Mount St. Scholastica

Some member of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica want Kansas to expand Medicaid. The local Order of Saint Benedict has no official stance.

A clerical group sourcing input from across Kansas is urging the state Legislature to pass an expansion of Medicaid to provide publicly funded health services to the poor.

Seven sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict based at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison have joined the group, per a letter published on Tuesday. They are Sister Marie Ballman, Sister Angela Ostermann, Sister Linda Zahner, Sister Evelyn Gregory, Sister Diana Seago, Sister Gabrielle Kocour and Sister Barbara Mayer.

Kansas implements Medicaid coverage through a public-private partnership called KanCare. If expanded, KanCare would fund public health coverage for individuals and families with a gross annual income of 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or lower. That’s just over $36,000 for a family of four.

“Expanding KanCare is a lifesaving measure,” reads the letter. “Expansion increases access to high quality care for those would otherwise go without ... We implore you to approve Medicaid expansion, we cannot wait any longer to give Kansans the care they so desperately need.”

A spokeswoman for Mount Saint Scholastica said the sisters are free to pursue whatever public point of advocacy they wish, and while there is much agreement among their peers on this issue, the Mount has taken no official position. The expansion, authorized by the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 — better known as Obamacare — has already been enacted in some form by 36 other states.

The current holdup in Kansas is related to abortion policy. Federal law prohibits Medicaid dollars from being used to pay for abortions, but conservative lawmakers — led by Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita — have insisted on proposing a state constitutional amendment allowing for guarantees against such funding. The amendment stalled earlier this month in the Kansas House; it needs a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

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