Gov. Laura Kelly pressed ahead with a central campaign theme Wednesday by directing a council to study the Medicaid expansion experience of three dozen other states and prepare a best-practices outline for use during the 2020 session of the Kansas Legislature.

The Democratic governor proposed and the Republican-led House passed a bill broadening eligibility for Medicaid to about 130,000 Kansans, but the Senate leadership blocked all efforts to debate legislation in 2019. Republican Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer successfully stalled consideration of Medicaid expansion from 2011 to 2019.

"I am going to do everything in my power to ensure this will be the year we will finally expand Medicaid in Kansas," Kelly said during a news conference at the Capitol. "When I traveled around the state last fall, Kansans made it clear that this is a high priority. They want as many Kansans as possible to have access to affordable, high quality health care."

Kelly said the new council devoted to Medicaid wouldn't develop or endorse a detailed bill, but would point to three to five mileposts to guide Kansas lawmakers. She said the objective of the bipartisan council would be to pinpoint ideas to avoid and highlight evidence-based practices deployed by other states. The council's report will be available to the 2020 Legislature.

"One benefit Kansas can leverage as a late-expansion state is the lessons learned from those who went before us," the governor said. "It is critical that we do this."

Simultaneously, the Kansas Legislature will conduct bipartisan interim committee meetings later this year on a expansion blueprint that would be considered once the full Legislature convened in January. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican, promised the chamber would vote on a bill. It is expected to be crafted largely by Republicans.

Rep. Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican and supporter of Medicaid expansion, will serve on the governor's new council. Hineman said it was too soon "to try to handicap" whether recommendations from the council would be well received by his GOP colleagues. The focus on gathering information, rather than crafting legislation, should allow for collaboration, he said.

"There's a widespread puzzlement about why we can't just get this done, and that's not entirely from folks on the center and left end of the political spectrum," Hineman said. "Increasingly, it's folks to the right end of the spectrum, as well, saying: 'We're giving up billions of dollars of our own money. Why aren't we doing this? It can be an economic engine.' "

Rep. Jason Probst, a Democrat from Hutchinson who will serve on the council, said the council was designed to try to avoid problems with the implementation of a Medicaid expansion plan by looking at the best and worst experiences of other states.

A majority of legislators in both chambers support Medicaid expansion, but there is widespread disagreement over key policy provisions, such as possible work requirements.

The council's goal, Probst said, is "to arm ourselves with the knowledge needed to swat down really bad ideas that will come out of any other competing plans."