Spivey legislator Thimesch sees drawbacks to Medicaid expansion – Hutchinson News


TOPEKA – Rep. Jack Thimesch, R-Spivey, still questions the fiscal wisdom of expanding Medicaid eligibility for lower-income residents.

On Monday night when Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, voted for Medicaid expansion which could benefit about 150,000 Kansans, he said if it had been approved by a previous Legislature, Kingman Community Hospital would not have had to seek a sales-tax election. The .75 percent county sales tax question recently passed easily.

Thimesch could get a second chance to cast a vote on Medicaid expansion if the legislation that’s moved through both chambers is vetoed by the governor and the chambers attempt to override the veto. 

Thimesch said Tuesday’s he not sure how he would vote, but he’s still concerned with the cost. “I don’t think we could afford it yet,” he said.

He was surprised the sales-tax ballot passed, with over 70 percent of voters supporting it. “Everybody just says they’re just strapped for money,” he said. He spoke to people in advance who said they weren’t going to vote for the sales tax hike, he said.

He also said some people told him they would prefer the local sales tax hike to benefit the hospital, to expanding Medicaid.

Federal dollars will cover most of the expense, but the state’s additional cost could be $81 million the first year and then climb to $100 million. Proponents say the advantages – such as some people in prison qualifying for Medicaid and the benefit to health care providers – could actually translate into a profit.

“We should expand Medicaid far enough so we don’t have to pay taxes,” said expansion critic Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, scoffing at that scenario during Senate debate Monday.

Thimesch is among those who point to the possibility the federal government’s share, which is to settle at 90 percent, could evaporate entirely and the state would have to pick up the full tab.


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