Sedgwick County Commission File photo
Sedgwick County Commission File photo

Prairie Politics

Insider dispatches from our writers on politics in Wichita, Topeka and Washington.

Prairie Politics

Sedgwick County Commission majority blasts Medicaid expansion

By Daniel Salazar

February 10, 2016 06:46 PM

Socialized medicine. Obamacare expansion. More federal government intervention.

That’s what most Sedgwick County commissioners had to say about Medicaid expansion at their Wednesday commission meeting.

Sedgwick County commissioners voted 3-1 to authorize staff and their lobbyists to testify at the Legislature in opposition to expanding Medicaid to cover more Kansans.

“I don’t think Medicaid expansion is the solution to our nationwide health care problems,” said Jim Howell, commission chairman. “Medicaid expansion is a band-aid to the real problems. There are better solutions out there.”

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Bills to expand Medicaid were introduced in the Legislature this week.

The majority of commissioners dismissed any expansion plan for its ties to the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010 with the expectation of nationwide Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court later ruled that states could choose whether to expand it.

Opposition to expansion is part of the county’s 2016 legislative agenda, approved last December. That led commissioner Dave Unruh to question why any action was needed Wednesday.

“I think it’s pretty clear what the majority of this commission wants to do,” Unruh said.

Ranzau on Medicaid expansion

Commissioner Richard Ranzau, a frequent critic of public health and welfare programs, blasted the motives behind expanding Medicaid in a series of comments:

▪ “Let’s call it what it is: This is Obamacare expansion with the ultimate goal of eliminating all private-sector involvement in health care to get fully single-payer socialized medicine.”

▪ “Socialism is a lie. In order to advance socialistic principles in this country, people have to lie about it.”

▪ “The idea it’s going to be revenue-neutral and save hospitals is a lie as well.”

▪ “The more government gets involved in health care, the higher the costs get.”

▪ “I would hope that the legislators in Topeka would have the…fortitude it takes to weed through all this rhetoric.”

▪ “All of these social programs that are inefficient and ineffective have to be paid for by somebody.”

▪ “Despite the false promises of progressivism and socialism, it actually destroys prosperity for the middle class and for everyone rather than create it.”

▪ “The hospitals made a deal with President Obama and now they don’t like the, especially the bigger hospitals, don’t like the consequences and now they want a bailout. They want to shift some costs to the taxpayer.”

Lone ‘no’ vote

The commission’s lone Democrat, Tim Norton, was not at the meeting.

Unruh voted no, saying he was still considering his stance on Medicaid expansion.

“Frankly, I’m not settled on the issue,” Unruh said.

He cited support for expansion from the medical community, such as hospitals, as a reason he hadn’t settled on the issue.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar