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Moran Says Medicaid Expansion Could Help Kansas Hospitals

Zach Gibson
Getty Images/NPR.org

Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran says many rural hospitals in Kansas are "hanging on by a thread" and could benefit from the additional revenue that Medicaid expansion would generate.

But Moran said Wednesday, after speaking to LMH Health president and CEO Russ Johnson in Lawrence, that he wants to leave the decision to the state Legislature, the Lawrence Journal-World reported .

Kansas has rejected accepting additional federal funding through the Affordable Care Act to expand the program for the poor and disabled. The idea is being revisited now that incoming Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has expressed an interest. The federal government paid the full cost of the expansion until 2017 and will continue paying 90 percent starting in 2020.

"The state needs to weigh that with how long those federal dollars will be in place," he said. "But I will say, it was suggested to me in this meeting (with Johnson) that the one thing that could be done that would better deal with people with mental health issues is Medicaid expansion."

In Kansas, former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and outgoing Gov. Jeff Colyer were the biggest reasons for the program not being expanded. Both cited cost as the main factor. Colyer's budget office estimated the expansion would be a net cost of $22 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2019.

Moran said he plans to be back in session on Monday, but he will be ready to head back sooner if it will help end the shutdown. Moran said he believes the border wall funding issue could be resolved through legislative negotiation if the people involved would "come out of their corners."

Moran is also concerned about the impact of immigration policy on higher education. He said he has heard that many institutions of higher education in Kansas, particularly community colleges, are losing lucrative foreign student enrollment.

Another issue affecting Kansas is the trade war with China, which put U.S. soybean purchases on hold until the two countries agreed to a truce in December.

"It doesn't seem to me the way to deal with that is putting tariffs in place and they retaliate," he said. "It doesn't need to be a tariff battle."