Study: Medicaid expansion would be budget neutral

By The Associated Press | Posted - Dec. 9, 2015 at 12:51 p.m.



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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Medicaid expansion could potentially turn into a moneymaker for Kansas, according to a study commissioned by six health foundations in the state.

The federal health care overhaul encouraged states to expand their Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled by promising to pick up almost all of the cost. But Republican leaders in Kansas, which is among 20 states that haven't expanded the program, have been skeptical that the federal government will keep its funding promises.

"I think that the fact that Kansas is facing a budget crisis is exactly the reason why it needs to evaluate the economics of expansion," said Deborah Bachrach, author of the study, which was released Tuesday.

Manatt Health Solutions, which evaluates Medicaid expansion for states and foundations across the country, conducted the analysis. The study laid out benefits of Medicaid expansion savings in three broad categories: savings from state fund dollars that would be replaced with federal funds, savings from higher federal matches and potential new revenue from fees associated with higher enrollment, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1NfS1oy) reported.

But Gov. Sam Brownback's office questioned the study's credibility because one of the study's authors previously directed the Center for Medicaid and State Operations under Kathleen Sebelius. The Kansas Division of the Budget previously estimated raw costs of expansion but did not factor in any savings or revenue from expansion in other areas of the budget.

"It is little surprise that a study authored in part by a Kathleen Sebelius appointee who worked to implement Obamacare and Medicaid expansion would advocate for Medicaid expansion," Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for Brownback, said in a written statement.

Rep. Daniel Hawkins, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said in an email that a five-year analysis was too narrow because the "costs are always the lowest" during that time frame.

The study shows the state pays for medical care of uninsured Kansans in several ways, including through mental health and substance abuse programs paid by the state general fund.

"This is a way to pay for it up front in a way that the federal government will pick up a huge portion of the costs," said Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project for the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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The Associated Press

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