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May 24th, 2019

francis brown bag recap part 2125th District Representative Shannon Francis talks about some of the projects facing the Kansas Legislature in the upcoming year during a brown bag luncheon Thursday afternoon. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part in the story recapping 125th District Representative Shannon Francis’ visit to the Rock Island Depot Thursday afternoon and will focus on some of the questions he took from the audience. 

With the many projects going on in Topeka and with new leadership taking over, some questions still remain about how everything will get done, with one of the questions at Thursday’s brown bag luncheon being about Medicaid expansion, which has been a point of contention in Kansas for a long time.

“It’s my understanding Southwest Medical Center, should we expand Medicaid, will get about $800,000 to their bottom line,” 125th District Representative Shannon Francis said. “There are currently a little more than 30 states that have expanded Medicaid and what happens is I believe the federal match right now is about 5 percent from the state government and 95 percent from the federal government. The last fiscal stuff I saw with that was it would cost the state of Kansas about, with the 5 percent match, about $25 million a year to fund that and as it moves to 90 percent from the federal government, it becomes somewhere between $80 to $100 million for the state’s share. Some of the problems people see with us expanding Medicaid is we have a shortage of doctors and providers who will currently accept Medicaid patients and there are a lot of people in Liberal historically who have had to drive out of town for those services, and it will exacerbate that shortage of providers. It’s also been said whatever numbers we develop with cost estimates and all that are wrong because there are businesses that will quit providing care because of being forced to be part of the Medicaid expansion.” 

The talking points with Medicaid expansion are very partisan and very ideological across the board, Francis added. 

“There are those who say the hospitals in Independence and Fort Scott failed because we didn’t do Medicaid expansion,” Francis said. “Independence is about the same size as Liberal and Fort Scott’s a little smaller. I don’t feel Medicaid expansion was the primary issue with what happened with them. Our hospital board here has done a great job of making sure the hospital’s successful. I don’t think Medicaid expansion is the cure-all for all the issues going on with healthcare across the state, but I think it is a big deal as there’s a lot of dollars of federal funds that can go toward our hospitals across the state. When we talk about the state budget, when we’re looking ahead to 2023, with our current revenue streams, their best guess is us being $445 million in the hole again. One of the things that drives the conversation is where are we going to get $80 million to fund that program? I think in that $445 million there’s some ... you can put lipstick on a pig all you want but we’ve got a revenue problem five or six years out, and how big or small that revenue problem is depends a lot on what we do between now and then. That $445 million, I believe that had $96 million per year to take care of the school funding issue. But we won’t fully know where we’ll be as a state until I would say about May.”

Francis also briefly talked about the discussion surrounding an amendment to the state constitution regarding school funding.

“There has been talk of getting something like that passed, there are many people adamant about that,” Francis said. “Basically what it would say is the legislature decides how much money gets spent on schools and not the courts. And that sounds great to some people. The constitution says we’re supposed to provide enough to give children a suitable education and then there are lawyers who come out with reasons why we’re not fulfilling that and saying money is the main and then it just keeps dragging out in court with nothing really getting done. Our state board of education is the entity that sets those rules and there’s not really a lot we can do to override them. There’s also talk about after this next census there will be some redistricting and Johnson County and Sedgwick County don’t really care how good our schools are. When it really comes down to it, if it weren’t for self-interest, there wouldn’t be any interest at all. So the concern on more rural representatives’ minds is we need the courts to help protect funding for the more rural-area schools or else we’d get the shaft. These lawyers know how they can make a bunch of money on this and they’ll always be able to find poor districts providing substandard education and find a tie between that and how much finding they get. There’s a lot of reasons where there are good and bad school districts, it’s not always just money.”

Francis was also asked about potential replacements for the seat of Sen. Pat Roberts, who recently announced he will not be seeking re-election in 2020. One of the top names to come up with that conversation is Dr. Roger Marshall. 

“I’ll tell you, the vultures are already circling that corpse, it’s actually rather astounding,” Francis said. “I actually think Dr. Marshall should stay right where he is. He may be leading in the polls, but there’s a handful of other names I’ve heard who could replace him but at this point it’s really speculation and there’s a lot of ambitious people up in Topeka.”

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