Kansas Governor Considering Expansion of Obamacare To Cover Budget Gap

| by Ethan Brown
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback recently suggested he may consider expanding Medicaid in his home state to cover the cost of his unsuccessful tax cuts, which have now put the state millions of dollars in debt.

In 2012, the Republican governor removed the state’s income tax, hoping that with extra money in their paychecks, Kansans would spend more. At the time, Republicans in the state legislature supported the decision, but Democrats did not. Upon passing more tax cuts in 2013, then state Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley argued with the governor’s massive tax cut agenda.

“It just won’t work. The numbers don’t add up. The road map is a road map to ruin,” Hensley, a Democrat, said.

Brownback’s plan backfired, and now the state is $280 million in debt. To try to cover the budget gap, Brownback is now resorting to expanding Medicaid in his state, allowed under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

The governor, who along with other red-state governors has been quite vocal against the ACA, seemed open to the idea in an interview on March 4.

“I haven’t said we’ll take it. I haven’t said we wouldn’t. Last year, I signed the bill that the Legislature passed (saying) that the Legislature had to approve any Medicaid expansion. I think that’s the way to go because it’s going to involve long-term costs. And the Legislature, that’s their primary authority,” said the governor.

Assisting the governor in closing the state budget gap is $55 million granted from a Medicaid drug rebate program that is allowed under the ACA. Obamacare has also increased drug rebate rates, from 15.1 percent to 23.1 percent, meaning an increase of $30 million to Kansas funds.

Despite the ongoing budget crisis, Kansans still voted to re-elect Brownback in November. In a closer-than-expected race for a largely conservative state, Brownback defeated his Democratic challenger Paul Davis 50 to 46 percent.

Sources: Talking Points Memo (2), KCUR.org, Yahoo! News / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr