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Kansas leaders announce breakthrough bipartisan deal to expand Medicaid

Kansas leaders announce breakthrough bipartisan deal to expand Medicaid
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Kansas leaders on Thursday announced a bipartisan deal to pave the way for Medicaid expansion, a breakthrough after years of fighting over the issue in the state. 

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced the deal at a press conference on Thursday with state Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican. 

The deal would expand Medicaid to cover as many as 150,000 more people and make Kansas the 37th state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare. 

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The agreement is a sign of the weakening resistance to Medicaid expansion in red states that had been holding out. Voters approved Medicaid expansion in Utah, Idaho and Nebraska in 2018.

The Kansas deal took a different route, with an agreement between state leaders. 

“This proposal embraces Democratic priorities and Republican priorities,” Kelly said at the press conference. 

On the Republican end of the deal, Denning touted that the state would also set up a “reinsurance” program, which other states have adopted to help lower premiums in the Affordable Care Act markets for those with private insurance. Democrats also support that idea. 

The deal does not include requirements that people work or else lose their coverage, a controversial idea that the Trump administration supports but that Democrats fiercely oppose. However, it does include a program to help refer people for jobs and help them gain employment, without taking away their Medicaid coverage if they do not. 

“We have to get to yes, we have to govern, and I think that's what this bill accomplishes,” Denning said. 

Supporters have pushed for Medicaid expansion in Kansas for years. The previous governor, Republican Sam Brownback, vetoed it in 2017. Kelly won her office in 2018 after making Medicaid expansion a priority and running against a controversial Republican, Kris Kobach. 

A surcharge on hospitals, which the Kansas Hospital Association has agreed to, will help pay for the state’s share of Medicaid expansion costs.