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Moveon.Org poll shows most Kansans support Medicaid expansion

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3 minute read

But Brownback campaign skeptical of the results

By Jim McLean
KHI News Service

April 8, 2014

TOPEKA — Poll results released today indicate that the Medicaid expansion issue could be a factor in the Kansas governor’s race.

The poll, conducted last week for Political Action, a left-leaning group dedicated to “progressive change,” showed that 52 percent of Kansans favored expanding the health care program to more low-income adults.

Approximately a third – 35 percent – said they were opposed to Medicaid expansion and 13 percent said they weren’t sure. In addition, 41 percent of voters said Brownback’s failure to expand Medicaid would make them less likely to vote for him.

Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C., conducted the survey, which also showed Democrat Paul Davis leading Republican incumbent Sam Brownback 45 percent to 41 percent with 14 percent undecided.

The results from other states showed other GOP incumbents trailing Democratic challengers in part due to their opposition to expansion.

Burdett Loomis, a University of Kansas political scientist who briefly served on the staff of former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said that Brownback and Republican legislative leaders opposed to the Affordable Care Act have so far been able to “shut off any consideration of Medicaid expansion.”

Davis, the leader of the Democratic minority in the Kansas House, was a vocal supporter of expansion during the 2013 legislative session but has been less eager to discuss the issue since declaring his candidacy for governor, presumably due to its association with the Affordable Care Act, which remains unpopular with the public according to tracking polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

‘Better discussion’

The poll results, Loomis said, suggest that voters want to see both candidates address the issue more forthrightly during the campaign.

“We might be able to have a better discussion in the campaign about health care, not just Obamacare but Medicaid expansion,” Loomis said. “I think that discussion, which we should embrace in Kansas, has been long in coming.”

Mark Dugan, manager of Brownback’s re-election campaign, said the source of the survey made the results suspect.

“ is a liberal organization that paid for a poll by a liberal polling organization to promote the liberal candidate Paul Davis,” Dugan said. “Kansans don’t want to expand Obamacare.”

But support for expansion in the poll was significantly weaker than that shown in two previous surveys.

Results of a poll done for the Kansas Hospital Association in February 2013 showed 60 percent support for expansion and a poll released in February of this year by the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society put it at 72 percent.

Of the nearly 900 respondents in the poll, 52 percent were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats and 18 percent independents. Most were between the ages of 46 and 65.

A review of polls conducted in the final weeks of the 2012 presidential race found those done by PPP to be the most accurate, though the firm was criticized in 2013 for withholding results in a Colorado recall election.

‘Manipulated data’

Noting the Colorado controversy, Dugan said PPP has “manipulated data in order to make their candidates or their liberal causes of the day seem better.”

More than 415,000 Kansans are now enrolled in Medicaid, which was renamed KanCare in 2013 when responsibility for managing the program was turned over to three for-profit companies. Most of the enrollees are children, pregnant women and Kansans with physical and developmental disabilities. A substantial number of seniors who have spent down their resources also rely on the program to cover their nursing home costs.

The expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act is designed mainly to cover low-income adults who earn too little to qualify for federal subsidies to help them purchase private coverage on the Obamacare exchange. In Kansas, able-bodied adults aren’t eligible for Medicaid regardless of how little they earn. Adults with children are eligible but only if they earn less than 32 percent of poverty, about $630 a month for a three-person household.

Without expansion, an estimated 80,000 uninsured Kansans are expected to fall into what is being called the Medicaid gap, meaning they will remain ineligible for Medicaid and unable to afford private coverage.

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute. It is supported in part by a variety of underwriters. The News Service is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy-making environment. All News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution, including a link back to when a story is reposted online. An automatically updated feed of headlines and more from KHI can be included on your website using the KHI widget. More about the News Service at or contact us at (785) 233-5443.

Major Funding for Health coverage on KCPT provided by Assurant Employee Benefits and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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