Push is on to expand Medicaid in Kansas, Wyoming

A push is on among both hospital executives and lawmakers to expand Medicaid eligibility in two mostly rural and extremely conservative states.

The Kansas Hospital Association (KHA) recently published a report detailing how many millions of dollars its membership is losing out each year without Medicaid expansion, the Topeka Capital-Journal has reported. And in Wyoming, pressure is building to expand the Medicaid program in the nation's least populous state.

About two dozen states have yet to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. But political winds have slowly begun to shift on that matter as data shows that hospitals in states that have expanded program eligibility have performed better than those in anti-ACA states.

The uncompensated care cost burden among hospitals would drop by at least a third if KanCare, the state Medicaid program, were to be expanded to cover the 144,000 Kansans who would qualify for coverage, according to the KHA report. That would mean combined savings of $63 million a year for just two medium-sized hospitals in Topeka, St. Francis Health and Stormont-Vail HealthCare, the Capital-Journal reported. Altogether, the report projected that Medicare expansion would put $2.1 billion in extra revenue into the state between 2016 and 2020 and more than $8 billion over the next decade.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, the Associated Press has reported that lawmakers there are more seriously considering expanding Medicaid to the 17,000 residents who would be eligible. The wire service has reported that the state Senate's Health and Social Services Committee has begun hearings and soliciting public comments on the expansion.

Although Wyoming is one of the most politically conservative states, its lawmakers are beginning to realize that not expanding Medicaid means it is passing on hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue from the federal government.

"The fact is, many of us don't like the ACA, including me," Gov. Matt Mead said in his State of the State address last week. "But here's another fact: Our federal tax dollars pay for ACA. Wyoming federal tax dollars help pay for the ACA. Do we choose to have that support, that Wyoming money, return to Colorado, to California, or to Wyoming? I say Wyoming." 

Internal math is also making a push to expand Medicaid more feasible, with about $80 million a year coming from state coffers to keep Medicaid operating in its current form, compared to saving up to $50 million annually with the extra funds coming in for expansion.

To learn more:
- read the Topeka Capital-Journal article 
- check out the AP article 
- here's the KHA report (.pdf)