Health care’s impact on the Kansas economy is more than a shot in the arm. As the sector employs more than 221,000, which is 11.6 percent of all job-holders in the state, and generates some $21.7 billion in annual sales — it is better described as many a community’s lifeblood.
A Kansas Hospital Association study conducted by Professor John Leatherman of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University and that was released earlier this year brought to light such statistics. The report asserted a strong health care system can “help attract and maintain business and industry growth, attract and retain retirees, and create jobs in the local area.”
More specifically, “health care industries, especially in rural counties, help to preserve the population base, invigorating the communities and school systems.”
One need only look to Hays Med Center with well over 1,000 associates to underscore the point.
But hospitals are hurting throughout Kansas as well as every other state that refuses to expand its Medicaid program. Bringing significant numbers of new patients into the system was intended to offset agreed-upon reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. But that component of the Affordable Care Act, which Kansas helped remove from the mandated list of tasks to accomplish in order to help drive down costs, is forcing many medical centers into triage.
In the case of Mercy Hospital System’s facility in Independence, even emergency care won’t help — the plug is being pulled. Mercy plans to shutter the hospital next month.
Mercy spokeswoman Joanne Smith told the Tribune News Service the hospital would have had $1.6 million in additional revenue had Medicaid been expanded.
“And that’s very significant for a small hospital like ours,” Smith told Tribune News Service.
It’s significant elsewhere as well. Statewide, the figure is approximately $750 million since the start of 2014. The Kansas Hospital Association has a current time calculator running on its website.
“I think we figured out it’s about 12 dollars a second,” said Tom Bell, KHA’s president.
Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, told KHI News Service: “Kansas’ failure to expand its KanCare program has resulted in almost $14 million in annual lost revenue to Via Christi — nearly $28 million over the past two years.”
Korsmo and Bell have joined a chorus of health care administrators in requesting Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to expand Medicaid, which is managed by the privately run KanCare network.
That doesn’t appear likely, even in the face of hospitals actually closing. Why? Because the governor and Republican lawmakers do not agree on the cause.
Brownback said hospitals in general need to “innovate” more, and that the Independence hospital “should blame it on Obamacare.” The governor also has claimed: “I don’t think we have the resources to get (expansion) done.”
All of the governor’s claims are pathetic, and indicate his lack of concern for the good people of Kansas he’s supposed to be serving. Brownback needs to listen to the experts in the health care industry. He needs to get off the tired “repeal Obamacare” political gimmick. And he needs to reinstate the tax revenues that to this point have only benefitted corporations and wealthy Kansans — at the expense of everybody else.
That a hospital is being forced to close because of Topeka-inflicted financial duress is shameful. But when political games and blind faith in foolish and disproven economic theories take precedence over Kansans’ health care needs and a community’s well-being, one can’t expect anything else.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry