communities and hospitals while strengthening local and state economies. KanCare expansion will help every single Kansas community.”

Health Forward Foundation: “Health Forward has long supported expanding access to health care for people without insurance. With 165,000 Kansans falling in an insurance coverage gap, Medicaid expansion continues to be our highest priority. Expanding Medicaid is one of the most cost-effective strategies to protect and improve the health of all residents and rebuild the economy. Many studies have demonstrated the positive benefits of expansion, including the creation of quality jobs and keeping rural hospitals open. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand Medicaid, including all of our neighboring states. We commend Governor Kelly for her continued commitment to this issue and urge the Kansas Legislature to act now to expand Medicaid.”

David Jordan, President and CEO of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund: “The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (Health Fund) supports expanding Medicaid because it will bring hundreds of millions of our tax dollars back to Kansas to improve health, protect hospitals, and create thousands of jobs. In the midst of a once in a century pandemic, now more than ever, Kansans and Kansas businesses need the state to expand Medicaid, which is why we applaud Governor Kelly and a bipartisan group of legislators who are working tirelessly to expand coverage. It’s time to expand KanCare. We can’t afford to wait another year. While the Health Fund does not have a position on the legalization of medical marijuana, should the Legislature make the decision to legalize medical marijuana, any tax revenue generated from such a proposal should remain in the health care system to serve vulnerable populations.”

Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice: “Accessible, truly affordable healthcare is critical to achieving a more thriving, inclusive, and just Kansas. In each corner of our state, COVID-19 has magnified the invaluable role healthcare plays in keeping our loved ones and our communities safe. Prior to the co-occurring health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, nearly 90,000 Kansans fell within the coverage gap, rendering our state ill-prepared to meet the needs of those who would be impacted. Refusing to expand Medicaid has also had disparate impacts on Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, compounding the already-existing disparities created by institutional and systemic racism and oppression dating back to our country’s founding. COVID-19 has amplified these disparities. For years, legislators have allowed working-class Kansans to fall through the cracks, but enough is enough. Medicaid expansion will have far-reaching impacts, providing us with the opportunities to mitigate further inequities in our healthcare system, persevere through the pandemic’s recovery period, and grow stronger, more resilient communities in the years to come.”

Kansas Action for Children: “For the good of Kansas children and their families, Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do after the Affordable Care Act was passed more than a decade ago, and it remains the right thing to do today as our state faces the COVID-19 pandemic. We are happy to see a new initiative to expand the program. Kansas Action for Children supports expansion this session, as we have in the past. We do not have a position on the medical cannabis proposal. Research has shown that expanding Medicaid benefits babies, children, adults, and their communities. Insured children are more likely to enter school ready to learn, graduate, and become healthy, productive adults. Expansion will improve families’ financial security, enabling children to get better care from healthier parents. Children’s health also reflects the health and well-being of their parents. When parents are insured, children are more likely to receive checkups and crucial preventative care such as immunizations. Overall, the policy reduces poverty and supports working families — during a time when our economy and job market have suffered. We believe that all sides can come together to pass an expansion plan that brings these benefits to the people of Kansas. KAC stands willing to help in any way possible to ensure that every single child and family in Kansas has the health insurance they need.”

Christina Cowart, grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN): “Countless Kansans, including cancer patients and survivors, have lost their jobs, had their hours reduced, or otherwise faced serious economic hardship due to the coronavirus. Many have also lost their employer-sponsored health insurance and now find themselves uninsured. Providing these hard-working state residents a clear path to comprehensive and affordable health insurance through Medicaid will help ensure that more people can prevent, detect and treat cancer before it’s too late. The health of Kansas and our ability to end this pandemic is dependent on individuals and their family members being able to access comprehensive health care without delay. Because Medicaid provides health care to people who have lost a job or become too sick to work, the program plays a vital role in the public health effort during this global pandemic. Medicaid expansion will help people with cancer, survivors, and people at risk of cancer access timely and appropriate care that spans the cancer continuum. Medicaid helps address health disparities by leveling the playing field, helping people of color and Kansans in under-resourced communities access they care they need to get and stay healthy. On behalf of the thousands of cancer patients, survivors and their families, we thank Governor Kelly for her leadership on this important issue.”

Lt. Governor David Toland: “Our economic recovery depends heavily on our ability to attract and retain businesses throughout the state. Kansas has no business giving companies even one reason to look elsewhere — and I can say, unequivocally, that the availability of healthcare and well-being of all Kansans matters a great deal to companies considering places to locate and grow.”

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes (SD-21): “The legislature’s failure to expand Medicaid has always been short-sighted. The need is more urgent than ever as we continue to weather this pandemic, high unemployment rates, and economic uncertainty. Vulnerable Kansans deserve access to affordable healthcare, which leads to not only healthier communities, but a stronger economy with the more than 13,000 new jobs it creates. Governor Kelly has presented three fiscally responsible budgets in a row, all of which paid for Medicaid expansion. Her announcement today provides us yet another path to fund this vitally important service to as many as 165,000 Kansans, while creating even more economic opportunity with an emerging marijuana industry. The time to expand Medicaid and legalize medical marijuana is now. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this sensible proposal.”

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (HD-95): “Governor Kelly announced today that she will prioritize passing Medicaid expansion alongside medical marijuana. I applaud the Governor for not giving up this fight, especially when so many Kansans need access to affordable healthcare more than ever. House Democrats have been and will continue to be proponents of these two issues and we will work to push for the passage of these issues so that Kansans receive the proper care they deserve.”

Rep. Rui Xu (HD-25): “I (and most Kansans) support legalizing medical marijuana. I (and most Kansans) support Medicaid Expansion. Sounds like a great plan to combine the two to help out working class Kansans #ksleg

Senator Jeff Pittman (SD-41): “@LauraKellyKS today announced legislation to expand Medicaid (Kancare) and provide health insurance for 165,000 Kansans. The legislation also establishes a regulatory framework to make Kansas the 48th state to legalize medical marijuana.”

Senator Mary Ware (SD-25): “I’m so thrilled to see the Kelly administration shaking up debate about Medicaid expansion in Kansas by proposing the state finance extending health care to as many as 165,000 low-income Kansans with revenue from legalizing medical marijuana.”

Kansas Health Foundation: “The Kansas Health Foundation continues to support Medicaid expansion, to provide access to affordable, quality health coverage to individuals and families who fall into the coverage gap.”

REACH Healthcare Foundation: “REACH hasn’t veered from our firm belief that KS should take full advantage of #MedicaidExpansion to support the health of Kansans. There’s another opportunity this legislative session to get it done. The time to expand KanCare is now!

Netsmart Technologies: “Today and everyday, we advocate for greater access to affordable #Healthcare and #BehavioralHealth services. On behalf of our clients, community and associates, Netsmart stands with @GovLauraKelly and @LtGovToland in support of KanCare expansion. @traceylosborne @Mike_Valentine

Democratic Governors Association: “Gov. @LauraKellyKS has made expanding Medicaid a top priority, but top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature have prevented its passage. She’s renewed her push with this proposal and Kansas need Medicaid expansion now more than ever:

Kansas Legislature should follow Kelly’s lead on medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion

Kansas City Star Editorial Board

February 1, 2021

Expanding Medicaid would be important in Kansas even in normal years. It would help rural hospitals and rural economies. It would provide a major safety net for the working poor, who earn too much for traditional Medicaid but not enough for subsidies in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

In the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, though, expanding the program is a greater moral imperative. Kansas can no longer accept its “doughnut hole” status as the only state in the region to lack a plan for expanding the program.

“Getting 165,000 Kansans health care, injecting billions of dollars and thousands of jobs into our local economies, and protecting our rural hospitals will be critical to our recovery from the pandemic,” Kelly’s statement said.

It’s time, Kansas Legislature: Legalize medical marijuana | Editorial

Wichita Eagle Editorial Board

February 2, 2021

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she wants to pay for expanding Medicaid by legalizing and taxing medical marijuana.

While details of the plan are unclear, the concept makes sense, and Kansas lawmakers should get behind it.

Kansas is one of only three states in the country that has not legalized medical marijuana, despite a recent poll showing more than two-thirds of Kansans support going even further.

Read the full press release here.