The following message is from Governor Laura Kelly regarding House Bill 2209:

House Bill 2209 makes sweeping changes to healthcare policy in Kansas. After long and careful deliberation – including in-depth discussions with both opponents and proponents — I continue to harbor serious reservations about this legislation. I believe it is fundamentally wrong to deny health coverage to anyone because they have a pre-existing condition. It troubles me that only two other states in the nation have implemented a model similar to this bill, making the long-term impact uncertain. And I am disappointed that the Kansas Insurance Department chose not to engage with the Legislature to ensure the final product included basic consumer protections and regulatory safeguards. Therefore, as a matter of principle, I cannot sign House Bill 2209.

I also fundamentally believe that governing demands a relentless pursuit of common ground. Proponents of House Bill 2209 brought this legislation forward because healthcare costs far too much. Our rural communities need help. Kansas farmers and ranchers face historic challenges in the wake of declining farm income, severe weather, and a global trade war. They openly acknowledge that this bill will not solve all the complex problems plaguing our healthcare system. In their opinion, an “all of the above” approach stands the best chance of helping the greatest number of Kansans. On these points, I wholeheartedly agree.

With that larger vision and shared goal in mind, I will allow House Bill 2209 to become law without my signature. New ideas always carry a certain level of risk. I believe the potential risks of this legislation can be mitigated if they are coupled with a stable, secure, proven healthcare option: Medicaid Expansion.

In the last decade, Medicaid Expansion has been thoroughly vetted from every imaginable angle, with over 300 studies confirming its effectiveness and necessity. We know with certainty that it will strengthen our economy, save taxpayer dollars, and provide healthcare to roughly 150,000 Kansans. A majority of the Kansas Legislature already voted for my proposal in 2017 or publicly promised to support Expansion in their 2018 campaigns. Over 70 percent of states – with both Republican and Democratic governors – have expanded Medicaid. And 77 percent of Kansans want us to do the same.

Unfortunately, leaders in the Kansas Senate continue to prioritize their own political ambitions over the health and security of Kansas families and hospitals. Despite the will of both their chamber and their state, these three Senate leaders remain devoutly committed to partisan obstructionism.

I will never govern in this manner. My priority will always be the people of Kansas, and I allow House Bill 2209 to become law as a demonstration of my genuine commitment to compromise. I challenge legislators to join me in this good-faith effort, meet me halfway, and enact Medicaid Expansion before the 2019 legislative session adjourns.