Medicaid expansion

KHI News Service/File photo

The heads of Kansas’ 26 community mental health centers are preparing to push an ambitious set of proposals to address what they say are growing gaps in the state’s behavioral health system.

In addition to restoring funding cuts made prior to the Great Recession, the center directors want Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers to expand a network of regional crisis intervention centers.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A panel tasked with finding “Kansas solutions” for health care delivery problems in rural Kansas turned its attention to behavioral health Tuesday.

At a meeting in Larned, Eric Van Allen told the Rural Health Working Group that Kansas spends about $400 million annually on behavioral health — including roughly $175 million through the Medicaid program.

KHI News Service

Medicaid expansion advocates in Kansas say they’ll move forward with legislation despite national election results that signal a repeal of Obamacare.

But they are a lot less optimistic about their chances than they were before last week.

“There is still significant support in Kansas for expanding KanCare both in the public and among legislators,” said David Jordan, director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a nonprofit advocacy group formed to push for the expansion of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Advocates for Medicaid expansion in Kansas are focusing on a new issue in their final push before next week’s election: They’re selling expansion as a way to address the state’s mental health crisis and the public safety concerns it’s giving rise to.

It’s no secret that the mental health system in Kansas is strained almost to the breaking point.

State hospitals are at capacity. And after suffering millions of dollars in budget cuts, community mental health centers are struggling to maintain services.

Jasleen Kaur, flickr Creative Commons

Campaign finance reports out this week show that Kansas health care organizations are putting their checkbooks behind the Medicaid expansion effort.

In previous elections the Kansas Hospital Association’s political action committee distributed contributions pretty evenly, giving to candidates regardless of party or ideology.

Not this year.

Abigail Beckman

Candidates for Kansas' District 27 Senate seat met for a forum Tuesday night in Colwich. District 27 includes northwest Wichita, Andale, Colwich and much of rural Sedgwick County between Goddard and Maize.

In the upcoming general election, Democrat Tony Hunter, a first-time candidate, faces Republican Gene Suellentrop, a former member of the House of Representatives. Among other topics, the candidates discussed their widely differing views on Medicaid expansion, a move that Suellentrop says has led to people "coming out of the woodwork" to enroll in the program.

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.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A task force charged with addressing the problems of health care delivery in rural Kansas met for nearly five hours in Salina yesterday. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson reports, they still haven’t settled on a direction.

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.

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