Having access to affordable health care is essential for working Kansans. It supports vibrant communities when hospitals, as major employers, don’t suffer the financial strain from the uninsured. The Kansas Health Foundation has joined other organizations to fund the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas effort to expand Medicaid, to create greater awareness of this critical need in communities all across our state.
When the legislative session opens in January, members of the Kansas House and Senate will once again convene to discuss the expansion of KanCare, a Kansas-based solution designed to protect access to health care, bring preventive care to those who need it and stimulate the economy.
“The Kansas legislature will have the opportunity to support efforts that will expand KanCare and bring back $1.9 million a day, create jobs, protect hospitals in Kansas communities and improve access to care for over 150,000 Kansans,” said David Jordan, executive director for Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.
Over the past two years, the Expand KanCare effort has grown significantly to include a long list of supporters. Advocates for the initiative include business leaders, chambers of commerce, hospitals, health care providers, safety net clinics, disability organizations and concerned citizens in all corners of the state. The Kansas Health Foundation is among those on the list. Supporting Expand KanCare is one of the Foundation’s key policy initiatives, standing alongside its commitment to join with other foundations in providing the funding needed to support the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.
“This is not simply an access to care issue for hardworking Kansans, but an economic issue,” said Jordan.
According to the Kansas Hospital Association, the contributions of hospitals to local and state economies are often overlooked. From employee spending and tax payments to the impact of health system purchases, hospitals serve as primary economic drivers in many communities.
“Hospitals and health services truly represent an economic anchor in our state,” said Tom Bell, president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association. “While the estimates of economic impact are substantial, they are only a partial accounting of the benefits that health care and community hospitals provide to the state. Kansas community hospitals help stabilize the population base, invigorate their communities and contribute significantly to the quality of life.”
In 2015, the hospital in Independence, Kan. closed in part to a previous failure to expand Medicaid. The result of its loss continues to affect that community today.
“Independence lost 192 jobs they can never get back. They lost doctors and critical health services. This is something that could have been avoided,” said Jordan.
The solution, expanding KanCare, is something business communities around the state have publicly supported. In Wichita, almost 70 percent of the 1,800 business members of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce support Medicaid expansion.
“If Kansas expands KanCare, it would mean more than 1,100 new jobs in our community and more than $183 million in new annual health care spending, stimulating our local economies and improving health,” said Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Statewide, Kansas lost 2,100 private-sector jobs since August and 6,300 in the past year. By expanding KanCare, experts predict at least 3,800 new jobs could be created.
But it’s not just lost wages that have an economic impact on local communities, it’s the long-term costs associated with those unable to receive preventative care.
“Research consistently shows that people who have health insurance coverage also have a usual source of care, better overall health and better control of chronic conditions,” said Carolyn Gaughan, CAE and executive vice president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians. “People without insurance skip or delay preventive services and postpone care during early, easily treated, stages of an illness. By the time they seek help, they require much more intensive and expensive care that could have been avoided.”
Bob Burk, director of community relations at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas emphasizes that expanding KanCare is about more than the dollar signs and decimal points. It’s about real people that you know and see every day. At the CHC/SEK alone, roughly 34 percent of patients, about 13,500 people, are uninsured. Approximately 70 percent of them, over 10,000 people, would qualify for coverage if KanCare expanded.
For many reasons, all Kansans will benefit if legislators agree to expand Medicare and KanCare.
“It is important to protect policy that impacts all of us,” said Jordan. “We can’t afford to be left behind.”
Learn more about Expand KanCare at www.ExpandKanCare.com.
Every month, our electronic newsletter, Health Happenings, features a story about a focus area, grant, partnership or program involving the Foundation.