Why this conservative Republican supports Medicaid expansion in Kansas

At Hutch Regional, our emergency department, which averages more than 65 patients a day, has become a front door for our hospital, as many of those patients do not have a way to access preventive care. Expanding Medicaid would help cover that gap.

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April 15, 2024 - 3:46 PM

In March, Kansans rallied in the Statehouse to show support for Medicaid expansion. Kansans from all over the state sent in 900 testimonies in support of expanding services. AS a body, Kansas legislators have yet to debate the matter let alone bring it to a vote. Photo by (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

I’ve been a lifelong Republican, born and raised a conservative. 

I still have a picture of me standing with George W. Bush in a Bass Pro shirt after working at an event for him. 

Although we were poor, my single mother taught me that work is good for the soul and that anything that disincentivizes work is bad for the individual and our community. 

So, initially, I did not support the Affordable Care Act when it first became law in 2010. I was against Medicaid expansion in those early years. 

But today, I’m writing in full support of expanding Medicaid. Here’s why. 

For 11 years I was a hospital CEO in two rural Kansas towns: Ashland Health Center in Clark County and Kearny County Hospital in Lakin. 

During these years, I saw firsthand how uncompensated emergency care for uninsured Kansans drove up the cost of health care for all of us. Not only did that mean all Kansans had to pay more for health care — it also meant that our hospital had to scrape together the money to stay open. 

We weren’t alone. We started to see financially distressed rural Kansas hospitals close their doors. 

This is still happening today. 

Since 2005, 10 rural hospitals in Kansas have closed. A recent report showed more than half of rural Kansas hospitals are at risk of closing. 

Expanding Medicaid would help support these hospitals. 

Another reason for my change was due to my experience as vice president of the Colorado Hospital Association. I directly supported its 45 rural hospitals. 

Colorado is a Medicaid expansion state, and unlike Kansas, it has not lost a rural hospital. Not one.

I saw the difference between a state that did not expand Medicaid — and one that did. 

Utilizing the federal tax dollars that Coloradans were paying provided their hospitals additional resources to focus on stewardship, community health, and revenue cycle, while families focused on growing their children and going to work. 

Right now, Kansans have paid billions of dollars in federal taxes that have benefited Americans in New York, California and Colorado. 

As a fiscal conservative, I prefer to minimize the tax burden on our society. However, the taxes we pay need to benefit the people who are paying them. These tax dollars need to come home to help us support our communities. 

Lastly, and the most immediate reason for my support of Medicaid expansion, is the current reality in Reno County. 

Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System, or “Hutch Regional,” consists of a 180-bed medical center with 11 psychiatric beds, a hospice, a home health care company, a durable medical equipment company, and a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center serving five rural counties. 

Our hospital is a crucial outpost in central Kansas and we care for patients all the way to the Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma borders. 

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