TOPEKA — Hospitals large and small that serve people who don’t have insurance could lose millions if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and the state is poised to not expand, lawmakers said Tuesday.
To help buffer a potential dropoff in federal “disproportionate share money” for hospitals that help the uninsured, Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, is pushing to at least keep up with the state part of that funding to provide “a soft landing.”
The roughly $76 million in state and federal money is intended to help hospitals take care of people who don’t have insurance. Lawmakers say they think federal funding will drop significantly, if not be eliminated, as funding shifts to Medicaid expansion.
That could decrease funding for Wichita’s Via Christi hospitals by more than $10 million, and it could leave rural safety net hospitals nearly broke, according to some lawmakers.
“Without it, they would not be able to continue operations,” Denning said.
The state covers about 40 percent of the total for the fund and the federal government takes care of the rest, meaning hospitals could see big effects even if the state continues with its $33 million in aid.
“They’ll have to do more with less,” Denning said.
The state’s share of money is subject to debate as House and Senate negotiators work out the differences between the proposed state spending plans that have been approved by each chamber.
Provisions in the Affordable Care Act were intended to expand Medicaid, but expansion became a state decision after a Supreme Court ruling.
The expansion would extend health coverage to anyone earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $2,555 a month for a family of four. That includes about a quarter of a million Kansans.
Many Kansans who already qualify are expected to also apply for benefits because of the increased attention to government-assisted health insurance.
Gov. Sam Brownback has not said whether he wants to expand Medicaid, but lawmakers seem unlikely to approve it. Under an addition to the Senate budget, lawmakers would have to approve expansion.
The debate over funding for the hospitals comes as a coalition of residents plans to deliver a 2,700-signature petition to Brownback on Wednesday afternoon.
The Kansas Medicaid Access Coalition petitions urge lawmakers to accept federal money in 2014 to expand access to Medicaid. The Coalition includes AARP Kansas, the Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Action for Children, the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and many others.