The Rev. Carl Frazier followed a Scripture reading with a doomsday prediction Tuesday about the fate of people without health insurance if Kansas lawmakers declined to expand Medicaid services to more than 130,000 people.
"We need people to stand up and tell the truth," Frazier said at a pro-Medicaid rally at the Capitol. "If they don't have health care, they're going to die."
Republican-led committees in the House and Senate during the 2019 session have deleted funding earmarked by Gov. Laura Kelly to extend eligibility for KanCare, the state's Medicaid program, under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
During and after the rally, members of the group chanted "We want a vote. We want a vote. We want a vote."
In 2017, the Legislature adopted a bill to extend Medicaid coverage that was vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback.
Brownback said at that time he refused to sign the expansion bill because it failed to "serve the truly vulnerable before the able-bodied, lacks work requirements to help able-bodied Kansans escape poverty and burdens the state budget with unrestrainable entitlement costs."
Kansas is among 14 states to not expand Medicaid, despite the federal government covering 90 percent of expansion costs.
Kelly, who spoke to more than 100 people attending the rally, said the state's health care system had missed nearly $3 billion in federal funding of Medicaid by rejecting expansion options. The daily tally, she said, was about $1.9 million.
"Now is the time. Actually, it's past due time to expand Medicaid," the Democratic governor said. "Let's get this done."
Sheldon Wiesgrau, with Alliance for a Better Kansas, said broadening eligibility would provide more people with affordable health care, strengthen the bottom line of rural hospitals and bring tax dollars into communities statewide.
He said the idea of expanding services available under KanCare was mired in political calculations of GOP leaders in the House and Senate who oppose expansion. Legislative rules were amended in January to make it more difficult for rank-and-file legislators to force a vote on bills, a move tied to silencing debate on Medicaid.
"As long as we keep showing up, we cannot be ignored," Wiesgrau said. "Let democracy happen."
Denise Cyzman, representing Community Care Network of Kansas, said refusal to extend preventive health care to Kansans was "inhumane."
"Let us right this wrong," she said. "Give hard-working Kansans the health care they deserve."