Kansas Disability Advocates Support Medicaid Expansion During Kansas Legislature’s Hearings: Here’s What They’re Saying

–Last month, Governor Laura Kelly’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion proposal received support from disability advocates across the state during the Kansas Legislature’s Medicaid expansion hearings. The testimony was submitted for hearings in the House Health and Human Services Committee and a joint session of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Roughly 15,000 disabled Kansans will become eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion, giving more Kansans access to essential health care and services.

Here’s what they’re saying:

“Medicaid expansion would increase quality of life and access to health care, not only for the aging but also the disabled population we serve. Many adults eligible under Medicaid expansion are struggling with chronic illness or complex health conditions making it difficult to maintain employment. Expanding Medicaid puts more money back into the pockets of eligible beneficiaries for things like bills and groceries.”
—Secretary Laura Howard, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

“Access to affordable health insurance through Medicaid is crucial for attracting and retaining high-quality direct care workers. If individuals with disabilities cannot access direct care workers, they may have no choice but to move into expensive institutional settings, which costs both residents and Kansas taxpayers considerably more. Medicaid expansion can help address the critical shortage of in-home direct care workers, incentivizing individuals.”
—Rocky Nichols, Executive Director, Disability Rights Center of Kansas

“Most long-term care facilities are not equipped to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. This leads to a huge gap in health care provider access. Simply put, if you cannot communicate with your health care provider, then you cannot receive the care and services you need. The good news is we can start to address this issue immediately by expanding Medicaid.”
—Robert Cooper, Executive Director, Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

“Many people with disabilities are not financially eligible for Medicaid but are still living in poverty unable to afford health insurance or to get the medical services they need. Also, some of our commissioners along with other disabled people have experience working for employers who do not provide health care. Medicaid expansion would provide affordable health care to people with disabilities helping them continue to work while improving their health.”
—Martha Gabehart, Executive Director, Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns

“Throughout the state, personal care attendants—a critical link in our overall health care system and especially imperative in underserved rural communities—are themselves caught in the coverage gap. As a result, my research reveals that Kansas’ Personal Care Attendants are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured (24.1%) than the national average (12.2%) for working aged adults. This coverage gap harms not only the uninsured [personal care attendants], but also the Medicaid waiver recipients who depend on these workers to meet their care needs.”
—Carrie Wendel-Hummell, Director, University of Kansas Center for Research on Aging and Disability Options

“Currently, Kansans with disabilities can only obtain Medicaid by establishing both that there is a disability, and that the person is incapable of ‘substantial gainful activity’— essentially that the person is unemployable. Medicaid expansion would allow people who have a disability to secure health insurance coverage and care without having to remove themselves from the workforce.”
—Ami Hyten, Executive Director, Topeka Independent Living Resource Center

“We have a daughter who deals with Rett Syndrome. She also deals with scoliosis, seizures, and is totally dependent upon others for her self-care. Medicaid expansion would benefit her and others like her who must be followed for specialized care from her physicians, and who must take medication to help control her seizures. Medicaid expansion is needed in our state.”
—Barbara and John Kenton, Kansans

Testimony for the House hearings can be found here and for the Senate informational hearing can be found here.