Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A coalition of Kansas health care providers, business organizations and local governments is stepping up its lobbying campaign for Medicaid expansion.

Just this week the coalition has staged media conferences in Wichita and Manhattan to push for the expansion of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

In Manhattan, business leaders made the economic case for expansion. Kristin Brighton chairs the board of the area chamber of commerce.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

A group of community and health leaders held a press conference Wednesday in Wichita to push for lawmakers to expand Kansas’ Medicaid system.

Many of the organizations participating in the meeting, which was hosted by Via Christi Health and held at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in downtown Wichita, have already come out in support of expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid system. Now, they say they need Kansas lawmakers to put the issue on the agenda for the 2017 legislative session.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor/File photo

Legislative auditors said Wednesday they can’t confirm that the Medicaid application backlog numbers state officials have reported are correct.

Applications have been backlogged for about a year following the rocky rollout of a new computer system, an administrative decision that funneled all applications through a single state agency and a larger-than-expected influx of applications during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

Photo by U.S. Census Bureau

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop.

But they’re declining faster in states that have expanded Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.

New data out Tuesday from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Kansas’ uninsured rate dropped to 9.1 percent in 2015, down from 10.2 percent the year before and 12.3 percent in 2013.

Mercy Hospital Independence

Knocking on doors in southeast Kansas, as elsewhere in the state, candidates get an earful about public school funding and the state’s budget mess, first and foremost. So it’s hard to know how much the local hospital’s closure factored into the defeat of two of the area’s longtime Republican legislators in the primaries. But it is clear health care is at the top of the mind for the candidates left standing.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

In the face of growing criticism from health care providers, Gov. Sam Brownback says he wants to restore Medicaid cuts made in July to help balance the state budget. But the governor says he wants to raise a tax imposed on hospitals to do it.

Brownback says when lawmakers return to Topeka in January he will ask them to raise the hospital tax to generate the money needed to restore $56 million in cuts to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Update 08/17/16:

Gov. Brownback has released the following statement about the KanCare cuts:

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is sticking to his talking points. In a rare informal conversation with Statehouse reporters late last week, Brownback said the results of the recent primary election aren’t causing him to re-think his positions on tax cuts, school finance and Medicaid expansion.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislators in cash-strapped Kansas approved a 4 percent cut to Medicaid reimbursements this year. That’s made an already tough situation even tougher for a dentist in Prairie Village who serves some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

John Fasbinder’s dental office was busy on a recent Tuesday.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Two of the state’s three KanCare Medicaid contracts were making a profit by the end of last year, according to a report given to lawmakers Friday in Topeka.

Some previous records had shown losses at all three of the companies that manage the state’s privatized Medicaid program. By the end of 2015, the newest report shows UnitedHealthcare had made $44 million, Amerigroup had made $31 million and Sunflower Health Plan had lost $16 million.