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Latest Kansas Hospital Association Poll Shows Strong Support For Medicaid Expansion

Public Opinion Strategies
Poll results released Monday by the Kansas Hospital Association show a majority of Kansans continue to favor expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

Poll results released Monday by the Kansas Hospital Association show a majority of Kansans continue to favor expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

The statewide poll conducted in mid-February found that 62 percent of Kansas voters supported expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to cover approximately 150,000 non-disabled adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $16,243 for an individual and $33,465 for a family of four in 2015.

Support increased to 76 percent when respondents were told that an expansion bill introduced by the hospital association was “budget neutral” and would provide coverage only to U.S. citizens who helped pay for their care.

“These are things that we’ve heard from the (Brownback) administration, from legislators and from Kansans that are really important,” said Cindy Samuelson, a KHA spokesperson.

The KHA bill, called The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas, was modeled after a so-called red state expansion plan implemented by Republican Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana.

The poll of 500 likely voters, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percent, found majority support for KanCare expansion among Republicans, Democrats and independent voters. When “base” Republicans were given a description of the KHA bill, 74 percent said they supported it.

Previous KHA polls also have found strong support for expansion . But public opinion on the issue hasn’t reduced opposition among Republican legislative leaders, who have expressed doubt that the federal government would cover no less than 90 percent of expansion costs as the ACA requires it to do.

More recently Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP leaders have said they don’t want to expand basic health coverage to non-disabled adults until all Kansans with developmental and physical disabilities are getting the support services they need. Currently, thousands are on waiting lists for such services.

Like other recent polls, the KHA survey found that a large majority of Kansans believe the state generally is headed in the wrong direction. When asked, “Would you say that things in Kansas are going in the right direction, or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?” 67 percent answered “wrong track.” That’s up from 63 percent in the KHA poll conducted in April of last year.

Download the Kansas Statewide Survey Questions and Results

Several issues — from the state’s ongoing budget problems to its rejection of expansion — are combining to make Kansans pessimistic, Samuelson said.

“That could mean lots of different things, but we believe the fact that the state has not made a decision to try a Kansas solution for expanding the KanCare program is one of the factors,” she said.

No hearings have been held on the KHA expansion bill in the House or Senate and none are scheduled.

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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