By Brad Cooper | Oct. 11, 2019

The Senate plan to expand Medicaid is starting to fall into place, giving supporters hope that 2020 will be the year the Legislature extends medical coverage to an estimated 150,000 Kansans.

Led by Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, the Senate has been crafting its own version of an expansion plan as an alternative to one passed by the House last year. The Senate didn’t act on the House plan. It wanted more time to work on an expansion plan. A hearing is set for Oct. 22.

Criticized for not moving expansion last year, Denning has put together a plan that would require a tax increase on cigarettes and vaping-related products to help fund a complex proposal for expanding Medicaid.

“We’re encouraged that the conversation is moving from whether we should expand Medicaid to what expansion coverage should look like,” said Chad Austin, lobbyist for the Kansas Hospital Association.

The Senate plan is taking shape at the same time that Gov. Laura Kelly has commissioned a task force to learn from the experience of other states that have expanded Medicaid.

Denning, meanwhile, has been reaching out to hospitals across the state to pitch his plan, which contains new ideas not previously discussed in Kansas that Austin said the association is still evaluating.

April Holman, executive director of Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of the plan but is hopeful about getting Medicaid expansion approved going into 2020.

“I think the fact that someone in leadership is making what seems to be a strong push for this is very encouraging,” Holman said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic. We haven’t endorsed anything. There is so much still that needs to be understood about what the proposal is,” she said, “but we are encouraged that it seems like there’s going to be legitimate progress toward expansion.”

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