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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Trending: Legislative Sessions Find Medicaid Expansion on the Table

Patrick Willard

Senior Director of State and National Strategic Partnerships

Andrea Callow

Associate Director of Medicaid Initiatives

Republicans swept the governor’s races last November, dashing hopes that those who opposed Medicaid expansion would be replaced in 2015. Instead, Republican governors put their alternative proposals on statehouse agendas in the South and the West, pitting them against GOP lawmakers. Some legislative sessions will be wrapping up this month and those Medicaid expansion proposals are generating some political battles, as you’ll see below.

A good article from Vox sums up recent Medicaid expansion activity across three states in particular—Kansas, Utah, and Montana. If you’re interested in more in-depth data on the economic arguments for those states, check out our briefs and infographic data on those and other states. Our blog on uncompensated care (“Expanding Medicaid Contributes to a Decline in Hospital Losses on Charity Care”) picks up where the Vox piece leaves off.

Here’s our quick take on where key states are in their efforts to expand Medicaid:

Utah—Lawmakers will adjourn this week but hope for a last-minute compromise on Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan. Last week, the House defeated the plan, which had passed in the Senate and was supported by the governor. The House proposal, which is more limited in its coverage, is expected to come up for a Senate vote before adjournment.

FloridaA Senate committee will hold a hearing on a proposal today. The proposal, which would provide health coverage, does include a requirement that beneficiaries work or attend school, and buy coverage through a state-run or private health insurance marketplace. Business interests are pushing for expansion. The Senate president believes the plan would help hospitals facing a cut in federal funds. The House, however, is another matter. The session just started last week and will run until May 1.

MontanaLast week a House committee shot down the Medicaid expansion bill in committee. The session will continue and it is possible that another bill from a GOP legislator will be taken up before adjournment, which is slated for the end of April.

AlaskaA House Finance Subcommittee dropped the governor’s proposal from the budget, but there is still time to act on a separate bill between now and adjournment (which will be in mid April).

KansasGov. Brownback indicated that he was open to expansion, but this has first to get approved in the legislature. Hearings on a bill sponsored by a GOP lawmaker are slated for March 18 and 19. The measure faces opposition from legislative leaders.

Tennessee—Nothing is happening on the surface since seven members of a Senate committee scrapped Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan in a special session. Advocates continue to press those who voted the bill down. The session runs until the end of April.

WyomingThe legislature adjourned without adopting the governor’s Medicaid expansion proposal. Gov. Matt Mead has indicated that he is concerned that the state will have to pick up the costs for those without insurance who need health care.