Kansas Nightly News Fails To Educate The Public About The Medicaid Expansion 

A Media Matters study of broadcast TV coverage in the Kansas City market found that NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox collectively spent less than eight minutes over a 43-day period covering the state legislature’s debates over the proposal to accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would extend coverage to more than 150,000 Kansans. 

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Vetoed The Kansas Medicaid Expansion, Setting Up A Potential Override

Kansas City Star: Brownback Vetoed Medicaid Expansion That Would Have Covered “150,000 Low-Income Kansans.” The Kansas City Star reported that Gov. Sam Brownback “vetoed legislation that would have expanded Medicaid to cover 150,000 low-income Kansans.” The article noted that by not expanding Medicaid, “Kansas has missed out on nearly $1.8 billion in federal aid since 2014.” The Star quoted Rep. Susan Concannon, a Republican who supports the expansion, who asked, “If this isn't the right time, when is the right time? ... Are we going to wait until we have people die that can't get insurance?” From the March 30 article:

Gov. Sam Brownback has vetoed legislation that would have expanded Medicaid to cover 150,000 low-income Kansans.


The Legislature’s vote to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, received national attention both because Kansas is a solidly Republican-leaning state and because the state Senate’s vote took place shortly after congressional Republicans abandoned a plan that would have repealed the ACA and blocked states from expanding Medicaid after March 1.

Medicaid, which relies on a combination of federal and state funds, provides health coverage to disabled people and low-income families. The ACA enabled states to expand the program to provide coverage to people who would make too much money to qualify for the program under previous rules but also make too little to buy insurance through the federal health care exchange.


Amy Falk, CEO of Health Partnership Clinic, a safety net clinic network with locations in Johnson County, said that many of the people using her clinics work part time jobs and are not eligible for benefits through their employer. Other patients served by her clinics would have an easier time working if their health needs were addressed.

“We see time and time again, individuals who have chronic health conditions that, if they were managed, could be working, productive members of our community,” she said. “When you’re diabetic and your sugars aren’t right, you’re not going to work.”


The Kansas House kicked off a debate on overriding the veto shortly after Brownback’s announcement, but tabled the debate after an hour. That effectively pauses the legislation until a lawmaker moves to restart the debate.

Unless some lawmakers change their votes, expansion supporters are three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto in the House and two votes shy in the Senate. Earlier in the session, Brownback vetoed a bill that would have rolled back his signature tax policies. An override passed in the House, but fell short in the Senate.


Kansas has missed out on nearly $1.8 billion in federal aid since 2014 by not expanding Medicaid, according to the Kansas Hospital Association. Expansion was fully funded by the federal government through 2016 and will gradually fall to 90 percent by 2020. The Kansas bill included a provision that would enable Kansas to undo expansion if federal funding dipped below the 90 percent threshold.

The closure of a hospital in Independence, Kan., in 2015 was largely blamed on the state’s failure to expand the program. [Rep. Susan] Concannon pointed to this Thursday.

“If this isn't the right time, when is the right time?" Concannon said Thursday. “Are we going to wait for some more hospitals to close? Are we going to wait until we have people die that can't get insurance?” [The Kansas City Star, 3/30/17]

Local Nightly News Devoted Little Coverage To The Kansas Medicaid Expansion Legislation

Kansas Broadcast Nightly News Devoted Less Than Eight Minutes Total To Covering The Medicaid Expansion. Media Matters conducted a survey of Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS’s local affiliates in the Kansas City market from February 15 through March 28 and found that their nightly weekday news shows at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. collectively devoted only 7 minutes and 45 seconds to covering the debates on the Medicaid expansion in the House and Senate of the Kansas legislature.  

CBS Spent Less Than One Minute Covering The Medicaid Debates Over The 42-Day Time Frame. The local CBS affiliate had the least coverage of the four networks, spending only 36 seconds on the Medicaid expansion, and addressing the issue in only two segments. Neither segment addressed the impact the expansion would have on low-income or other vulnerable communities and only one included information on the impact on the uninsured rate.

NBC Led The Way In Both Quantity And Quality Of Coverage On The Expansion. The local NBC affiliate led the broadcasters in terms of both quantity and quality of coverage of the Medicaid expansion debate. NBC spent over three minutes on the issue, including a full report about the expansion. The network also had the most substantive coverage, noting that the expansion would reduce the uninsured rate or explaining its impact on vulnerable communities in most segments.

ABC and Fox Each Spent About Two Minutes Reporting On The Medicaid Expansion Debates. ABC and Fox each devoted about two minutes of reporting to the Medicaid debate: Fox spent 2 minutes and 30 seconds while ABC spent 1 minute and 22 seconds on the issue. Each network failed to note the impact on the uninsured rate in more than half of its total segments.


Media Matters searched TVEyes for “Medicaid” from February 15 to March 28. The search included local broadcast weekday news shows that aired at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. on the NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox affiliates in the Kansas City market. Only segments that focused on the Kansas bill to expand Medicaid were coded (this did not include discussions of other changes to Medicaid or the effect of federal legislation on Medicaid). Mentions of the impact of the Medicaid expansion on the uninsured rate and on vulnerable communities (such as disabled individuals and low-income communities) were each coded independently.