The Kansas House fell three votes short Monday of overriding Gov. Sam Brownback and approving Medicaid insurance coverage for about 150,000 of the state’s residents.
The decision is tragic.
We applaud the 81 members of the House — far more than a simple majority — who endorsed a plan to give hope to lower-income Kansans who are sick or need help to stay well. The thousands of ordinary Kansans who sent emails or made phone calls to legislators urging an override also should be commended. Your work must continue.
To the 44 members who voted to uphold the veto and to Gov. Brownback: We hope you’re satisfied. Ten of those votes came from Johnson County legislators, who must bear part of the shame.
Every excuse the governor and his allies have used to oppose Medicaid expansion is without merit. Expanded Medicaid would not have put disabled Kansans at a disadvantage. In fact, advocates for the disabled spent the weekend knocking down the governor’s claim.
It would not have put a major dent in the state’s budget. The federal government would eventually pay 90 percent of the cost of expanded coverage — far more than Washington, D.C., spends on KanCare now.
Brownback’s claim that expanded Medicaid should include a work requirement is particularly disturbing. A 2015 survey showed nine out of 10 able-bodied recipients receiving expanded Medicaid coverage are either working, looking for work or in school.
The governor doesn’t really care about jobs for those people. He appears determined to shame the poor, which has been a hallmark of his time in office.
Brownback and his friends should be upfront about this. If you don’t believe poor people should have health care, please say so.
That brings us to the governor’s final reason for his veto: the Legislature’s decision to allow Medicaid spending at Planned Parenthood clinics.
“Kansas is a pro-life state, respecting the value and dignity of each unique human life,” Brownback said in his veto statement last week.
Perhaps. We do know this: Some Kansans who might have received expanded Medicaid coverage will instead get sick and die in the months to come. The governor’s veto will lead to that sad reality.
There are many words for his decision, but pro-life isn’t among them.
Kansans who care about their neighbors now must regroup. The effort to expand Medicaid is almost certainly dead for this session, but it should be revived next year.
Medicaid expansion is certain to be an issue in the 2018 elections. Every candidate for governor and the Legislature must take a position on Medicaid — and should answer to the 82 percent of residents who think health care for everyone is a good idea.
If Kansans are as generous as we think they are, the verdict will be clear.
Voters in Kansas have long memories. Next year, they’ll recall who stood for fairness on April 3 and who did not.