Government & Politics

Kansas Medicaid expansion talks stall as Kelly and GOP lawmakers break off meeting

Prospects for a deal on Kansas Medicaid expansion appeared to stall Wednesday when a scheduled four-hour meeting between Democratic Gov. Kelly and Republican lawmakers was cut short and then followed by conflicting claims over what was discussed.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said in a statement that the group planned to discuss major policy and health initiatives. After one hour, however, Kelly asked the GOP legislators if they would pass the current version of the bill, which advanced through the House in March by a vote of 70-54. They declined.

“It was a unanimous agreement that we aren’t able to support a sub-standard version of Medicaid expansion within the next week,” said Denning, an Overland Park Republican.

According to Denning, lawmakers suggested working on an improved bill between now and December to present at the start of the next session in January 2020. At that point, he said, Kelly cancelled the remaining three hours of the meeting.

“Governor Kelly had no interest in waiting for a better bill,” the release said.

A spokeswoman for Kelly called Denning’s account of the meeting “absolutely inaccurate.” Ashley All said lawmakers clearly stated they were not interested in addressing any plan for Medicaid expansion this year.

“Governor Kelly brought Republican leaders from the House and Senate to the table to give them an opportunity to provide ideas and negotiate in good faith a plan to expand Medicaid this year,” All said in an email. “She was disappointed that they didn’t provide any solutions or ideas -- only excuses and stall tactics.”

Republican lawmakers who joined Denning in the meeting included House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and House Health Committee Chairwoman Brenda Landwehr.

Kelly made Medicaid expansion a centerpiece campaign issue and has repeatedly called on lawmakers to pass a bill. The Senate is scheduled to debate the legislation when both chambers return for a veto session on May 1.

If passed, the legislation could extend health coverage to 150,000 Kansas but potentially cost the state $47 million a year.

Before the meeting ended, the parties did discuss several aspects of Medicaid expansion, including provisions to keep hospitals from increasing rates on commercial plans to subsidize Medicaid rates of the newly insured patients.

Lawmakers were skeptical of reports that expansion will be revenue-neutral to the state’s general fund, Denning said.

In his statement, Denning criticized Kelly’s zeal for passing Medicaid expansion this year.

“Governor Kelly wants Medicaid expansion so bad in her first year that she is willing to get it bad,” he said.

“The Governor has already compromised and was prepared to negotiate further,” Kelly spokeswoman All said.

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