Kansas governor vetoes expansion of state's Medicaid program

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2017 11:29 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' conservative governor vetoed a bill Thursday that would have extended the state's health coverage for the poor under former President Barack Obama's signature health care law, setting up a likely showdown with the Legislature.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback argued that the proposed expansion of the state's Medicaid program would fail to serve "the truly vulnerable" ahead of "the able-bodied," and that it would burden the state budget with "unrestrainable entitlement costs."

He also said the measure lacked a work requirement for the non-disabled adults it would have covered, though it contained a provision that would require the state to refer such people to job training programs if they were working fewer than 20 hours a week.

When the GOP-controlled Legislature gave final approval to the measure Tuesday, it had strong bipartisan majorities in both chambers, but supporters were short of the two-thirds majorities necessary to override a veto. Nevertheless, they are expected to try.

The state's Medicaid program provides health coverage for about 377,000 poor, disabled and elderly residents, but not non-disabled adults without children. The bill would have extended coverage to as many as 180,000 additional adults.

Brownback has been a vocal critic of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," and his action was expected. He argued in his annual State of the State address that expanding Medicaid under its provisions would be "airlifting onto the Titanic."

Other Republican critics of an expansion pointed to President Donald Trump's promise to repeal and replace the 2010 law. But the failure of a repeal effort by Trump and U.S. House Republican leaders last week buoyed supporters' hopes.

Obama's health care law encouraged states to expand their Medicaid programs by promising to pay most of the costs.

Brownback's administration calculated that the state would still face significant extra expenses as it wrestles with projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. But the Kansas Hospital Association, which backs an expansion as a way to help rural hospitals, argued that extra federal dollars would ripple through the economy, and the state would see a budget gain.

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