Opinion Columns & Blogs

Voters can pave way for a healthy Kansas


The series of victories by challengers over incumbents in the August primaries gave hope for a healthy Kansas to many, including 150,000 hardworking Kansans who will gain access to more affordable health care if our state leaders commit to expanding KanCare.

By returning to the polls on Nov. 8, I am confident we can continue on the path to a bright and healthy future for Kansas.

Like many providers throughout the state, Newton Medical Center has a vested interest in the patients we serve. But there comes a point when it is no longer feasible to continue providing care that is not reimbursed adequately.

The president of the Kansas Dental Association (an Olathe dentist) recently stopped accepting patients covered by two of the three KanCare insurance companies. When asked what prompted this decision, he cited the strain of the 4 percent reimbursement cuts enacted by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Stormont Vail Health in Topeka recently cited similar reasons for closing one of its clinics. And let’s not forget Mercy Hospital in Independence, which closed its doors last year for a variety of reasons, including declining reimbursements and uncompensated care.

According to a 2015 report, of the 107 rural hospitals in Kansas, 31 are classified as vulnerable and “at risk of closure.” More than 36 percent of Kansans are supported by these “at risk” rural hospitals.

One way to help Kansas hospitals reduce the high cost of uncompensated care is to insure more patients. Fortunately, there is hope for a brighter future, especially if we turn out to vote on Nov. 8.

By electing candidates in favor of a healthy Kansas, we can increase access to health care for hardworking Kansans at no additional cost to state taxpayers. Through the use of federal funds already earmarked for expanding Medicaid, we can ensure our low-income neighbors receive affordable care to achieve and maintain better health.

Expanding KanCare is not on the ballot for Kansas voters, but each of us has the power to set things in the right direction by electing leaders who will move the measure forward.

This is your chance to speak up for vulnerable, low-income Kansans and the hospitals that serve us all.

Vallerie L. Gleason is president and CEO of the Newton Medical Center.