Government & Politics

Kansas House passes Medicaid expansion

The Kansas House gave final approval to a bill that would expand Medicaid in the state, just days after the expansion effort looked like it never would make it to the House floor.

Lawmakers voted 81-44 Thursday to pass the bill, three votes shy of the margin needed for a veto proof majority. It will now head to the Senate where its chances to pass are unclear.

The effort to expand Medicaid in Kansas almost never made it out of a House committee.

Lawmakers on the House health committee agreed Monday to table the bill until April instead of passing it out of the committee.

“It’s dead,” Rep. Dan Hawkins, the chairman of the Health committee, said at the time.

After the vote Thursday, Hawkins said he could see the bill passing the Senate and getting to the governor’s desk.

“It doesn’t meet what the governor has said,” Hawkins said. “I don’t want to speak for the governor, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t veto it.”

A push that included House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, and Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, helped bring the expansion bill to the floor on Wednesday. Supporters amended another bill to include the expansion of the health program.

“We’ve made a significant first step, with a solid vote from the body that is closest to the electorate,” Ward said. “So now it’s time for the Senate to do their job.”

Concannon said she was “moving one step at a time” when it comes to the fate of the bill moving forward

“I can’t worry about what’s going to happen in the Senate, or what the governor might do,” Concannon said. “We just have to keep pushing forward.”

Lawmakers who voted against the bill said they did so because of the cost of the program and the fact that congressional Republicans are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the federal program that allows states to expand their Medicaid programs.

“Right now we cannot afford the Medicaid expansion, especially not knowing what the federal government is going to do,” said Rep. Willie Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican who voted against the bill.

Gov. Sam Brownback has also made it clear that he’s strongly opposed to expanding Medicaid in the state.

Lawmakers would likely have to overcome a veto by the governor for Medicaid expansion to become law.

Asked about the expansion bill being passed by the House, Senate President Susan Wagle would only say that the bill would be assigned to the Senate health committee.

“We’ll see what the committee decides,” she said.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw