The following remarks are from Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers regarding the results of his Rural Healthcare Tour:

Hello, thank you all for coming today.

Since launching the Office of Rural Prosperity’s Rural Healthcare tour in February, Governor Kelly, KDHE Secretary Lee Norman and I have collectively toured more than 25 healthcare facilities. We’ve met with chambers of commerce, healthcare providers, business owners, faith leaders, families and community members across the state – from Liberal to Marysville and Pittsburg to Atwood.

During this tour, there was a consistent and resounding message no matter where we traveled — Medicaid expansion would absolutely help each of their communities.

It would create new jobs, invest new money into the local economy, and would reimburse healthcare facilities for care they already provide that would otherwise be uncompensated.

Expansion would give healthcare facilities the necessary resources to upgrade diagnostic equipment to provide better local healthcare. And it would allow them to more competitively recruit and retain quality healthcare staff.

In Council Grove, hospital administrators at Morris County told me they had just lost a doctor, and that they’re afraid that if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid they could lose more.

The fear of providers leaving for higher paying jobs in nearby expansion states like Nebraska or Colorado is very real to communities on the state’s border. Goodland Regional Medical Center is just a short 30-minute drive from the hospital in Burlington, Colorado.

And Healthcare facilities in Southwest Kansas – like Garden City and Dodge City – told me about wanting to invest in educational facilities to address their provider shortfall but said it was a challenge while being burdened with millions in unreimbursed care.

The Governor shared a story from her tour of Horizon’s Mental Health Center in Hutchinson. The services they are providing– in their local schools, correctional facilities, and across their communities – could all be enhanced if the legislature expanded Medicaid. And you’ll get a chance to hear that first-hand from their CEO Mike Garrett here shortly.

I don’t have to remind you that four rural hospitals have closed in the past three years – each citing the state’s failure to expand Medicaid as being partially responsible for their closing. And while we cannot guarantee that Medicaid expansion will save every rural hospital, we are certain that it has the most positive and immediate benefit of anything the state can do.

The economic impact of a hospital closure is greater than a cursory glance would expect. In a rural community, healthcare accounts for 20% of a local economy, and just one physician generates 26 jobs.

Given the economic impact of healthcare, the fact that 30% of our state’s rural hospitals are considered financially vulnerable is cause for concern. Across the state over 85% of our hospitals currently have a negative operating margin.

And in the five years that Kansas has gone without expansion we have lost over $3 billion dollars in tax revenue – money Kansans have paid to the federal government, that should have been used here but has gone to other states.

We not only have an economic imperative to expand Medicaid, we have a moral imperative as well.

Nearly 150,000 Kansans fall in the coverage gap. They are hardworking – often underemployed – Kansans who don’t make enough money to afford quality health insurance but have incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid. And many of them live in rural Kansas.

Unfortunately, two members of Senate Leadership – both in majority urban districts I should add – are blocking a vote on expansion despite it being supported by 77% of Kansans. They are suggesting that now is the time to study the issue, and that discussion can begin next year. But after five years of discussion in Kansas and more than 300 national studies showing its effectiveness, the time for discussion is over. It is time for Kansas to join the 36 other states who have already expanded their Medicaid Programs.

This should not be a partisan fight or a means to keep a political score. It is about people’s lives.

The Senate will be back tomorrow for the annual wrap-up session.

The Governor and I are calling on the Senate to hold a vote on Medicaid expansion.

Since rolling out our plan to expand Medicaid nearly 100 days ago, we talked to Kansans — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike – and they’ve told us that Medicaid expansion can’t wait until next year. It simply costs Kansas too much money and too many lives.

They’ve contacted their legislators, they’ve gotten engaged in the process, and they’ve said they are done waiting. It is time for the Legislature to listen to the people.

On behalf of rural Kansans, I’m asking Senate leaders to show compassion for their constituents.