WINFIELD – On Wednesday, outside William Newton Hospital, Governor Laura Kelly launched her “Healthy Workers, Healthy Economy” tour to rally Kansans statewide in support of her top priority this upcoming legislative session, Medicaid Expansion. Throughout the fall, Governor Kelly will travel across the state to share how expanding access to health insurance will reduce costs for every Kansan, preserve and strengthen rural health care, and make Kansas more economically competitive.
Governor Kelly has long been a supporter of Medicaid Expansion. This is her first statewide tour to encourage the 78% of Kansans who support expansion to pressure state lawmakers to force the issue to a vote in the spring.
“Expanding Medicaid and ensuring that every Kansan has access to affordable, high-quality health care is the smartest, sanest way to keep our state moving forward,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “When the legislature reconvenes in January, I will propose Medicaid expansion for the sixth time so Kansas can achieve a healthier workforce and a healthier economy. I encourage every Kansan to call their legislator and tell them to demand that legislative leadership give them a chance to vote for Medicaid expansion.”
7 rural hospitals in Kansans have closed since states have had the option to expand Medicaid, and 60 out of Kansas’ 104 remaining rural hospitals are at risk of shutting their doors — a higher percentage than any other state in the country. To emphasize that risk, Governor Kelly made the announcement at William Newton Hospital in Winfield, one of the small rural hospitals that would benefit from Medicaid Expansion. She was joined by William Newton Hospital CEO Brian Barta.
“Kansas is one of ten states that continues to lag behind the rest of our country to expand Medicaid and address healthcare inequity for many hardworking Kansans. We greatly appreciate Governor Kelly’s persistence and dedication to move Kansas toward passing commonsense legislation to utilize federal funding that will cover 90% of the cost to expand Medicaid,” said Brian Barta, CEO of William Newton Hospital. “It is estimated that Medicaid expansion will help over 150,000 Kansans and continued failure by the state legislature to support Medicaid expansion undermines the physical, emotional, and economic health for all of Kansas.”
Census data shows that nearly 140,000 Kansans work but don’t have health insurance. To illustrate how a lack of health coverage impacts the Kansas workforce, Governor Kelly was also joined by Chandra Dickson, a Wichita resident whose mother, Jo Anne, passed away in 2016. Working as a waitress and doing other jobs to make ends meet, Jo Anne made slightly too much to qualify for KanCare, the program Kansas uses to administer Medicaid. Without health insurance, she delayed getting treatment for her cancer until it was too late. She would have been one of the Kansans who benefited from Medicaid Expansion.
“Watching my mother be unable to access health care and then ultimately die because of lack of access to lifesaving treatment was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It wasn't fair to her or my family,” Chandra Dickson said. “I want to see Medicaid Expansion in Kansas because everyone should have access to health care no matter their life circumstances or ability to pay. Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do for the state and its citizens.”
Expanding Medicaid would also have a positive effect on Kansas’ economy, creating 23,000 new jobs and creating a healthier workforce. Governor Kelly was joined by Alex Gottlob, a small business owner with several employees who fall into the current KanCare coverage gap.
“As an employer of both full time and seasonal employees, my wife and I see first-hand the challenges related to health care that our employees face and how it oftentimes affects their performance at work,” said Alex Gottlob, Owner of Gottlob Lawn & Landscape. “Insurance costs grow more and more out of reach for small companies such as ours. Medicaid Expansion would not only benefit individuals but has the ability to bridge the gap when small businesses are not able to provide insurance.”
By law, 90% of the costs to expand Medicaid would be funded by the federal government with the state providing 10% of funds to match. Kansas has left more than $6.5 billion federal dollars on the table while waiting for Medicaid Expansion, including nearly $80 million so far in 2023.