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Consultants think Kansas could expand Medicaid without additional cost; GOP lawmaker claims bias

IV machines and poles gathered in a patient room in the intensive care unit, now closed to patients and used as a storage space, at Mercy Hospital Independence in Independence, Kansas, Oct. 1, 2015.
IV machines and poles gathered in a patient room in the intensive care unit, now closed to patients and used as a storage space, at Mercy Hospital Independence in Independence, Kansas, Oct. 1, 2015. Amy Stroth/The New York Times

Kansas could expand Medicaid coverage in the state through 2020 without spending any additional state money, a new study concludes.

The study was conducted by Manatt Health, a consulting firm. It says the costs of expanding Medicaid would be covered by reduced state spending on mental health treatment, prisoners’ care, and other savings.

“Between 2016 and 2020, the state’s average annual cost of expansion would be about $53 million, the study says. “Based on publicly available data and the experiences of states that expanded in 2014, it appears that Kansas should be able to generate sufficient savings and revenue gains to cover the costs of expansion between 2016 and 202 — in other words, expansion should be budget neutral.”

Some Republicans in Kansas continue to urge consideration of expanding Medicaid to cover the working poor who can’t get insurance at work. By some estimates, expanding Medicaid could provide insurance for 150,000 people in the state. The recent decision to close a hospital in southeast Kansas has accelerated that discussion.

But the state’s GOP leadership and Gov. Sam Brownback remain adamantly opposed to the expansion, making any serious consideration of the issue next year highly unlikely.

House Speaker Ray Merrick said in a statement that the survey was conducted by a “left wing” law firm. “The ‘study’ is not objective or a scholarly effort; it (is) designed to lobby an agenda and should be treated as such,” the statement said.

Six healthcare foundations released a letter Tuesday written to Brownback and the legislature, urging them to reconside their opposition to expanding the insurance program.

“There is plenty of evidence that expansion is a win-win for states — it saves state budgets money and injects millions into state economies, while providing health coverage to thousands of citizens,” the letter says.

“We call upon legislators to give KanCare expansion serious consideration and an open debate.”

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