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New Medicaid Alliance

By Jade Hudson
Newton Kansan

Posted Jan. 7, 2016 at 4:39 PM

Newton, Kan.

The Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) originally required Medicaid programs to be extended, in order to cover a greater number of Americans— specifically those that are 138% below the poverty line or making less than $27,724 yearly.

Because the supreme court eventually ruled that a federal demand for Medicaid expansion was illegal, the individual states were left to decide how they wanted to approach expansion.

A proposed plan for Kansas’ expansion is KanCare, a program intended to work with Medicaid recipients to make sure they are utilizing the funds effectively.

According to area Healthcare providers, current Medicaid is leaving a coverage gap, and many Kansans uninsured. Quite a few make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to purchase private policies. Many of these uninsured patients also don’t get to see doctors regularly and end up in the ER, passing costs onto hospitals.

Michelle Ponse, Executive Director of the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments said those ER costs were previously and partially covered with Disproportionate Share Payments (or DSH Payments) from the government.

“These DSH payment are going away with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said Ponse, “because everyone is intended to have insurance [through it].”

The Sunflower Foundation, a Kansas Health Advocacy group which seeks to improve the health of Kansans, has begun efforts to form an “Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.” The alliance is a group initiative to get the KanCare expansion up and running.

According to Sunflower’s President and CEO Billie Hall, the alliance is “[a] long-term effort aimed at improving the health of Kansans by engaging Kansas communities to become involved in this important policy decision [and also to] represent diverse organizations committed to providing health insurance to hard working Kansans.”

Regarding the Alliance, Hall said, “our hope is to amplify support for KanCare expansion by unifying the many voices who already support expansion, including business leaders, faith leaders, doctors, advocates for those with special needs, and many others in communities around the state.”

“We hope legislators will no longer be able to simply say ‘no’ to such statewide, community-based calls for KanCare expansion,” Hall said, “we hope legislators will instead begin working to find a Kansas-based solution for accepting federal funds back to our state and providing access to health care for more than 150,000 Kansans.”

Later this month, the Alliance will release an official website, listing more of the group’s plan.

An upcoming column about Medicaid expansion, by State Representative Mark Rhoades, will appear in the Kansan on Friday.

Local Health Department Websites