In Kansas, there is an issue central to the success of local businesses and the growth of our state’s economy. It helps address the state’s budget crisis, brings much-needed jobs to our state and allows us to sit in the driver’s seat — coming up with our own solutions, encouraging personal responsibility and making sure our tax dollars are wisely spent.
The issue might surprise you.
It is expanding the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare. (The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce also supports Medicaid expansion in Missouri.)
And while the future of the Affordable Care Act is under review right now in Washington, D.C., the fact remains that the expansion of Medicaid programs is working in states all across this country, and it is time to find a solution for Kansas. Let D.C. do what D.C. will do — but let’s not leave Kansas without a seat at the table because we failed to expand KanCare. It is too important to our businesses, our hospitals and every taxpayer in Kansas.
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Together, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce are the state’s two largest chambers. Our combined membership is more than 4,300 businesses — big, small and all those in between. If Kansas expands KanCare, it would mean more than 1,100 new jobs in our communities, and more than $183 million in new annual health care spending — stimulating our local economies and improving health.
This is the third year Kansas has declined to expand KanCare. That means we’ve turned our backs on more than $1.5 billion of our own tax money during that time. If we continue along this path of inaction, we could find ourselves left behind and losing tens of billions of dollars in the future as changes to the ACA are considered in the next few months.
Right now, these Kansas dollars are going to the 31 states that have decided to expand Medicaid. Kansas dollars are being used in other states to create jobs and stimulate the economy. Let’s take action now to ensure we are best positioned as the ACA debate happens in Washington. Expanding KanCare before the ACA is repealed protects Kansans’ financial interests.
For instance, next door in Colorado, a recent report found that the state’s economy supported 31,074 additional jobs because of Medicaid expansion. By fiscal year 2034-2035, that number will grow to 43,018 new jobs that have resulted from the decision to expand Medicaid in Colorado.
We cannot afford to wait any longer. We need to keep Kansas dollars in Kansas, and here’s why:
▪ Kansas wants to be a business-friendly state. But without expansion, employers are paying higher prices for employee insurance because younger, healthier workers cannot afford employer-sponsored coverage. We are no longer competitive, particularly when so many other states offer expanded coverage.
▪ Kansas lost 2,100 private-sector jobs since August and 6,300 private-sector jobs in the last year. When expanding KanCare, a conservative estimate shows that 3,800 new jobs could be created in the health care sector. This would go a long way to shoring up that deficit.
▪ Without KanCare expansion, the state’s uninsured will continue to seek health care in the most expensive place — the emergency room — leading to increased costs for all Kansas taxpayers. Hospitals and providers are strained because they are providing care without reimbursement. As a result, Kansas saw one hospital close earlier last year. Others will follow if we don’t start solving these problems now.
Expanding KanCare is a unique, budget-neutral solution. It makes health care coverage more accessible at no additional cost to Kansas taxpayers and without using the State General Fund. Expanding KanCare also boosts the Kansas economy without an additional investment by the state, as compared to other programs.
We encourage you to talk to your legislators and let them know why they need to make the expansion of KanCare a priority for the 2017 legislative session. Expanding KanCare is a pro-growth policy that brings hundreds of millions of dollars back to Kansas each year.
Every day we fail to expand KanCare, Kansas loses $1.9 million, which could be used to create jobs, protect hospitals and our communities and improve the health of Kansans. We can’t afford to be left further behind. Let’s work together to expand KanCare and to protect the interests of our state.
Joe Reardon is president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Gary Plummer is the president and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.
By the numbers
▪ 11,759 uninsured residents gain health coverage
▪ 315 new jobs
▪ $50 million in new annual health care spending, creating economic impact and improving health
▪ 10,521 uninsured residents gain health coverage
▪ 282 new jobs
▪ $44.5 million in new annual health care spending, creating economic impact and improving health
▪ 21,024 uninsured residents gain health coverage
▪ 563 new jobs
▪ $89 million in new annual health care spending, creating economic impact and improving health
Source: Kansas Department of Health and Environment, U.S. Census Bureau Small Area Health Insurance Estimates, and George Washington University/Regional Economic Models Inc.