Thursday, June 23, 2022
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Medicaid Debate Heats Up in Pierson

The air in Pierson Auditorium was tense as former Kan. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius squared off with Michael Cannon, the Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, over expanding Medicaid.


Nearly 300 people attended the American Public Square panel “A Dose of Reality: A Medicaid Status Report,” moderated by Allan Katz, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Political Science. The other panelists in attendance were Daniel Landon, Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations for the Missouri Hospital Association and Tarren Bragdon, the President and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability.

Nick Haines, host of KCPT’s public affairs program, acted as a “roving reporter,” taking questions from the audience.

A man from Overland Park recounted his son’s story. His son, a developmentally disabled man in his 40s, will lose his job at the end of the year and will no longer receive health insurance. However, because he lives in Kansas, he will join 5,000 other people dependent on Medicaid expansion.
Cannon, whom the New Republic once described as “Obamacare’s single most relentless antagonist,” responded with a story about his cousin in New Jersey, also developmentally disabled and reliant on employer-sponsored insurance. Cannon argued that it is because of the government that so many people are reliant on employer-sponsored insurance.

“The first thing we have to recognize about your son’s situation and my cousin’s situation is that they have been made more vulnerable by the government’s effort to take over the marketplace,” Cannon said, drawing audible gasps and scoffs from the audience.

The American Public Square strives for civility in its debates, so it forbids its attendees from clapping and rings a “civility bell” when a panelist gets too close to making an uncivil comment.

“I come from a big Irish Catholic family, there’s a lot of people he can rely on. . .I don’t think my cousin needs the assistance,” Cannon said. Cannon argued that he wants to Medicaid available to only the “truly needy.”

Sebelius responded by letting Cannon know that New Jersey had recently expanded Medicaid, making a few audience members laugh.

When asked if she would ever run for political office in Kansas again, Sebelius responded with a hard and swift “no.” Sebelius is the CEO of Sebelius Resources, LLC, where she provides advice to nonprofit organizations, private companies, and financial investors.

UMKC Research and Instruction Librarians Chris LeBeau and Staci Pratt acted as fact checkers for the panel.

The panel was the first of the American Public Square’s second session. The next panel, “Talking Scripture,” will be Oct. 22 at Pierson Auditorium.

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