I am pleased to see the bipartisan effort from the Kansas House and Senate to expand Medicaid in Kansas. This is a long time coming, but as some would say it is “better late than never.”
While still in my position as insurance commissioner, I frequently was called upon to talk about the merits of expanding Medicaid and to refute some of the misleading arguments for not expanding.
First, I want to agree with others, including the Kansas Hospital Association, which points out that there will be no additional tax liability to the state of Kansas. The generous federal match of 90% federal dollars and only 10% state dollars covers the cost of expansion to the additional 150,000 eligible individuals in Kansas.
It’s also important to know that this match is for new eligible individuals, which in Kansas is a larger number than some states because our existing Medicaid eligibility is so low. These matching funds at the federal level come in part from federal taxes that individuals pay to the federal treasury each year.
Since the inception of Medicaid expansion, our federal tax dollars have been going to Medicaid expansion states and have not been coming back to our state to cover our Kansas citizens who would qualify under the new rules. It’s time to bring those dollars back to Kansas.
Second, the additional individuals who will become eligible will be using health care services in all parts of our state, including rural areas. In these communities the hospitals have been challenged to keep sufficient revenue to cover expenses. So not only will more of our Kansas citizens be receiving needed health care services, our hospitals, especially in those rural areas, will see the much-needed increased revenue that will keep their doors open to continue to provide health care services to all of their constituents.
Finally, a healthier Kansas is in everyone’s best interests. When individuals don’t have insurance or a way to pay for needed services, they end up in our hospital emergency rooms for treatment, often with a condition that could have been mitigated or certainly would not be as severe, had it been diagnosed or treated earlier.
Hospitals are required by federal law to treat all individuals who come into their emergency rooms, regardless of whether they have the ability to pay. We need a health care system that pays for the services needed in the most appropriate place, a physician’s office, before the individual has a medical emergency, and not the emergency room.
“Well care” is what we want from our health care system, not “sick care.” Keeping people healthy saves money and lives.
We want a healthy Kansas for all of our citizens.
Sandy Praeger is a former Kansas insurance commissioner who previously served as Republican chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare and Senate Insurance committees.