Op-Ed: Medicaid expansion would hurt vulnerable Kansas patients

Big Government intervention rarely improves patient access to medical treatment, especially in rural Kansas. But Governor Laura Kelly seems to think otherwise.  

 Kelly is doubling down on her efforts to expand Medicaid. But there is a good reason that the Sunflower State is one of ten states that intentionally chose not to expand its Medicaid when it was given the choice to do so under the Affordable Care Act in 2012.  

Medicaid expansion would deny care to the most vulnerable Kansans, who already rely the most on Medicaid for care. It would also drain the state budget and do little to save rural hospitals from closing their doors. Lawmakers would be wise not to expand the broken Medicaid system, but rather to reform the program and return it to its original mission: to serve those most in need of help. 

Medicaid was originally intended to provide needy patients with the medical access they require at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. But the federal program, when expanded to cover millions of able-bodied, working-age adults, comes at a steep cost to impoverished families who rely on this safety net program for basic care.  

If Kansas expands Medicaid, it’s likely to replace healthcare coverage of more than half of new enrollees who already have employer-provided or individual coverage. Experience in other states shows adding more healthy adults to a program designed to aid the elderly and infirm crowds out those who need it and denies more or better care to those who qualify. From 2007 to 2027, nearly 60% of new enrollees in government-funded insurance, which is overwhelmingly dominated by Medicaid, already had private coverage. 

Every Medicaid dollar Kansas spends on able-bodied adults is one less dollar it can spend on the disabled, pregnant mothers, and children in poverty. Take Arkansas, for example. After it expanded Medicaid, the number of disabled patients waiting in line for care they could not afford increased by 42%. If Gov. Kelly wants to avoid putting rural Kansas patients at risk of such tragedy, it’s vital that she rethink her push for Medicaid expansion.  

Kansas taxpayers should likewise ask themselves whether it’s worth spending even more of their earnings on healthcare for those who already have access to it. Expansion costs the average state 157% more taxpayer dollars than anticipated. In Ohio, it is eating up 38% of the state’s budget, instead of consuming only 21% as it did pre-expansion. If Kansas expands it will have $1 billion less to spend on priorities like education, public safety and transportation over the next ten years.  

Evidence also suggests that placing able-bodied individuals on Medicaid causes an overall decline in employment by 3%. With a low jobless rate compared to other states, Kansas should be looking for ways to maintain or improve that status — not threaten it by discouraging work. 

The governor misleadingly claims Medicaid expansion will prevent small rural hospitals, where a majority of Kansas go to receive care, from reducing their services or closing their doors. What she fails to point out is that many of these hospitals don’t accept Medicaid at all. Expansion would instead tend to bolster large, corporate hospitals, that already benefit the most from Medicaid. 

Kansans would be far better off if state lawmakers pursued less costly ways to usher in high quality healthcare. A better approach exists, the Personal Option. This doctor-supported plan offers policy leaders a menu of sensible cost-reducing options like, for example, lifting unnecessary regulations on hospitals, doctors, and innovators that merely drive-up healthcare costs for everyone. Instead of spending more taxpayer dollars on a defective system, lawmakers could, for example, expand telehealth access and let out-of-state doctors and nurses serve Kansas patients across state lines. 

Medicaid expansion would do nothing but make a broken system worse and harm vulnerable Kansans who deserve reliable access to essential medical treatments. Instead, we should reform Medicaid to fulfill its original mission to protect the truly needy and remove government barriers that prevent Kansans from accessing the affordable, personalized healthcare they need and deserve.

Elizabeth Patton is the Americans for Prosperity Kansas State Director.

Elizabeth Patton, Americans for Prosperity Kansas State Director

Elizabeth is the current State Director for Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. Previously, she worked for US Senator Jerry Moran and other public policy non-profits. She is a mom of four and lives in Topeka, KS. Elizabeth is a past President of the Shawnee County Republican Women, and has been both a delegate and alternate to the 2nd CD and the state committee over the years.

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