Medicaid expansion bill advances through Kansas House, Senate debate up next


Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego)

TOPEKA — Medicaid expansion cleared another hurdle in the Kansas Legislature Thursday passing on a final vote in the House and now moves to the Senate for debate.

After a gut and go process on the House floor Wednesday forced through debate on a modified version of Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal, the House gave it a final approval 69-54. One of those voting against expansion was Wamego Republican 51st District Representative Ron Highland who tells KMAN that no lawmaker has answered a key question about how much expansion will cost the state.

      Highland 2-3 years

The proposal, which has bipartisan support aims to expand affordable health coverage to some 150,000 Kansans who otherwise would be unable to obtain medical coverage. Gov. Kelly has estimated a $34 million cost to taxpayers in the first year of expansion. The Kansas Health Institute says it would be around $47 million. The federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs and a bipartisan piece in the legislation notes that if federal funding dips below that figure that it would be phased out.

Manhattan Representatives Sydney Carlin and Tom Phillips both voted in favor of the measure. Both said last month at a legislative coffee event held at the Sunset Zoo, that Medicaid expansion likely had the votes to pass both chambers. However the bill was stalled in committee with GOP leadership refusing to advance the bill to a floor debate. Highland says while it was unusual to see the gut and go process happen in this fashion, it wasn’t a total surprise.

      Highland 3

Highland says the process of gutting a bill and replacing it with another bill’s contents, while sometimes controversial, is typically used sparingly and primarily at the end of a legislative session to push through bills of significant importance to the state. Highland says while he’s not against the process, he believes it was wrongly used in this incident.

      Highland rules

Previous attempts to expand Medicaid coverage have failed, including in 2017 when former Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed a similar bill. It’s believed the Kansas Senate has enough votes to advance an expansion bill, but the margin would likely be narrower. Gov. Kelly campaigned on Medicaid expansion as a key part of her platform in the 2018 gubernatorial election.





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Brandon Peoples

KMAN News Director and host of In Focus. Contact Brandon at

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