Governor Kelly’s Healthy Workers, Healthy Economy Tour Travels to Pittsburg

~~Medicaid Expansion Could Have Saved the 3 Southeast Kansas Hospitals that Have Closed Since 2014~~

PITTSBURG—Today, Governor Laura Kelly traveled to Pittsburg for an event with southeast Kansas business and health care leaders about her top priority this upcoming legislative session, Medicaid expansion. This is the third stop on the Governor’s “Healthy Workers, Healthy Economy” statewide tour, which launched in Winfield and traveled to Garden City last week.

“Expanding Medicaid is a commonsense way to ensure that every Kansan has access to affordable, high-quality health care while supporting our rural hospitals and smaller communities,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “Businesses would also benefit from Medicaid expansion, as a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. The legislature should do the right thing for our workers and our economy this next session by expanding Medicaid.”

Governor Kelly has long been a supporter of Medicaid expansion. Throughout the fall, Governor Kelly is traveling across the state to share how expanding access to health insurance will reduce costs for every Kansan, preserve and strengthen rural health care, and make Kansas more economically competitive.

The event was held at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg. Since states have had the option to expand Medicaid, 7 rural hospitals in Kansas have closed, 3 of which were in Southeast Kansas (Independence, Oswego, and Fort Scott). 60 out of Kansas’ 104 remaining rural hospitals are at risk of shutting their doors — a higher percentage than any other state in the country.

“Expanding Medicaid to low-income Kansans who need coverage is consistent with our mission. That is why we have long advocated for its expansion and will continue to do so until it finally gets done,” said Drew Talbott, President of Ascension Via Christi Pittsburg. “We applaud Governor Kelly for keeping this issue as a top priority on her legislative agenda.”

Dennis Franks, CEO of Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center, a rural hospital just south of Pittsburg in Chanute, was also in attendance.

“I am proud to live in southeast Kansas. As a hospital CEO, I serve patients living in one of the most economically challenged regions of the state,” said Dennis Franks, CEO of Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center. “These men and women deserve to have health insurance and deserve to have Medicaid as an option. I have been fighting for Medicaid expansion for almost ten years.”

Expanding Medicaid would boost Kansas’ economy, creating 23,000 new jobs and creating a healthier workforce thanks to increased access to essential health care services. Blake Benson, President of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Board Member of Ascension Via Christi-Pittsburg shared how expansion would help Kansas businesses.

“This is an economic development issue for our state and our community. First, health care is a significant driver of the Pittsburg area economy and expanding Medicaid would create more than $11 million in new health care spending in Crawford County alone,” said Blake Benson, President of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Board Member of Ascension Via Christi-Pittsburg. “Secondly, expanding health care coverage to more than 1,600 uninsured employees in our community would create a healthier workforce and increase productivity, while reducing absenteeism and employee turnover in our local businesses.”

By law, 90% of the costs to expand Medicaid would be funded by the federal government with the state providing 10% of funds to match. Kansas has left more than $6.6 billion federal dollars on the table while waiting for Medicaid Expansion.

Kansans can call their state legislators at 800-432-3924.

Photos from today’s event for media use can be found below: