Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly announced Monday a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in order to increase the revenue needed to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Under the proposal, nearly 200,000 citizens who currently have no health insurance would be eligible for insurance coverage.
“After nearly a year of challenges from COVID-19, we must use every tool we can to protect the health of our workforce and our economy,” Kelly said in a statement from the governor’s office. “Sustaining 165,000 Kansans of health care, bringing billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to our local economy, and protecting our rural hospitals will be critical to our recovery from the pandemic. By combining widespread, sensible medical marijuana policies with our efforts to expand Medicaid, the revenue from the bill for the expansion is paid off. “
Obamacare includes Medicaid extension
Under the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, Congress approved an expansion of the Medicaid program to provide health insurance to lower-income families, with the federal government paying 90% of the cost and states 10% of the cost. Kansas is one of 12 states that did not implement enlargement. The leaders of the GOP-led legislature cite the cost of the program.
“You have heard many of the opposition comments [that] We can’t afford it, “said Kelly in a press conference on Monday. “We just drafted an invoice that pays for itself and more.”
“There’s never been a good argument against expansion other than that we can’t afford it,” she added.
Under Kelly’s proposal, lawmakers would pass legislation to legalize and regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana. Kelly has said the medical marijuana program would be modeled on Ohio’s, with patients with certain qualification requirements being allowed to use cannabis medicinally on a doctor’s recommendation. The move would also introduce taxes that would fund Medicaid’s expansion. However, both parts of the plan have already met opposition from Republican lawmakers.
“I hope that they will eliminate the differences between the political parties and recognize that both components of this law, the expansion of Medicaid and medical legalization, are extremely popular with their constituents,” Kelly said during the press conference.
Republican lawmakers reject Kelly’s plan
Republican House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins was quick to criticize the plan in a statement released Monday.
“Governor Kelly envisions a Kansas where you can choose not to work and taxpayers will pay the bill for you to stay home and supposedly smoke medical marijuana,” Hawkins said. “As the governor focuses on high hopes and dreams, Republicans continue to work to create jobs and rebuild what was once a strong economy.”
However, healthcare executives support the expansion of Medicaid. Chad Austin, president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association, said in a briefing from the University of Kansas Health Care System that he believes the newly installed Biden administration will provide incentives for “the 12 remaining states that have not pushed Medicaid’s expansion to have”.
Austin said Kansas was “on an island” surrounded by states that have taken advantage of the expansion, adding that public opinion is in favor of changing policy.
“There have been polls after polls that have been conducted over the past few years that consistently show that Medicaid’s expansion is publicly supported,” he said. “Hopefully our policy makers here in Topeka will take advantage of this and find a solution that is right for Kansans.”