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Group That Opposes Medicaid Expansion In Kansas Also Fighting Florida Bill

A conservative advocacy group that opposes Medicaid expansion in Kansas is fighting a Florida plan backed by that state’s Republican Senate president.

Health News Florida, a partner of the KHI News Service, reportsthat Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy group funded by Kansas business titans Charles and David Koch, is sending mailers to voters in 23 Florida Senate districts in an effort to stop a Medicaid expansion plan that recently started gaining momentum.

Andy Gardiner, president of the Florida Senate, is the main sponsor of the expansion bill, which is similar to plans recently advanced by several conservative Republican governors. It requires non-disabled, childless adults to work 30 hours a week in order to qualify for coverage. Unemployed adults could qualify by spending that same amount of time searching for employment or participating in job training.

The bill also requires recipients to pay monthly premiums ranging from $3 to $25 depending on their income. It’s estimated the plan would extend coverage to approximately 800,000 Floridians who make too much to qualify for the state’s Medicaid program but too little to be eligible for Obamacare subsidies.

The AFP mailer sent to voters in Gardiner’s district criticizes him for supporting “Obama’s Medicaid expansion in Florida.” It says the plan would “give good people bad coverage.”

The group has waged similar campaigns against expansion proposals in several other Republican-dominated states.

Akash Chougule, a senior policy analyst in AFP’s Washington, D.C., office, testified recently against  a Kansas Medicaid expansion proposal. House Bill 2139 would require Gov. Sam Brownback to develop an expansion plan and negotiate its approval with federal officials.

During his testimony, Chougule said that AFP was prepared to challenge Kansas lawmakers who supported the bill.

“We certainly plan to hold accountable any legislator who supports this misguided scheme,” Chougule said.

A Florida legislative committee recently voted unanimously to send Gardiner’s expansion bill to the full Senate. The AFP campaign is aimed at stopping it there.

The Kansas bill received two days of hearings in the House Health and Human Services Committee, but the panel’s chairman, Wichita Republican Dan Hawkins, has said he doesn’t plan to schedule a vote. That means, barring some maneuvering by expansion supporters, it’s unlikely to reach the floor of the House or Senate before the Legislature adjourns its 2015 session.

Jim McLean is executive editor of KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

Jim McLean is a political correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration based at KCUR with other public media stations across Kansas. You can email him at jim@kcur.org.
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