David Jordan: Fight for KanCare expansion continues

The fight for KanCare expansion in Kansas is not over.

Despite the tabling of a bill on Monday that should have been allowed to go to the full House for a vote, there is an army of advocates who haven’t come this far without making sure every last option is considered.

The lives of Kansans, the health of hospitals and our communities, and our state’s economy are too important. It is true that a small group of legislators made a decision that could hurt thousands of Kansans. It also goes against what 82 percent of their constituents think should happen.

Apparently the nine members of the House Health and Human Services Committee who voted to table the bill are not listening.

There were more than 160 pieces of testimony provided to these legislators in the past two weeks. Stories from hardworking Kansans who make too much money to qualify for KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. By expanding KanCare, they can get access to the medical care that in many cases could keep them alive.

The legislators heard from hospital administrators, who are fighting a losing battle to cover costs for uninsured people who need help from the doctors, nurses and other health professionals in communities across the state.

They heard from clinics and agencies that work every day, and sometimes have to beg and borrow, to find the health care providers who will donate their time to care for a sick patient.

This week, the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, cast the deciding vote to table HB 2064. In his words, he said, “It’s dead.”

That’s a cold and callous way to talk about an issue that threatens to take the lives of people who work hard and sometimes just need a little help to make it through a rough time. This was a parliamentary trick. Smoke and mirrors. And we see through it.

Ask around and you’ll find out you know people — sometimes lots of people — who could benefit from the expansion of KanCare.

People like Chelsea Edgers, a waitress in Dodge City, would be protected if we expand KanCare. Chelsea has a young son, is a part-time college student and waits tables to pay the bills. She is in the coverage gap and uninsured. Like thousands of other Kansans who work to pay bills and support their families, Chelsea makes too much money to qualify for KanCare and not enough to qualify for financial assistance to buy private insurance.

Expanding KanCare would benefit Kansans like Chelsea by improving their ability to get care and also reducing their likelihood of medical debt or bad credit due to unpaid bills. As a young mother who would rather work than have insurance, Chelsea is gambling her livelihood.

Others like Suzann Emmons, a small business owner in Iola, would also benefit. When Suzann stepped in to help her family by assuming guardianship of her grandchildren, she found she no longer qualified for financial assistance to buy health insurance. She made too much to qualify for KanCare. Suzann goes to work each day fearing that she’ll get injured on the job. Worse, she fears she’ll develop cancer, like her father did. Suzann hopes we expand KanCare so she can go to a doctor and get a colonoscopy.

Expanding KanCare benefits hardworking Kansans. Their lives are affected by this legislative decision, which is why our efforts and other legislative efforts to expand KanCare are alive and well.

They are alive because we’re listening to our neighbors who need health coverage and to the 82 percent of Kansans who support expanding KanCare, even if a handful of legislators aren’t. We’ve come a long way this year, and there’s still time to expand KanCare. This is just one hurdle.

We’re not going anywhere, and we want our fellow Kansans to know.

— David Jordan