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  • Writer's pictureKansas Reflector

Opinion: Why expanding Medicaid now would help Kansas and rural hospitals

An overflow crowd attended a Kansas Senate hearing Wednesday, April 24, on implications of Kansas expanding Medicaid to about 150,000 lower-income Kansans. It was to be followed by a Kansas House hearing on Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion bill. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)


By Edward Herrman, Special to the Kansas Reflector


I’ve served as CEO of Hays Medical Center for seven years. Our hospital has served the city of Hays, Ellis County and the surrounding region for 33 years. Our entire Northwest Health Alliance network of critical access hospitals, including HaysMed, would benefit from Medicaid Expansion. So would the city and county.


There’s no reason why we should delay expansion — 40 other states have already done this.

How would the people of Hays and Ellis County benefit from expansion? Here’s how:

Medicaid Expansion would provide insurance for approximately 700 people in Ellis County. Not just that – expansion will create approximately 200 new jobs in our community, and inject about $6 million into our local economy.


Beyond this, expanding Medicaid will benefit all Kansans by lowering health care costs.


Unlike other industries, Kansas hospitals cannot turn patients away, even if they are unable to pay. When a patient comes into our emergency department, we are required to treat them.


This creates unique financial challenges for our hospitals. Reimbursement rates from both public and private payers have remained stagnant, while operational expenses have continued to increase. Medicaid expansion would help sustain our rural hospital bottom lines.


Right now, we are sending our tax dollars out of state because we haven’t expanded.


HaysMed is the largest employer in Ellis County. We employ 1,500 workers. We play a significant role in the economic impact of Ellis County and in Northwest Kansas as a whole. Yet the Kansas Legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid has cost HaysMed more than $12 million to date and that cost continues to rise, putting us at risk.


These are our hard-earned tax dollars benefiting 40 other states that have expanded — states such as New York and California. We are losing out on job creation and significant direct increases in local economy spending. Those are true dollars that directly impact tax revenue and retail sales and, more importantly, could provide care for working Kansans who so desperately need it.


HaysMed and the Northwest Kansas Health Alliance hospitals are deeply committed to serving the communities we care for each day. We are an economic driver of local economies and one of the largest industries in the state. Statewide, hospitals provide over $1.2 billion in uncompensated care to our state’s citizens. At HaysMed, we provided more than $14 million in charity and uncompensated care in 2023.


Medicaid Expansion is important to the continued success of Hays Medical Center and Ellis County, as well as the member hospitals of the Northwest Kansas Health Alliance. Medicaid Expansion would cut HaysMed’s uncompensated cost by about 40% or more. Northwest Kansas Health Alliance hospitals would see similar gains.


I urge lawmakers to remember Kansas’ rural hospitals when they return this week to Topeka.


Edward Herrman is the president and CEO of HaysMed in Hays. Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.

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