01 March 2024 | Economic Security Health Tax and Budget Early Learning

2024 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 8

Kansas Action for Children
March 1, 2024

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New Report Shows More Than 150,000 Kansans Would Benefit from Expansion 

While we continue to wait on the supposed promised hearings on Medicaid expansion to be scheduled, the Kansas Health Institute released their full report on new estimates of the costs to the state and a deep dive into the characteristics of who’d benefit from Medicaid expansion. Here are a few key highlights from the report:

  • 151,898 Kansans, including 106,450 adults and 45,448 kids, are estimated to enroll if lawmakers passed Medicaid expansion this year. While kids are already eligible for Medicaid and CHIP at much higher income levels, expansion outreach leads to better awareness of the program for now-eligible parents under expansion.

  • 40.7 percent of the eligible adult population under expansion are ages 19-25.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 likely eligible-for-expansion Kansans ages 19-64 are already working, busting the myth that those adults in the Medicaid expansion eligible population aren’t working.

  • Of those not working, it’s estimated that at least 77.5 percent of that group would qualify for an exemption under the proposed work reporting requirement.

  • Federal incentives over the first two years of expansion are estimated to be $509 million, potentially covering eight years of expansion costs.

This next week, hundreds of Medicaid expansion advocates will join at the Statehouse to rally in support of expanding coverage to more than 150,000 low-income Kansans. The Legislature is still dragging its feet on holding hearings, and hopefully real Kansans from all over the state putting pressure on lawmakers in person will encourage legislative leadership to allow hearings to move forward. You can still RSVP for the event here.

In other KanCare-related news, we updated our unwinding tracker this week, with analysis of data posted by the state as of December 31, 2023, that looks at how kids are faring in the year-long process. Things are improving, but many Kansans – including kids! – are still losing coverage.

Submit Your Ideas to Make Kansas Hunger Free

The House Committee on Welfare Reform is again focusing on homelessness, with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) providing information on various programs addressing homelessness and some data and context related to that work. The KDADS representative explained that in the last three years, during which consultants were engaged to assist in crafting solutions, homelessness has decreased two percent in Kansas.

Overall, the presentation demonstrated how KDADS is data-driven in its approach to homelessness and supporting local communities’ work in this area. It also reinforced the fact that homelessness, and the systems in place to prevent and address it, is a complex and localized policy issue that cannot be easily understood through a few informational hearings.

Currently, there are not any bills in action that would address hunger and food insecurity for Kansans. However, we do have an opportunity for you to share your ideas for how we could reach a hunger-free Kansas! Our partners at the Kansas Health Foundation are requesting ideas for what could be done at the state and/or the local level to help more Kansans experience food security. Submit yours by March 15 here.

Kansans Show Support for Child Care Funding 

Recently, more than 1,000 Kansans from all 105 counties joined a sign-on letter in support of budget requests for the early childhood system. The budget requests include state funds for accelerator grants to create new slots, sustainability grant funding to retain existing child care providers, and more. These requests are an historic opportunity for Kansas to invest in kids’ early development.

Despite constituent support for the budget requests, the House Committee on Appropriations removed the sustainability grant request. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means, however, has kept the Governor’s proposals for child care investments. We’ll see how the chambers’ differences on this topic play out in the coming weeks.

In January, the Governor proposed unifying all early childhood programs under a single umbrella. On Wednesday, HB 2785, which establishes the Office of Early Childhood, will have a hearing in the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development. Advocates and stakeholders are preparing for the hearing and have created another sign-on letter informing lawmakers about the reasons to support the Office of Early Childhood. You can add your name in support here.

The Office of Early Childhood would streamline the work being done in Kansas for the early childhood system. Currently, Kansas’ early childhood services are housed in four separate state agencies, often causing confusion and inefficiencies for the state, providers, and parents. The Office of Early Childhood is an opportunity to reduce government red tape and increase efficiency for families and providers.

Unsurprisingly, Medicaid Expansion Taken Out of Budget, but Some Positive Budget Additions Move Forward 

In January, the Governor released her budget proposal that included several key items that would improve our child care crisis, expand Medicaid, increase access to affordable housing, fully fund special education, and more. Here’s a quick rundown of what she proposed for FY 2025.

Budget committees have met the last few weeks to review department budgets, including the Department for Children and Families (DCF), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS). Because this funding is so important to many in our network, we’re going to dig into the details a bit more than normal in our newsletter.

After reviewing the budget recommendations for KDHE from the House Social Services Budget Committee, the House Committee on Appropriations pushed many items for later discussions, such as extending Medicaid coverage for routine dental care, funding for the Infant and Toddler Program (tiny-k), and increasing funds for community-based primary care entities. While Medicaid expansion was originally in the Governor’s Budget Recommendation, the Social Services Budget Committee voted to remove all funding for Medicaid expansion, and the Appropriations Committee failed to add it back in.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee (SWAM) reviewed the Subcommittee on Human Services recommendations and passed, without issue, funding for hospice providers that serve Medicaid patients, extending Medicaid coverage for routine dental care, increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates, funding for the tiny-k program, and funding to coordinate health care for low-income uninsured residents of Sedgwick, Wyandotte, and Johnson Counties. Unfortunately, like the House Committee on Appropriations, SWAM voted to remove funds for Medicaid expansion.

On a positive note, the House Committee on Appropriations and SWAM approved Medicaid reimbursement rates and increased funds to address the I/DD and PD waitlists. The Governor had released a budget amendment in early February to add more funding for the I/DD and PD waivers and increase the number of waivers by 250 slots for each. Both SWAM and House Appropriations reviewed the KDADS budget and approved the additional 250 slots for each waiver.

Next week we expect both chambers’ budget committees to work their final budget bills and send them on to the full Senate and House. Floor action on those bills could happen as soon as March 11.

What’s Next for Tax Cuts? 

With the House failing to override the Governor’s flat tax veto, the Legislature seems stalled on where to go next on tax policy. The House and Senate Tax committees didn’t meet this week at all, despite having the opportunity to hold hearings on new topics or work bills that have had hearings. Next week, Senate Tax plans to get to work on a few issues, but House Tax currently has no plan to meet.

Now that the flat tax is behind us (unless the Legislature dredges up its ghost again this session), lawmakers can craft a new tax package that returns more money to low- and middle-income Kansans. We believe our plan to create a state child tax credit is the most meaningful way to support children and families through tax policy. A hearing on HB 2687 was given in House Tax the day before Turnaround, but Senate Tax has yet to consider its companion, SB 436. We'll continue to lay the foundation for this proactive policy.

What to Expect in Week 9

Next week should be busy, but so far, many committees have not committed to putting meetings on the schedule, so much of the potential action is up in the air until they set their agendas. A few bills hearings that we know about and will weigh in on include:

  • On Tuesday in the Welfare Reform Committee, we’ll submit neutral testimony on HB 2723, which would provide $40 million in one-time state-matching funding for emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness. While KAC supports increasing funding and policies that address homelessness and its root causes, we are concerned with a provision of the bill that requires recipient municipalities to enforce “camping and vagrancy ordinances.” Any criminalization of homelessness only causes further harm and makes obtaining housing and stability more difficult.

  • On Wednesday in the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development, we’ll present proponent testimony on HB 2785, which would establish the Office of Early Childhood.

Advocates will join in the Statehouse for advocacy days on Wednesday, with Early Learning Advocacy Day activities held primarily in the morning and the Medicaid Expansion Rally beginning at 12:30 p.m. With hundreds of like-minded folks filling the Statehouse, it should be an invigorating and encouraging day.