Kansas may have found a way forward. We think Missouri can too.
Under the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — states have the option to expand Medicaid to include those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. So far, 36 states — many with Republican governors and led by Republican lawmakers — have done so, but Missouri and Kansas have not, with lawmakers citing budget questions.
Recently, though, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican, cobbled together a bipartisan proposal to expand Medicaid health coverage in Kansas, potentially extending health coverage to another 150,000 people in the state. It awaits legislative approval. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
The Lawrence Journal-World noted, “It will be an even better deal for the country, if the idea behind the proposal takes hold: Democrats and Republicans can work together for a common good. Both sides have accepted some provisions that don’t thrill them. But that’s the way politics used to work. ... Perhaps the most interesting question to be answered, though, is whether there is more compromise to be had across the country.”
Can Missouri go next?
So far, Missouri lawmakers have resisted calls for Medicaid expansion, potentially affecting 200,000 people in the state.
Unable to get anywhere, a coalition — Healthcare for Missouri — has been collecting signatures to get it on the ballot in November. Lawmakers have expressed a lot of frustration with some of these citizen-driven campaigns and threatened to undo them — right to work comes to mind, as does Clean Missouri.
This session is a last chance for lawmakers to make it happen.
As part of the agreement, Kelly gets expansion of Medicaid, but Kansas Republicans get a version of a program that they believed could push down private health insurance premiums so that it is less likely people would drop existing private plans for Medicaid.
Republicans also have agreed to finance the state’s share of the costs with higher tobacco taxes, including a $1-per-pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax to $2.29.
Missouri — at 17 cents per pack — has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. That means we can raised a lot of revenue by simply going up to the national average.
We hope Kansas has found a way.
We hope Missouri is paying attention.