Archive for April 2014

Few poor Kansans qualify for Medicaid

by Kansas Health Institute (KHI)

Topeka — It is a common misconception that all poor Kansans are eligible for Medicaid.

In reality, only a few are actually eligible.

Medicaid is a publicly financed source of health insurance for low-income individuals. The cost of the program is split between the federal and state governments. Federal law requires some populations to be covered, but states have a lot of flexibility in the program to cover additional populations.

Therefore, income eligibility levels vary greatly among the states.   Kansas offers Medicaid coverage to children, pregnant women, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and parents whose income is below the state’s threshold to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as required by federal law. Kansas does not extend Medicaid coverage to many other adults. As a result, Kansas has some of the strictest Medicaid income constraints for adults in the nation.

The Affordable Care Act required states to provide Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), which equals $32,913 per year for a family of four.

However, a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision made Medicaid expansion essentially optional for states, and Kansas officials have not expanded the program. Expansion requires legislative approval, and with the legislative session winding down, it looks like a decision won’t be made this calendar year.

“Currently, less than 10 percent of the entire Kansas Medicaid/CHIP population are non-disabled adults under age 65,” said Scott C. Brunner, senior analyst and strategy team leader at the Kansas Health Institute, and the state’s former Medicaid director. “Most of them are required populations under federal law. To qualify for Medicaid, Kansas parents must make no more than 38 percent of the federal poverty level, or $9,063 annually for a family of four. Childless adults do not qualify, even if they have no income at all.”

To inform the discussion KHI has released a new issue brief that examines in detail who is-and who is not-currently eligible for the combined Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program in Kansas.  The issue brief on this topic is at

The Kansas Health Institute delivers credible information and research enabling policy leaders to make informed health policy decisions that enhance their effectiveness as champions for a healthier Kansas. The Kansas Health Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy and research organization based in Topeka, established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.


UG says appointment to fill open commission seat is ‘discretionary’

by Mary Rupert

A resident recently asked a judge to order the Unified Government to fill an open commissioner seat, and UG attorneys responded with an answer April 10.

The UG answer was that the plaintiff, Carolyn Wyatt, lacks standing to bring the action; the petition fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and the appointment of a person to fill the at-large District 1 position is a discretionary act, in which the court action, a writ of mandamus, is not an appropriate remedy.

The UG’s answer to the petition also says that the UG has made a good faith effort to fill the vacancy, but no candidate received the  necessary majority of votes for appointment, and that the appointment is a “political question over which the court lacks or should decline to exercise jurisdiction.”

Alvin Sykes

A Kansas City, Kan., resident and human rights activist, Alvin Sykes, was working with the plaintiff in this effort to ask the court to order the UG Commission to fill the open spot. The UG Commission seat has had a vacancy around a year, and did not fill the vacancy when a tie vote was reached last year.

“The worst was when they said it was discretionary,” Sykes said. “It defies plain English and definitions.”

The UG’s charter says the vacancy “shall” be filled, he said, which means it must be filled. The charter states the commission shall solicit recommendations from eligible voters in the district that is vacated, and the commission shall appoint a person to serve until the next election.

Sykes is hoping that a court will find a way to resolve the impasse reached at the commission level on selecting a replacement for the seat formerly held by Mark Holland, who is now mayor. There are several ways that it could be resolved, and Sykes pointed out that all over the country, coin tosses are used to break ties for offices.

Sykes said he believes a court has jurisdiction over the issue because it is a legal question and the UG charter is a legal document.

The UG’s answer also claims that the defendant, Carolyn Wyatt, does not have standing. Sykes believes she has standing because she lives in the 1st District at large, and has been denied her commission representative, while others who live in the 2nd District at large are not feeling the same pain.

He added that he may be looking for other plaintiffs to join the suit. The case is in Wyandotte County District Court.

Sen. David Haley

State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., said the UG attorneys’ answer “angers and saddens me at the same time.

“How could people refuse to bring representation for over a year? And how could they allow such weak excuses mistakenly believing they have the right to be brought in response?” Sen. Haley said.

Sen. Haley said he is considering joining the suit as a plaintiff.

“I certainly have been disaffected by the abject failure of the UG to name a successor to Commissioner Holland’s seat,” he said.

For example, he’s had to take a lot of constituent phone calls for county matters since there has been a vacancy, he said. The residents don’t have anywhere to go, because the commissioner position is not filled, and some of them call him with complaints about UG services, he said.

“The lack of an at large commissioner has greatly increased my workload as a state senator in the same district, so that disaffects me,” Sen. Haley said. “I’m under-represented myself.”

He had some strong words about disenfranchisement of the voters in the 1st District, at-large district.

“The attorneys that wrote this answer should leave that office and go work for Kris Kobach because disenfranchisement has underscored his administration as secretary of state,” Sen. Haley said. “That seat should have been filled a year ago.”


Carolyn Wyatt (File photo)


Man charged with murder in death of child at 63rd and Leavenworth Road

Tyrone Murphy Jr.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman today charged Tyrone Murphy Jr., 27, of Kansas City, Kan., with first-degree murder in connection with the April 9 death of 8-year-old Jasmine Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was a passenger in a Dodge Caravan being driven by her mother, which was struck by a Chevrolet Impala driven by Murphy, who was fleeing from Kansas City, Kan., police.

The collision happened at 63rd and Leavenworth Road.

The murder charge is based upon the theory of felony murder, where a person is killed during the commission of another offense that is designated by statute as an inherently dangerous felony.

Murphy is also charged with possession of cocaine, eluding a police officer, and three counts of aggravated battery arising from injuries to the driver and two other juvenile passengers in the Caravan.

The investigation of the collision is by the Kansas Highway Patrol, and it is ongoing. Murphy is currently in the Wyandotte County Jail. Bond was set at $1 million.