A debate over Medicaid expansion ended abruptly Monday after lawmakers on a House panel agreed to set the bill aside until April.
That move may end the legislation’s chances of being passed this session.
“It’s dead,” said Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican and the chairman of the House health committee considering the bill.
Republicans and Democrats on the panel listened to three days of testimony on the proposal to expand coverage of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.
After debating the bill Monday afternoon, lawmakers were primed to vote on the legislation and consider moving it to the House floor for further discussion.
That failed to happen after Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican, asked the panel to set the bill aside until April 3. Barker cited anxiety about the possible cost of an upcoming decision by the Kansas Supreme Court in a school finance case.
Some lawmakers on the committee were concerned about the cost of expanding KanCare during the state’s current financial issues.
“The big elephant in the room is waiting on school finance,” Barker said. “We could get a decision next week, then we’d have to come up with $300 (million), $500 million.... that’s a realistic concern I think a lot of us have.”
Barker’s motion then passed and the meeting ended without any more debate.
HB 2064 would have expanded KanCare to thousands in the state with low incomes. That group would have included those under the age of 65 who made 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less, according to the bill. KanCare currently serves more than 400,000 people, according to the state.
Gov. Sam Brownback and his administration have come out strongly against expanding Medicaid in Kansas.
Brownback has also been critical of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that allows states to expand the health program.
Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican who supported the bill, was caught off guard by the decision to table it, and effectively end, the bill’s chances of moving forward this session.
“I wasn’t even done with my arguments yet,” Concannon said.
The House health panel is not an exempt committee, like the House and Senate budget committees, meaning Monday was a deadline day for the bill to move forward.
The bill would need to be “blessed” by House Speaker Ron Ryckman to move forward, Concannon said Monday afternoon.