Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers was in Dodge City on Tuesday, visiting with the community and touring Western Plains Medical Complex, during his Rural Healthcare Tour.

The discussion was focused on the expansion of Medicaid across the state for low-income adults and children and how the expansion would broaden health care access under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The stop in Dodge City was the fifth hospital tour Rogers had made on the day, with more on the way.

"When we looked at Ford County," Rogers said, "it's about 1,775 more people would have health insurance with expansion, and when you look at health coverage in western Kansas, there are counties where there is 20 percent of the population without insurance.

"So adding 1,775 additional creates 48 new jobs and additional $11 million impact on the community."

While Rogers spoke in Dodge City, Gov. Laura Kelly held a press conference Tuesday morning and called on the Kansas Senate leadership to allow a vote on Medicaid expansion this week stating, "By design, the legislation I presented was very similar to a plan that passed the legislature in 2017 with strong bipartisan support.

"That’s why I’m disappointed with Senate leadership for blocking the debate and the committee process.

"Now with the regular session winding down, 'halfway there' isn’t good enough."

A bipartisan coalition in the Kansas House passed Medicaid expansion nearly two weeks ago, which Kelly applauded during the press conference, recognizing their strength and determination in moving Medicaid expansion forward.

"I have always endorsed efforts to carefully study issues before taking action," Kelly said. "But when it comes to Medicaid expansion, 'study' is a code word for 'stall.'

"The House did what’s right for Kansas — I’m calling on the Senate to do the same."

In March, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage for the state with a 69-54 vote. The bill has now moved to the Senate.

"The governor and I ran on the expansion of Medicaid," Rogers said. "There are 37 states and the District of Columbia that have expanded and are doing a great job with it.

"We want to communicate how important this is to Kansans. We really want people to call their legislators, particularly their senators and encourage them to allow a debate to happen. They don't necessarily have to vote for it, we'd love them to do that, there are enough votes in the Senate last time, but we think Kansans deserve a debate."

As the possibility of expansion moves forward, Rogers said they do not see cost as overwhelming putting $14.9 million into the budget for a half a year and $30 million for year-round with a savings of $11 million, according to one study at the Department of Corrections and another study showing $374 million into state hospitals.

Rogers also spoke of hospital closings in rural areas.

In the past eight years, Oswego Community Hospital, Central Kansas Medical Center in Great Bend, Mercy Hospital in Independence and Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott, have had to close their doors.

"We are not saying expansion will save hospitals," Rogers said. "A million dollars won't make life or death situations, but you can invest in new equipment or in the communities where hospitals closed, it could have been $400,00 to $500,000 that could have given them some more time to make sure current employees were paid and even have a new delivery model for them or a clinic.

"So we some of those benefits as well."

During his health tour, Rogers said that along with an economic imperative that Medicaid expansion would bring, but also a moral imperative for better health.

"When people are healthy," Rogers said, "they go to work. Have healthier families. The kids do better in school. There are so many other benefits that can come into a community so I see it as a both a moral and economic imperative to do this."

 

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.