Kansas GOPer Open To Medicaid Expansion After Rural Hospital Closes

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After a hospital in rural Kansas announced last week that it will have to close, Republicans in Kansas may reconsider expanding Medicaid in the state.

Republican state Sen. Jeff King, the vice president of the state senate, expressed willingness to expand Medicaid in some form to prevent additional hospital closures.

“I’ve never been amenable to just an expansion of the Affordable Care Act,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World on Tuesday. “But as we look at states like Indiana that take a real state-centric approach to addressing the health care needs of their poor, I think that’s something that Kansas needs to strongly consider.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) reached a deal with the Obama administration in January to expand Medicaid in the state while requiring recipients to contribute to the state program paying for their care.

Before Mercy Hospital’s closure, King had said that the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid did not contribute to Kansas’ hospitals financial struggles, according to the Salina Post.

King’s recent comment comes after Mercy Hospital, located in his hometown of Independence, announced its closure after a long financial struggle. Hospital officials attributed the closure to numerous factors, but said that Medicaid expansion could have helped the rural hospital stay afloat.

Lynn Britton, president and CEO of the Mercy Hospital system, told The Wichita Eagle that “the evidence is clear that the reimbursement would have helped, no question.”

Mercy Hospital almost struck a deal with its neighbor, Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, to keep some medical services in Independence, but the deal fell through. Mark Woodring, CEO of the Coffeyville hospital told the Salina Post that Medicaid expansion could have made that deal possible.

“The dollars that would have come back into (both) communities would have far exceeded the cuts that have already taken place,” he said.

Another Republican lawmaker from Independence, state Rep. Jim Kelly, told the Salina Post that he hopes Mercy Hospital’s closure will push lawmakers to consider expanding Medicaid.

“For me and for some others, particularly in this section of the state, this will be kind of a poster that we can carry forward and say, ‘This is happening, and it’s going to spread if we don’t come up with a way to deal with health care in rural Kansas,'” he said.

Members of the Kansas House have previously introduced numerous bills aimed at expanding Medicaid, but the Republican leadership has not brought any of the legislation to the floor for debate, according to the Lawrence World-Journal.

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