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Tom Bell: Bring Medicaid money back to state

  • Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at 12 a.m.

It is true: There is no such thing as free money (“Count the cost of expansion,” March 13 Opinion). In 2013 and 2014, Kansans will have contributed $161.7 million in “pay-fors” for Medicaid expansion. These “pay-fors” will continue whether or not our state decides to expand Medicaid. These “pay-fors” come in the form of Medicare cuts to hospitals and providers, insurance provider fees and, in the future, employer penalties. We all are affected by these losses to our state.

Millions of dollars are leaving Kansas, going to Washington, D.C., and then going out to states that have decided to expand Medicaid. Kansas hospitals as well as 72 percent of Kansans (according to a recent poll by the American Cancer Society) would like to see our money returned to Kansas to cover more of the uninsured, and not go to states like California, Colorado and Ohio.

Under the traditional Medicaid program, recipients across the nation may not have the same access and outcomes as those with private insurance. But that is why last year Kansas made significant changes to our Medicaid program, now KanCare. The KanCare program focuses on primary care coordination, improving health outcomes, managing health care costs and instituting patient accountability.

Kansas hospitals support KanCare expansion because it focuses on providing the right care in the right amount, in the right setting and at the right time. Gov. Sam Brownback estimated KanCare would save Kansas nearly $1 billion over five years, which many estimate is more than the cost of expansion in our state.

In addition, the state of Kansas estimated that KanCare expansion would bring $1.6 billion in federal funds to Kansas, which would cover the full cost of the program for the first three years. After that, Kansas would pay only 10 percent, which is much less than the 40 percent Kansas pays for our current KanCare recipients. It also is important to note that this federal funding was included in the president’s 2014 and 2015 budgets. So it is not too late for our state to benefit.

Kansas should move forward with a Kansas solution, one that builds upon the KanCare program. A Kansas solution to expansion would bring nearly $6.9 billion to our most vulnerable Kansans over the next 10 years. That money should not be sent to other states.

Bring Kansas money back to Kansans.

Tom Bell is the president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association in Topeka.

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