Kansas governor announces plan to expand Medicaid, legalize medical marijuana

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Medicaid expansion has been a top priority on Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s list of goals since she took office two years ago. The governor says she has a fool-proof plan to which her political opponents will not be able to say no.

Kelly said Monday that the last time she proposed legislation to expand Medicaid, the opposition said it was too expensive but this time she has devised a way to pay for it.

“The bill establishes the regulatory framework for the cultivation, testing, distribution, prescription and purchase medical marijuana,” Kelly said.

The governor’s new budget-neutral legislation eliminates previous road blocks by generating the money from the sale of medical marijuana to pay for Medicaid expansion, approximately $50 million.

“For something that once again, our neighbors in Oklahoma and Missouri have already recognized and addressed,” Kelly said. “In fact Kansas is only 1 of 3 states that have not legalized medical marijuana.”

Kelly believes the benefits are two fold. It would allow people to use marijuana legally for conditions like PTSD, cancer and epilepsy, while using the revenue from sales to expand health coverage for 165,000 Kansans.

The governor said her plan will also bring billions of dollars in federal money back to the state, add thousands of new jobs and protect rural hospitals that have closed or are struggling.

‘Every day at the Department of Commerce we are in a dog-eat -dog fight for jobs and investment,” said Lieutenant Governor David Toland, who believes Medicaid expansion will also spur economic growth.

Toland said Kansas is locked in fierce competition for economic development and the state has no business giving companies that would potentially move to or expand in Kansas a reason to look elsewhere.

“I can say unequivocally that the availability of healthy, productive workers essential to the decision-making of companies who are considering where to locate and where to go,” Toland said.

Kelly’s proposal would fully expand Medicaid for those making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, with a 90/10 match to begin no later than January 1, 2022.

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