It’s time to rise up

‘Expand Kansas Medicaid’ rally Feb. 17, Topeka

Freelance writer/editor

A broad coalition of sunflower state disability advocates and supporters have joined forces to “Expand Medicaid in Kansas,” a Feb. 17 rally at 2 p.m. at the state Capitol rotunda in Topeka. Organizers hope to attract more than 100 supporters.

The goal is simple: Present a unified force of Kansas disability rights advocates and supporters to send Gov. Sam Brownback and state legislators a clear message that it is critical to expand Medicaid during this legislative session.

The group will meet just before 2 p.m. in the rotunda of the state Capitol. State legislators will give health care policy updates. KanCare recipients negatively affected by the state’s experimental, for-profit managed care initiative — including Finn Bullers of Kansas City who fought the state to have his caregiver hours restored — will address the rally.

Supporters will then be asked to fan out across the Capitol to spread the message to their elected representatives — expand Medicaid for thousands of Kansans.

In Johnson County alone, 450 children would get critical health benefits the state now does not offer, says Ed Peterson of Fairway, a Democrat on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

Peterson is challenging incumbent chairman Ed Eilert, an Overland Park Republican and former longtime mayor of the city in the August primary race. Eilert does not endorse Medicaid expansion, only one issue that starkly reveals the ideological rift between the two candidates.

The federal government has offered money to states to expand Medicaid. But Kansas and other red-states have refused to accept federal taxpayer revenue from a Democrat — President Obama. Brownback critics — and others across the nation — say the governor’s unwillingness to accept the Medicaid expansion money offered by Obama is nothing more than a sharp political stick in eye of the President at the expense of the nation’s most-vulnerable population.

Simple put, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has said he does not believe President Obama will not make good on his promise and renege on the pledge of some $35 million a year for three years.

If implemented, after three years the federal Medicaid money would continue to fund expansion at 90 percent of the original disbursal, with states picking up the remaining 10 percent. It’s free fed money for three years and after that, it’s a $1 state investment for a $10 federal return.

The irony is that Kansas taxpayers already have footed the federal tax bill to expand Medicaid. And by refusing to accept $35 million in fed funds, Brownback is funneling money from Kansas taxpayers to pay the health care bills of those who don’t live in Kansas.

Never before in Kansas politics, observers say, has aid to the disabled and the most vulnerable been such a partisan football — tossed about with such reckless abandon by those who want to score political points and get re-elected.

The rally is being organized by Johnson County MoveOn, a lobby force for progressive change.

For more information, call:

— Al Frisby with JoCo MoveOn: Questions | 913.206.5354 | Johnson County |

— Finn Bullers, policy adviser for the Greater Kansas City Spinal Cord Injury Association | C: 913-706-2894 | H: 913-649-6693 |

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