Kansas Rep. Davids urges ‘look-alike’ program for Medicaid expansion in budget bill

August 25, 2021
In The News

By Daniel Desrochers

Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids called on House and Senate Democratic leaders Wednesday to use the upcoming budget reconciliation bill to provide more healthcare coverage in states that have not expanded Medicaid.


“We have lost far too many loved ones before their time this year,” Davids said in a letter to leaders. “It is urgent that we use every tool at our disposal to ensure that all Americans can access affordable health care, regardless of where they live.”


Kansas is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income Americans that is administered by states and subsidized by the federal government. Kansas lawmakers have battled for years over a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would extend coverage to those with household incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $26,500 for a family of four in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.


While Missouri passed a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid last year, several legislative attempts in Kansas have failed despite an concerted effort by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and moderate Republicans.


Instead of relying on the Kansas state legislature, Davids has signed on to an idea for a Medicaid “look-alike” program the federal government would operate, providing the same services for states that haven’t expanded coverage.


Davids request lines up with the plans of House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky.


In a document laying out his goals for the Budget Reconciliation Bill, Yarmuth said he would like to include “an affordable coverage option for the more than two million Americans living in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA and do not earn enough to qualify for Marketplace subsidies.”


But the provision will have to make it through what will likely be a tough negotiation process. The bill, which is still being drafted, is expected to contain a plethora of items from the wish-lists of Democrats — from creating a Civilian Climate Corps to a paid family and medical leave program.


Some moderate Democrats have balked at the expected price tag — a potential $3.5 trillion. That has led to grappling between moderates and progressives over whether to hold the budget bill until after the House has cleared a bipartisan infrastructure package that has already passed the Senate.


Davids letter also urges Democratic leaders to increase existing incentives for states to expand Medicaid coverage. The federal government covers 100 percent of the cost of states that vote to expand Medicaid for the first two years of the program.


Opponants of Medicaid expansion have said the program would cost too much money for states in the long run, while supporters point to the fact that it will increase access to healthcare for more than 100,000 Kansans.