Governor meeting the press with Senate GOP leader


Gov. Laura Kelly will hold a news conference on Thursday to announce what could be a consensus plan on Medicaid expansion.

The news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. and is expected to be attended by Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.

Word about a potential news conference on Medicaid expansion had been circulating in political circles most of Wednesday.

“Discussions about a plan for Medicaid expansion have been ongoing,” said Kelly spokeswoman Lauren Fitzgerald.

“Details will be available at Thursday’s press conference.”

Kelly and Denning and have been meeting since early last month to hammer out a compromise plan on Medicaid expansion.

They had been working to put the finishing touches on a deal in the last several days.

In an interview with the Sunflower State Journal last week, the governor said she was cautiously optimistic that a consensus plan could be agreed upon.

Kelly had generally backed a bill that the House passed last year that would have expanded Medicaid coverage to 138% of the federal poverty level, benefiting potentially 150,000 Kansans.

Denning has developed another multifaceted alternative that called for expanding Medicaid to 100% of the federal poverty level with an option of going to 138% if the federal government doesn’t approve partial expansion with 90% federal funding.

Denning said in an interview last week that he expected the final plan to call for expanding Medicaid to 138% of the federal poverty level with the possibility of later ratcheting back to 100% if the state can show the federal government that expansion is revenue neutral.

At that point, Medicaid beneficiaries over 100% of the federal poverty level would be transitioned back to the exchanges where premiums would be expected to be lower, he said.

The Denning plan was intended to reduce health insurance premiums on the exchanges by protecting insurers from extraordinarily large claims by providing reinsurance. Denning said he believes reinsurance would be part of the final plan.

Denning has said the reinsurance component of his plan is vital because it will lower premiums – estimated to be 20% or more – for people who purchase insurance on the exchanges.

The plan also could extend Medicaid coverage to prisoners who need 24-hour care in a hospital. It’s hoped that Medicaid coverage will relieve local jail budgets of paying for that care.

The plan would not include a work requirement, he said.

An agreement would be a stark turn of events from November, when Denning and other Senate Republicans accused the governor’s budget director of skewing his fiscal analysis of the Senate’s expansion plan.

Denning and Sens. Gene Suellentrop, Ty Masterson and Molly Baumgardner demanded that Budget Director Larry Campbell rescind testimony that he offered at a Nov. 13 meeting of the joint special committee on Medicaid expansion.

They argued that Campbell – a former Republican lawmaker – crafted a fiscal note that was tailored to bolster the governor’s position on Medicaid expansion.

Since then, the governor and the majority leader have been working together in hopes of having a plan ready for the start of the legislative session on Jan. 13.

“We’re so far along,” Denning said of the progress made in recent weeks. “Gov. Kelly and I are working like we used to work when she was in the Senate. We’ve really been productive.

“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have a bipartisan plan put together,” he said.