It has been a big week in Topeka starting with 4-H’ers in town for Citizenship in Action. The week also had another highlight – saving our rural hospitals...
The Kansas House gave final approval to a bill that would expand Medicaid eligibility. On the surface, you might be asking why this is a good thing. Let me peel back a layer to explain this vote’s importance: rural hospitals across our state are on the verge of closing (one hospital in Independence has already closed). Their budgets are about the break from serving people who fall between being on Medicaid and ability to pay on their own. So, at the end of the day, the hospital gets stuck with the bill. I don’t need to tell you what would happen if one of our hospitals closed and instead of driving 10-15 minutes to the emergency room, it took twice that time to drive to the next county over for an emergency room. Every single hospital in our district asked me to support the bill.
The bill passed overwhelmingly – including a near majority of Republicans. Now, I know not everyone agrees with this vote. Some will even say it is a vote in support of Obamacare. This is a disingenuous argument coming from misdirected anger toward the federal government. The 113th District sent me to Topeka to fight for us. I am proud to set politics aside and stand up to ensure access to healthcare and emergency services in our rural communities. I just hope the Senate takes up the issue as well to save our hospitals.
Some politicians yesterday chose to use this important debate for political gain. Many amendments were offered during debate, most with ill intent. One amendment would have dictated that Medicaid dollars not go to Planned Parenthood. This was the 6th Amendment to the bill. There were two REAL reasons for running the amendment: 1) As an effort to kill the bill and 2) As a political “gotcha” amendment to label “‘Pro-life” legislators as not being Pro-Life. This amendment, if passed, would have kept all Medicaid funds from going to our Rural County Health Facilities because they also are not a full spectrum provider. Our county health facilities need these funds. Also, a Texas judge earlier this week just ruled that Texas could not institute such a ban. I refuse to allow such an issue getting stuck in the court system to delay helping our local hospitals. For these reasons, I could not support the amendment.
I do not support abortion and do not believe in taxpayer funded abortions. My position is clear. And my votes will always reflect that position. I am not in Topeka to serve any special interest but to serve our District.
On to the tax bill that the governor vetoed...I am glad that the House voted to override the veto (a majority of Republicans supported the override) but the override fell a couple of votes short in the Senate. Tax Committees in both chambers will have to go back to work to come up with a new plan. Since the governor did not make cuts last fall, every day that we cannot come to a consensus on budget cuts and taxes simply means our schools, roads and other services are staring at bigger and bigger cuts for the current year.
The House also passed a bill this week increasing the allowable weight limits on trucks hauling commodities from 85,000 lbs. on 5 axles to 90,000 lbs. on 6 axles. This bill came out of the Ag Committee and I was happy to support it as a way of easing these regulations on our ag producers.
Again, I thank everyone for their input, support and encouragement. Please continue to pray for all of us up here in Topeka as we continue to make tough decisions.
Representative Greg Lewis