Good job, Oklahoma voters.
On June 30, you all managed to get something done that has eluded the Kansas Legislature for the better part of a decade. You successfully voted to expand Medicaid in your state, covering tens of thousands of low-income residents.
Missouri voters will get to make the same decision next month, voting on a Medicaid referendum Aug. 4. We encourage them to follow the lead of our neighbors to the south.
In the meantime, of course, Kansas voters won’t get to make that choice. And it’s not because we don’t support expansion — polling consistently shows expansion is overwhelmingly popular. And it’s not because a majority in the House and Senate don’t back it — the votes were there throughout last session.
No, it’s because a small cadre of right-wing leaders, including Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ron Ryckman, persist in ideologically blinkered opposition to a law that preserves health and saves lives.
Perhaps we sound irritated and exhausted. That’s because we are.
We’ve called for expansion repeatedly. We’ve gone through the facts and figures, through the arguments pro and con. The case is clear, and some 150,000 Kansans would stand to benefit. It’s beyond frustrating to watch states around us expand — in the middle of a once-a-century pandemic, no less — while Kansas sits on its hands.
Let’s just pause and emphasize that fact. We are facing a generational challenge. COVID-19 has caused unparalleled disruption to people’s health and to our economy. With record-setting unemployment, many Kansans have lost their health insurance. There is no better time, no more crucial set of circumstances, to expand the program.
Legislators faced a shortened session this year, of course. If the coronavirus hadn’t interfered, perhaps they would have figured something out. But abortion politics had already become intertwined with the bill (for inexplicable reasons), and the path was far from clear.
We have a proposal for lawmakers next session. Expand Medicaid or don’t, it’s up to you. But if you can’t make up your minds once again, allow Kansans to have a say. Allow us the same choice they had in Oklahoma and will have in Missouri.
Let us decide this matter, once and for all.
We strongly suspect we know how Kansans would vote. We’d wager that Kansas legislators know as well.