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Kansas Hospital System Leader Says Lack Of Medicaid Expansion Is Hurting Hospitals

Kansas’ decision to not expand Medicaid is putting health care providers in jeopardy, the head of the state’s largest health system said Wednesday.

Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, issued a statement calling on Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to drop their opposition to expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

“Kansas’ failure to expand its KanCare program has resulted in almost $14 million in annual lost revenue to Via Christi — nearly $28 million over the past two years,” Korsmo said in a statement. “This failure already has contributed to the pending closure of a hospital in Independence, Kansas, and has put many other health organizations in a precarious financial position.”

The Via Christi system includes four hospitals and a behavioral health center in Wichita as well as hospitals in Manhattan, Pittsburg and Wamego.

Korsmo said the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act was intended to help offset planned reductions in Medicare reimbursements. The state’s rejection of expansion has denied hospitals access to those offsetting revenues, he said.

“Our financial pressures have been intensified because of the refusal of Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas State Legislature to approve expanding the KanCare Medicaid insurance program for the poor and vulnerable,” Korsmo said, adding that two months into the fiscal year Via Christi’s income is $3.3 million below budget projections.

Without expansion, Kansas hospitals stand to lose approximately $132 million in 2016  because of reimbursement reductions in Medicare and other federal programs, according to the Kansas Hospital Association.  The KHA says expanding KanCare would not only offset those reductions, but would generate a net gain of nearly $100 million.

Brownback reiterated his opposition to expansion in a recent speech to students at Hutchinson Community College.

“I don’t think we have the resources to get it done,” he said, according to the Wichita Eagle.

Previously, the governor has said he won’t consider any expansion plan that isn’t budget neutral and that doesn’t include a work requirement for recipients. In addition, he has said, KanCare services must be extended to Kansans with disabilities now on waiting lists before providing them to more low-income but able-bodied adults.

However, there are some indications that the pending closure of the Independence hospital and evidence that other providers are under increasing financial pressure are softening the GOP opposition to expansion.

Senate Vice President Jeff King, a Republican from Independence, now says he’s willing to consider the kind of conservative, private-sector approach to expansion that some other red states are taking.

A coalition of expansion advocates is planning to focus on plans used in Arkansas, Indiana and Pennsylvania at an “educational meeting” for Kansas policymakers scheduled Nov. 3 in Wichita.

In addition to KHA and Via Christi, the coalition includes Wichita’s Wesley Medical Center, the University of Kansas Hospital, the Kansas City-based St Luke’s Health System and the Kansas Health Foundation.

The health foundation is the primary funder of the Kansas Health Institute, the parent organization of the editorially independent KHI News Service.

Jim McLean is executive editor of KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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