By Celia Llopis-Jepsen, April 03, 2017
The Kansas House sustained Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of Medicaid expansion Monday morning when they fell three votes short of the two-thirds threshold for overriding him.
The final tally in the much anticipated vote was 81 in favor of overriding and 44 against.
Proponents have sought the measure to provide greater access to health care coverage for at least 150,000 low-income Kansans for multiple years, and this year is the closest it has come to becoming law.
“Keep in mind what you’ve heard from your communities,” Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, urged her colleagues just before the vote on overriding Brownback’s veto. “Your people want this.”
She referred to reports that some members of the House opposed to Medicaid expansion had been bombarded with calls from constituents over the weekend.
Those calls may have won over at least one vote. Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka, who opposed Medicaid expansion last month, voted in favor of overriding Brownback.
“I am also concerned with ensuring health care access,” Patton told the body as he explained his decision.
But others, like Rep. Shannon Francis, R-Liberal, indicated their concerns remained unresolved.
“My constituents depend on the stability of our western Kansas hospitals,” Francis said as he explained his stance that Brownback’s veto should be left in place. “This plan does not prioritize rural Kansas.”
Francis argued “western Kansas hospitals stand to benefit the least.”
Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, another no vote, indicated he had some concerns about the bill as it stood, but remains hopeful House leadership could look into the matter further.
Brownback on Thursday reiterated his past reasons for opposing Medicaid expansion, saying it would put able-bodied Kansans in line ahead of people with disabilities seeking health care.
He called the bill irresponsible and said it would be bad for the state.
Rep. Linda Gallagher, R-Lenexa, questioned his opposition to Medicaid expansion.
“The governor’s reasons for vetoing the bill just don’t hold up in my view,” she said. “This is not a welfare bill.”
The push to overcome Brownback’s veto began last Thursday, but Democrats and Moderate Republicans quickly tabled it, anxious that they might not have enough votes.
Over the weekend, proponents encouraged advocates to contact their lawmakers, and some heard from crowds of Medicaid expansion proponents at weekend gatherings with their constituents.
Two who had opposed Medicaid expansion in February had a change of heart, supporting the override effort. They were Republicans Fred Patton, of Topeka, and Troy Waymaster, of Bunker Hill.
Two who had supported Medicaid expansion flipped in the opposite direction. They were Tory Arnberger, of Great Bend, and Aurand.
Because the veto override didn’t pass the House, it will not proceed to the Senate, where its fate also would have been uncleared. Medicaid expansion had originally passed the Senate with 25 votes, and 27 would be needed to overcome a veto.
Sen. Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia, who had supported Medicaid expansion, said she looks forward to future possibilities to improve health care.
“Maybe this loss today will start a new conversation on what rural health care does look like, and to not have our rural hospitals lose money or even close,” Bowers said. “I’m an optimist that looks forward to seeing that there’s a new path. This just started the conversation, which we haven’t been able to have for so many years .”