Dr. Jim Barnett, a Medicaid expansion proponent in his Republican campaign for governor during the 2018 primary, is glad to hear Democratic Governor Laura Kelly express her support for the idea in the State of the State on Wednesday.

“I wish her well,” Barnett said. “It’s going to be tough. I think there’s a broadening recognition across the state, particularly with Senator Moran giving his support to it, as well, when he said he thought it would help small hospitals, rural hospitals. It’s going to be a challenge with the way the Republican legislature has assigned their committee chairs. It’s going to keep bills out of committee, off the floor. It’s going to be difficult.”

Barnett is also concerned about how it would be paid for, long term.

“Senator Wagle, in her response to the State of the State, has it correct,” Barnett said. “There’s a wish list that, if completed fully, I do not think it can be done without increasing taxes.”

Kelly has called for a bipartisan group to look at Medicaid expansion and get her a proposal by Kansas Day. Even though he is not currently serving in the Legislature, Barnett has said he would help, if asked.

“I want to be helpful to the State of Kansas,” said Barnett. “I certainly would be helpful on that issue of Medicaid expansion. There are so many hospitals across the state really struggling right now. This is not the only answer for them, it’s just part of the answer, but, for our rural communities to survive, they’ve got to have access to health care.”

Barnett does believe that the three main goals of the speech, education funding, Medicaid expansion and DCF reform can be done this year without raising taxes if the code doesn’t change, but it’s in the outlying years where the equation falls apart.