Opinion Columns & Blogs

Hospital tax plan exacerbates problem

I need to set the record straight regarding Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to tax hospitals (Aug. 18 Eagle).

The governor has stated that he wants to increase the current hospital provider tax to replace his 4 percent Medicaid provider reimbursement cut and to help struggling rural hospitals.

The governor seems to be saying that in order to reverse the 4 percent rate cuts, he is going to increase a tax on the very entities those cuts are hurting. That is at best inconsistent. More likely, it would exacerbate the problems being faced by health care providers.

For example, one such facility, Sumner Regional Medical Center in Wellington, was exempted from the direct 4 percent Medicaid cut. But it would be assessed an additional tax of $32,000 under the governor’s proposal. It’s been often reported that Sumner Regional is struggling. This is certainly no way to help that rural hospital.

The governor’s hospital tax increase, just like his Medicaid cut announcement, shows a lack of understanding of the interdependence of Kansas hospitals and the Kansas health care system in general. All hospitals are challenged by the Medicaid cuts, and all hospitals would be even more challenged by an increase in the hospital provider tax.

Every community, large and small, would feel its effects.

Kansas hospitals and health care providers have been good partners in attempting to make the KanCare program operate efficiently, even in the face of growing problems with that program. The governor’s proposal does further damage to this partnership.

There is, of course, one way to draw down additional federal dollars at an even greater match rate. That is to develop a unique Kansas plan that takes advantage of the option to expand our KanCare program in a way that benefits not only our most vulnerable citizens but also the Kansas economy. We look forward to working with the 2017 Legislature to craft such a plan.

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