While Medicaid expansion did not pass during the recent session of the Kansas Legislature, it was a hot topic during a forum for local lawmakers.

While Medicaid expansion did not pass during the recent session of the Kansas Legislature, it was a hot topic during a forum for local lawmakers.

Legislators whose districts include portions of Leavenworth County participated Saturday in a legislative forum organized through the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce.

During opening remarks, state Rep. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, argued the state government has made progress since a few years ago.

“I am unhappy with one thing though,” he said.

Pittman said state lawmakers had a chance to expand Medicaid coverage in the state.

“I’m very disappointed that we did not do that,” he said.

State Rep. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, also mentioned Medicaid expansion in his opening remarks.

Karleskint said he is one of the moderate Republicans who worked to pass Medicaid expansion.

When later answering a question about funding for mental health, Karleskint argued the expansion of Medicaid would have been a plus for mental health care.

State Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, said some argue that Medicaid expansion will cure a lot of ills. But Dove said he is against the proposed expansion.

He said the federal government may give Kansas funds to help pay for the expansion. But he asked what state officials will do if those funds run out.

Dove said the state cannot extend Medicaid to more people but then remove them from coverage when funding is no longer available.

He argued lawmakers have to find a better way to address the issue than running a deficit.

The legislators were asked about expanding access to medical care options.

State Sen. Kevin Braun, R-Kansas City, Kansas, said lawmakers are looking for a solution to provide health care coverage to 8% of the state’s population. But Braun said he does not want to come up with a solution for the 8% that ruins things for the remaining 92%.

He argued that increasing funding for agencies such as St. Vincent Clinic is the answer. St. Vincent Clinic provides health care services to low income residents.

State Rep. David French, R-Lansing, said he does not support expanding Medicaid in Kansas.

“I voted against it,” he said. “I would vote against it next year.”

Karleskint argued lawmakers should work together on solutions.

He argued that Medicaid expansion could have a positive economic impact on Kansans.

“Too many people are using the emergency room,” he said. “It’s hurting hospitals.”

Braun argued that expanding Medicaid coverage in Kansas would place healthy and able-bodied people in same pool as the most needy.

The senator also argued that the federal funding that would be available for Medicaid expansion is taxpayer money.

Other topics discussed during the forum included transportation.

Braun said transportation starts with an agreed upon plan. He encouraged county and city officials to work for a comprehensive plan.

“You need a comprehensive plan here first,” he said.

At one point, former state Rep. Debbie Deere asked French a question regarding whether he spoke with local education representatives before voting against a school funding bill.

Deere was unseated as a member of the Kansas House when she lost an election to French in 2018.

After Deere completed her question, French asked, “Are you running for my position next year?”

French said Saturday’s forum was not a political debate.

“It is a debate question and you know it,” he said.

French said he had not spoken with education representatives prior to his vote on the bill.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR