Lawmakers discuss Kelly's push to expand Medicaid

TOPEKA, Kan. Among objectives Laura Kelly says she wants to accomplish as Kansas' next governor is Medicaid expansion that could help low-income Kansans and rural hospitals.

For her to meet this objective, she'll need votes from both parties in the state legislature.

A couple years ago, former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback vetoed Medicaid expansion. Lawmakers then came within three votes of overriding that veto, but Medicaid expansion did not pass the next legislative session.

"It was too all-encompassing of a plan and it was voted down simply because there was way too much money involved and there were some parts that were no necessary for the people that are actually in need," says Republican Emil Bergquist, state representative for Kansas' 91st District.

Lawmakers say in order for Medicaid expansion to pass this time, Democrats will need to join forces with moderate Republicans. While campaigning, Kelly promised to advocate for and sign legislation to expand Medicaid in her first year.

"It will be interesting for us to hear coming in to the session what it is she really means when she talks about expansion," Bergquist says. "We have a fairly conservative body that doesn't run to the possibility of spending more money. At the same time, we all have a care about healthcare in our state and there may be some new ideas come up within the House and maybe the governor that may actually help us in our deliberation."

Republicans say lawmakers also will look at ideas to meet needs of Kansans without expanding Medicaid. Republican lawmakers Eyewitness News spoke with Wednesday say they are interested in hearing ideas from Democratic legislators and Kelly.