Activists want Kansas to close the medicaid gap

WICHITA, Kan. — Activists rallied in Old Town with a message for state lawmakers: Close the State’s Medicaid Gap.

The Kansas medicaid program known as KanCare is only open to people who meet certain guidelines and one of those is income. In order for a person to qualify based on income they have to make 32% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that is a yearly household income of about $7,600.

The Affordable Care Act gives tax subsidies for people at the federal poverty line which is about $23,800 a year for a family of four. The Kansas Health Institute estimates there are about 78,000 uninsured adults in Kansas who fall into that gap.

Three healthcare visibility events were held across the state with 75 total being held in various cities across the county.

Nearly 40 members associated with moveon.org gathered near Old Town in Wichita Saturday afternoon. Activists that turned out are disgruntled by Governor Brownback and the legislatures decision not to expand the state’s medicaid program, resulting in the the growing number of people who fall in the medicaid gap.

“You have to be really destitute in Kansas to get KanCare, you have to earn only 33-percent of the federal poverty level,” said Jan Swartzendruber, the regional organizer of moveon.org

The supreme court ruled that states could not be required by the Affordable Care Act to accept medicaid expansion funds, something lawmakers in Kansas have refused to do.

Organizers say the law covers 100% of cost to cover expanding medicaid through 2016 and 90 percent after that. That is something organizers say taxpayers are paying for but not reaping the rewards.

“We’re still paying taxes for it, our citizens are still paying federal taxes this April and the money is going to other states who did take the funds and it’s benefiting their citizens who are caught in the gap,” said Swartzendruber.

But state legislators say they are taking care of the people who need it most first.

“KanCare is providing healthcare for all those people who are physically disabled, developmentally disabled, children, their already covered by existing medicare and the KanCare program up to 230% of the poverty level,” said Rep. Steve Brunk.

Brunk says the legislature has been reluctant to take on federal funds, seeing them as unstable and unreliable.

“We don’t think it’s a good idea to rely on an entity that is 16 to 20 trillion dollars in debt, to rely on those funds that don’t really exist,” said Brunk.

Brunk says one solution legislators are looking into is House Bill 2553 which would commit the state to join the Healthcare Compact. This would allow the state to receive the same federal dollars for healthcare and be able to set their own regulations and determine how to use that money.

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