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Kansas just took a big step toward Medicaid expansion

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The Kansas legislature has voted in favor of a bill to expand the state’s Medicaid expansion — a move that would extend Obamacare’s footprint just days after the Republican-controlled Congress’s failed attempt to repeal the law.

The Kansas House passed the Medicaid expansion bill in February. Late Monday, the Kansas Senate voted to expand Medicaid in an overwhelming 25-13 vote.

The bill will go through one more vote in the Senate. If it passes with the same level of support, it then moves to the desk of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. He has long opposed Medicaid expansion and is expected to veto the measure.

Both Democrats and moderate Republicans in Kansas have so far supported the Medicaid expansion effort.

“I feel so strongly it’s the right thing to do,” says Susan Concannon, a Kansas Republican state legislator, who has been leading the expansion push. “We have citizens who are uninsured and hospitals that are suffering.”

“I can’t believe it took this long to do it,” John Doll, a Republican senator, told the Kansas City Star.

Medicaid expansion would cover an estimated 150,000 low-income Kansas residents if passed. The big question now is whether the Kansas legislature has the two-thirds majority needed in both the Senate and House to overcome Brownback’s expected veto.

Medicaid expansion would need 27 votes in the 40-member Senate and 84 votes in the 120-member House. It received 25 votes in the Senate and 81 votes in the House, meaning the bill is just a few votes shy of a veto-proof majority — but not far off. It’s hard to know, given how close the vote is, whether the Kansas effort will ultimately succeed.

More states appear to be considering Medicaid expansion in the wake of the GOP’s defeated replacement bill. Maine residents will vote on a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative in November. Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Virginia says he plans to try to pursue the issue in his state. He is a Democrat, but his Republican-controlled legislature has historically opposed the measure.

There are 19 states that do not participate in the Medicaid expansion, most led by Republican governors.