SUBLETTE, Kan. (KSNW) – Should Medicaid expand in Kansas to offer health insurance to lower-income Kansans?
It has been discussed in Topeka for years, but never passed. There was an effort on Wednesday to include it in a Senate bill, but that did not move forward.
Kansas is one of the last states to advocate the expansion of Medicaid. 38 states have chosen to adopt the program, including the four border states of Kansas.
According to the latest poll from Fort Hays State University, Kansas Speaks, 62% of Kansans support the Medicaid or KanCare expansion.
According to a recently updated estimate, Kansas health officials suggest that 165,000 Kansans could benefit from the program if it expanded. Up to 15,000 versus a previous estimate of 150,000 Kansans.
Those who oppose enlargement say it could lead to higher expense costs and lower quality of care and that it would be too expensive for the state now and in the future if federal funding were to be stopped.
“Personally, I don’t see it, but that’s the big argument for it, and you know I was wrong before that. You might be correct, there could be a lot more healthcare costs associated with it. But I don’t know if there’s anything more important than your own health, ”said Sen, John Doll, (R) Garden City, advocating Medicaid’s expansion.
Proponents say that Medicaid’s failure to expand will penalize and disadvantage Kansas economically.
“It becomes much more difficult for us to attract and retain businesses in our rural communities when there are communities on the other side of each of our borders capable of delivering a stronger health system,” said April Holman, Executive Director of Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.
Although the debate continues, many people in rural areas are calling for change.
Rex Bruce, superintendent of the Sublette Schools, wears several hats. As he walks the halls overseeing his schools, he is also an attorney for the American Heart Association and is now pushing for Medicaid to expand.
He believes the expansion could save his community and rural health care. He says it’s a personal fight.
He is fighting advanced stages of prostate cancer and his wife is suffering from anaphylactic shock. Without a hospital just minutes away, one of them would have died by now.
“She has to be in an emergency room if that throat swells or she dies, and sometimes I couldn’t get her 30-45 miles,” Bruce said. “If it had been 35, 40 minutes to get there it would have been more serious,” said Rex Bruce, superintendent of $ 374.
Rex Bruce fears his hospital could be next.
A recent study by the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform shows that 47 Kansas hospitals are at risk of closure.
“What we want is that we keep our hospitals open, and the way to keep them open is for people to pay their bills and pay your bills, you have to have health insurance,” said Bruce.
Bruce is also worried about his employees. He says many cannot afford private health insurance.
“I have 15, 20 employees just like that who can’t pay their bills and they can’t have health insurance, and in fact we’ve had a couple who went to Mexico for medical care,” he told Bruce.
He says it’s about giving everyone the chance to live a healthy life and be able to afford it.
“I see the people who are not examined, I see the people who get sick and don’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford it. This is a large part of our population that definitely needs our help, ”said Bruce.
So far this term in office, there has been no significant debate about expanding Medicaid in House or Senate committees, and Governor Kelly’s plan to pay for the expansion with legalized medical marijuana failed to get the floor.
Doll says it will be difficult to get an extension passed before the next Senate election.
“I would like to be able to say we will get it. I would like to tell you that it is, honestly, I don’t see it in the next three and a half years,” said Sen, John Doll. (R) garden city.
For Kansans like Bruce, he hopes there will be some action soon.
“With our poverty line, we have some families who are now qualifying for Medicaid, but we also have so many working families, families with incomes, trying to make it through. You are making too much money now, but you do not have enough money to take out insurance. You’re stuck in the middle, ”he said. “With the expansion of Medicaid, these people would be helped immediately, their lives would change, they would receive appropriate treatment and see doctors. It would be huge for us. “
Currently the State program is only available to pregnant women, people with disabilities, those over 65, and families of four earning $ 10,000 or less.
Under the current Affordable Care Act, the state would pay 10% for the expansion and the federal government would pay 90% for the expansion.
“We’ve reached critical mass nationally, and while we’re here in Kansas, we just get injured. It comes from political arguments as opposed to the real needs we have in the Kansas communities, ”Holman said.