Election may boost seniors

The active age

The 2018 election could lead to improvements in health care, the legalization of medical marijuana and other changes sought by seniors at the state and local level.

Democratic Gov.-Elect Laura Kelly favors expanding Medicaid coverage to some 150,000 state residents. It’s estimated that about 20 percent are between the ages of 50 and 64, too young for Medicare and not eligible for Medicaid under current state regulations.

The Kansas Legislature approved Medicaid expansion in 2017, but the measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback and a legislative attempt to override that veto fell short.

“As far as Medicaid expansion, that’s been one of our issues for a while,” said Howard Tice, who chairs the Kansas Silver Haired Legislative delegation from Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties. “It appears, on the surface anyway, that we’ve got a good chance at getting Medicaid expansion passed and signed.”

State Sen. Lynn Rogers of Wichita, Kelly’s running mate as lieutenant governor, noted that the state House of Representatives “has gotten a little more conservative” thanks to the election, but he still expects a majority to support Medicaid expansion. 

Meeting in Topeka in October, the Silver Haired Legislature also passed resolutions in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and sports wagering (with proceeds of the latter going to senior services), plus funding community senior transportation programs and exempting food from sales tax. “Many Kansas senior citizens suffer from chronic pain conditions” that marijuana can alleviate, Tice said.

Rogers believes medical marijuana will become a reality in Kansas.

“What we’re hearing is there are a number of Republicans willing to move on that,” Rogers said. “I think 78 percent of the Kansas population is in favor of it as well.”

Kelly supports the other measures in principle but is committed first to fixing the state’s long-running school funding issue and stabilizing the overall budget before eliminating revenue sources or promising additional spending, Rogers said. A transition team has begun meeting and Kelly is now considering appointments to various state posts. 

“If there’s an aging group that wants to meet with us, we want to meet with them,” Rogers said. 

In Sedgwick County, meantime, Commissioner Jim Howell plans to bring back for a vote his proposal to increase funding for senior centers in Haysville, Oaklawn, Mulvane and Clearwater. Earlier this year, the county commission voted 3-2 to freeze center funding at the level it’s been since 2010.

Howell noted that one commissioner who voted against additional funding, Richard Ranzau, was defeated by political newcomer Lacey Cruse, who favors increasing county support for the centers. Commissioner Dave Unruh, who also opposed more funding, did not seek relection and was replaced by Wichita City Counilman Pete Meitzner.

“All we need is three” positive votes, Howell said.

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