“I mean there’s a lot of us hard working people that just can’t afford it.”
Hundreds of thousands of Kansans are watching to see what comes out of the statehouse, as lawmakers fight over whether to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have provided health insurance for some 180,000 additional Kansans by expanding Medicaid.
Almost as soon as the governor announced his veto Thursday morning, lawmakers in the Kansas House began debating an override. But supporters of expansion got the debate paused until Monday in order to get more time to win more votes.
“Between the heart attacks and my back problems, when I fall down they don’t know if it’s the heart or the back,” said Jimmy Olson.
He’s spent a lifetime working hard. His body is feeling the stress.
“I’m going on 56-years-old, spinal sclerosis, spinal degenerative, bulging disc in my L4, just had neck surgery, five heart attacks,” he says, listing his health problems.
As an independent contractor who clears an estimated $20,000 in a good year he says he can’t afford to spend nearly a thousand dollars a month on health insurance for him, his wife and daughter. But he makes too much to qualify for Medicaid.
“Oh,” he sighs.”The expansion would just really help in keeping me healthy so I could keep working.”
Jimmy says he’s not surprised the governor vetoed the effort Thursday. But he’s still hopeful.
“Yeah, I thought he probably would. But I think, hopefully, we’ve got enough people that are seeing what’s going on.They’ll override it. I’m hopeful.”
Lawmakers are now fighting over the future of the bill. Opponents say it will cost the state money it just doesn’t have.Supporters say it will bring in much needed federal dollars, as well as ensure the future of struggling rural hospitals.
They’re taking the weekend to rally their sides. Supporters need to find at least three more votes for an override in the House.
“You never know. I can’t predict much,” said Rep. John Whitmer, (R) Wichita. “I’d like to think we have a veto proof number, but I’ll bet it’s close.”
“These are working poor that can’t afford health insurance,” said Rep. Ed Trimmer, (D) Winfield. “We need to cover these people.”
Jimmy says he just wants to keep working.
“This is not people that are just sitting at home playing video games,” Jimmy sighs. “We’re out here working, trying to make a living, trying to keep up with our taxes.”
The House plans to resume its debate of an override when members go back to work on Monday. If it passes there, the fight would move to the Senate where it’s two votes short of those needed for an override.
Next week is the last week of work for the regular session.