There is a lot of information in our State of Healthcare in Kansas special section today, especially focused on the viability of rural hospitals and the expansion of Medicaid.

Just days after being sworn into office, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly submitted a budget to state lawmakers that includes $14 million to deliver healthcare coverage to 150,000 low-income Kansans. Along with those funds comes a plea from the Governor for the state to expand Medicaid, something her predecessors refused to do.

Expanding medicaid should not be a political battleground. With the federal government providing 90 percent of the funds, it makes sense for Kansas to say yes to providing healthcare coverage for those who need it the most.

The issue is also about helping our rural hospitals. In a report published by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, the health of rural hospitals is greatly affected by the expansion of Medicaid.

“The ACA’s Medicaid expansion was associated with improved hospital financial performance and substantially lower likelihoods of closure, especially in rural markets and counties with large numbers of uninsured adults before Medicaid expansion, the report stated.”

It went on to add the higher Medicaid coverage levels meant a stronger financial picture for rural hospitals and that a strong local hospital was good for the community.

The main argument against expanding Medicaid is the cost. When the program began, the federal government covered the entire cost. Now states are required to pay 10 percent. State lawmakers worry about where that funding will come from.

Other states are finding funding in various forms. Arkansas charges premiums and has a work requirement, Indiana uses a cigarette tax and hospital fee and New Hampshire gets funding from a liquor tax. Finding a funding source will not be easy but it can be done.

Ottawa and Franklin County are lucky to have a hospital as good as Ransom Memorial Hospital in the community. As they join with AdventHealth, the hospital should only get stronger and have the ability to provide more services to the community.

The expansion of Medicaid would open those services to many in the community that right may have to decide whether they can afford healthcare.

What it does not address is arguably the biggest problem with the healthcare and that is the cost of prescription drugs. Until the healthcare industry gets a handle on the extreme markups of many of those drugs and the struggle that many have to afford their prescriptions, the expansion of Medicaid will only be a drop in the bucket.

Kansas is one of only 14 states that has refused to expand Medicaid. Hopefully with new leadership, that statistic will change and those that really need it will have access to much needed help.

— The Ottawa Herald