By: Kathy Lobb | August 26, 2022

Below is an Op-Ed originally published in The Topeka Capital-Journal:

As a statewide group of people with disabilities, the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas would like to set the record straight to dispel the myth that expanding Medicaid would be harmful to us.

We know from experience this is not true. Not only do the facts show the opposite to be true, but we also know from experience how our lives could be better.

SACK and other advocates, including the KanCare Advocates Network, The Big Tent Coalition, the Developmental Disabilities Coalition of Kansas and the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, all join us in supporting Medicaid expansion.

Legislators who oppose expansion should be asking us: “As one of the more than half a million Kansans with a disability, what would it mean to you if Kansas expanded Medicaid?”

The short answer is simple: We believe everyone deserves health care.

We want Medicaid expansion for the following reasons:

• It would make us happy to know our direct support workers would have access to affordable health care.

• It would make us happy to know that 150,000 Kansans — 15,000 Kansans with disabilities — would finally have access to health care in Kansas.

• It would make us happy to know that expansion could narrow the gap in uninsurance rates between black, indigenous and people of color and white people.

• It would make us happy to know that 70 rural hospitals at risk of closure today would benefit with improved hospital financial performance and operating margins.

• It would make us happy to know that expanding Medicaid would creating more than 23,000 new jobs in Kansas.

A majority of Kansans with disabilities are either denied KanCare/Medicaid coverage or don’t have the support they need to successfully navigate the system to even apply for benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, only an estimated 114,000 Kansans with disabilities currently qualify for either KanCare/Medicaid or Medicare coverage. That leaves an estimated 75% of Kansans with disabilities without access to affordable health coverage.

Yes, you read that correctly; 75% of Kansans with disabilities don’t qualify for either KanCare or Medicare coverage today. Expanding KanCare could provide access to health coverage for those Kansans with disabilities.

Contrary to opponents’ claims, expansion won’t “strip” anyone of their private health insurance nor will it “force” Kansans onto “a dependency-focused welfare program with lowerquality care.”

Claims that expanding KanCare would worsen the waiting lists for Home and Community Based Services are also unfounded. These HCBS services support individuals with disabilities living independently at home.

Research has continuously disproved this claim and opponents of Medicaid expansion admit there is no correlation between expansion and HCBS waiting lists. People with disabilities in expansion states haven’t been harmed as opponents claim.

None of the 38 expansion states have chosen to opt out. Why would they? Expansion states have seen significant increases in jobs. For example, Michigan created 30,000 new jobs; Louisiana added 19,000.

It is estimated 23,000 could be created in Kansas if Medicaid was expanded.

As advocates, we work together to protect the rights and services of all persons to live independently and be active in their communities. We support Kansans’ right to health care.

We support Medicaid expansion.

Kathy Lobb is an aging and IDD specialist for Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas.

Read the Op-Ed here.