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Area legislators oppose expansion of Medicaid

Staff writer

Medicaid is a “loss leader” for hospitals and doctors, Rep. Stephen Owens told a small group at a legislative forum Saturday in Hillsboro.

Owens is against expanding Medicaid in Kansas, saying that people who make about $15,000 a year can get free or subsidized insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Children in need are covered with KanCare, he said.

“I can’t support expanding Medicaid for people capable of working 29 hours a week to get free insurance,” he said.

About 7,000 Kansans are on a waitlist for Medicaid, and they should receive services first, he said.

Hospitals and doctors “break even on Medicare and make all their money from insurance and private pay,” he said.

“ERs do get the shaft,” he said, noting that they have to provide care regardless of ability to pay.

Sen. Richard Wilborn and Sen. Michael Fagg also attended the forum and said they didn’t support Medicaid expansion.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” Fagg said.

Attendee Eileen Seiger, chair of Marion County Democrats, said seven in 10 Kansans supported Medicaid expansion.

“I’m so fearful for our local hospitals,” Seiger said.

Legislators also talked about medical marijuana. Owens said he was against medical marijuana, calling it a “farce.”

“Either you support legalization, or you don’t,” he said.

Water also was a topic of discussion.

Parts of western Kansas have only about 10 years of water supply remaining, Owens said.

“We’re looking at ways to conserve and replenish water,” he said. “Nothing would kill a community faster than not having water.”

Kansas has a budget surplus of $2.5 to $3 billion, Owens said. The state keeps $1 billion in its “rainy day” fund, and legislators are discussing moving more money to that pot. Funding the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System also is a priority, Fagg said.

Hillsboro Mayor Lou Thurston identified child care, housing, and workforce as that city’s most pressing needs.

Last modified March 8, 2023

 

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