Friday, December 26, 2014

Medicaid expansion, local revenues on top of UG agenda for Kansas Legislature

Kansas City Kansan Publisher

The expansion of Medicaid in the State of Kansas and protecting local revenue funds are two of the top agenda items for the Unified Government as the Kansas Legislature session begins next month.

Unified Government Commissioners met earlier this month to discuss the upcoming session.

UG Public Affairs Director Mike Taylor, who serves as the government's lobbyist in Topeka, said there will be a fight with the Republican-dominated legislature on most issues.

But the county will fight them.

Arguably the biggest is the expansion of Medicaid.

Taylor said expanding Medicaid would help the poorest of Wyandotte County residents, along with hospitals in both rural and urban areas.

"Expanding Medicaid in Kansas is critical for our residents," Taylor told commissioners last week. "It’s also an interesting issue with rural and urban areas working together. It’s not just KU Hospital, but it’s hurting small rural hospitals. We’re trying to work for an urban and rural combination."

According to the Unified Government, the new insurance law will only provide opportunities for one-third of the uninsured residents in Wyandotte County.

Expanding Medicaid, according to Taylor, would cover more Wyandotte County residents and help reduce the financial impact to hospitals, including the University of Kansas Hospital.

In a  study performed by the Urban Institute, not expanding Medicaid would cost the State of Kansas around $2.6 billion from 2013-2022. Hospitals across the state campaigned for the issue during this most recent election year.

Below is the entire list of goals the country will lobby for and against:
Kansas Tax System: The Kansas Legislature has contributed to increased property taxes by shifting the cost of providing services and programs from state government to local governments. The Kansas Legislature should renew a partnership and cooperative spirit with city, county and school leaders to address the issue of increasing property taxes caused by the shifting of costs from state government to localgovernments and schools. The Kansas Legislature should not continue solving its budget shortfalls by taking revenues belonging to or legally obligated to city and county governments and should reject placing more of the burden for funding vital services on local taxpayers. 
Local government revenues which need to be protected include: local alcoholic liquor funds; special city-county highway fund; motor fuel taxes; community mental health; and community corrections funding. 
Abandoned Housing: The Unified Government supports legislation which streamlines and expedites the process for local governments and neighborhood organizations to deal with the growing blight of abandoned, nuisance and foreclosed housing. 
City Elections: City elections should remain non-partisan and separate from state and national elections. Cities should continue to determine when their local elections are held. 
Law Enforcement Mutual Aid: The Unified Government supports mutual aid legislation allowing law enforcement agencies to work cooperatively with their counterparts in adjoining states during critical incidents. The State of Missouri has already passed this mutual aid legislation affecting nine counties in the Kansas City metro. 
Medicaid Expansion: The Unified Government supports the expansion of Medicaid. The refusal of the state to expand Medicaid puts the burden on local governments to plan health care for the poor. The new insurance market place will target only about 11,000 adults of the approximately 36,000 uninsured in Wyandotte County. This will put pressure on the Wyandotte County Public Health Department and other health care facilities in Wyandotte County to provide care without reimbursement. 
Urban Opportunity Zones: The Unified Government supports the creation of urban opportunity zones as a toll to rebuild and revitalize struggling urban neighborhoods. 
Legislative Advocacy: The Unified Government supports current law allowing the use of state and local tax dollars to provide information and advocate on behalf of our community and its citizens.