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Watson Visits Topeka for KanCare Expansion

February 3, 2017

Chairman Daniel Hawkins and members of the Health and Human Services committee will be hearing arguments and testimonies on how expanding KanCare will benefit the state. SCKMC Chief Executive Officer Virgil Watson has been asked to participate by providing his own testimony to the committee, explaining how KanCare expansion could benefit the medical center.

Arkansas City, KS –  South Central Kansas Medical Center has partnered with the Kansas Hospital Association, healthcare providers, and hospitals from across the State to move forward with efforts to expand KanCare, the program through which the State of Kansas administers Medicaid. Legislation to expand KanCare, named “The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas,” has been introduced at the State level.

On February 8, Chairman Daniel Hawkins and members of the Health and Human Services committee will be hearing arguments and testimonies on how expanding KanCare will benefit the state. SCKMC Chief Executive Officer Virgil Watson has been asked to participate by providing his own testimony to the committee, explaining how KanCare expansion could benefit the medical center.

“Over 7,000 of our friends, neighbors, and coworkers currently qualify for KanCare or fall within the coverage gap. Those caught within the gap earn too much to qualify for KanCare but too little to be eligible to get financial help to buy private insurance. Without regular care, the uninsured often wait until their health concerns reach the point of needing emergency care, which comes at a higher cost to all of us,” Watson said.

State-wide approximately 150,000 Kansans would become eligible for KanCare if the program was expanded, an idea which was strongly supported by a survey conducted in December 2016. Of the 500 registered voters who were surveyed, 82 percent said they favor expansion. This demonstrates a 10-point increase in support for KanCare Expansion since a similar poll was conducted in 2013. American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network commissioned the survey and issued the following statement:

“Kansas has forfeited more than $1.6 billion in federal funds since 2014 – real money that can help people get and stay healthy. ThetimehascomefortheKansasLegislatureto expandMedicaid sothatour hardworking neighbors can access life-saving care.”

Locally the reimbursement provided through KanCare would make a significant difference to the hospital’s bottom line. The facility has faced financial difficulties for several years, with 2010 being the last time SCKMC made a profit.

“The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas Bill has been estimated to increase our annual reimbursements between $1.7 and $2 million. Keep in mind these dollars would go to compensate our facility for services already being provided to these patients, with a significant portion currently being written off to either charity care or bad debt. Our facility is fortunate to have an extremely supportive community which has rallied to our financial need through the approval of a one-percent sales tax, generating roughly $1.6 million for our facility’s debt service. This tax would most likely not have been needed had KanCare been expanded. However without expansion the financial assistance we need, that would have been provided federally, has fallen on the shoulders of our local citizens,” Watson said.

Cindy Samuelson, Vice President, Public Relations and Political Fundraising for the Kansas Hospital Association, believes that success in the legislative process will be largely due to the active engagement of KHA members such as SCKMC. However, all Kansans are invited to participate.

“It is greatly important to continue contacting your local legislators and urge them to support a Kansas-based solution on expansion. To take action, send a letter to your representatives using our online tool at www.KHAGrassroots.org. The more our legislators hear about the importance of KanCare expansion from their constituents, the more open they are to finding a solution,” Samuelson said.