Government & Politics

Small Kansas town prepares for spotlight in health care debate as Moran holds town hall

Rally for health care at Sen. Jerry Moran's office

Dozens attended a rally pushing for a fair health care bill Wednesday afternoon at U.S. Sen. Jerry Morgan's Olathe office.
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Dozens attended a rally pushing for a fair health care bill Wednesday afternoon at U.S. Sen. Jerry Morgan's Olathe office.

A Kansas town of roughly 300 people will be the center of the political universe for a day when U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican swing vote on health care, holds a town hall Thursday.

Moran, who came out against the Senate Republican health care plan last week, will hold a town hall at the McKenna Youth and Activity Center in Palco, Kan., at 11 a.m. Activists from the Kansas City-area plan to drive out to the small western Kansas town, and national media outlets are expected to attend the town hall.

Moran is one of the only swing votes holding a town hall during the congressional break. He said last week that he remains committed to finding a path forward with his colleagues.

“I don’t know that Palco has ever been a center of any sort of media attention before,” said Don Steeples, the town’s former mayor. Steeples said he may not be able to make the event because he’s still in the middle of his wheat harvest.

Palco is in Rooks County, where Moran grew up in Plainville.

The Senate bill would cost 120,000 Kansans and 300,000 Missourians their health coverage in five years, according to an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is based in Princeton, N.J.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and Indivisible KC, two groups that demonstrated outside Moran’s Olathe office last week, plan to transport about 30 activists to the event, according to a news release.

The town, which is about 40 miles north of Hays, has only one restaurant, a combination grocery and deli.

“Main Street, usually there’d be eight or 10 cars in the whole half a mile of Main Street,” Steeples said.

Steeples said that people in Palco have been alarmed about the closure of rural hospitals elsewhere in the state, but that Rooks County Health Center in nearby Plainville recently expanded with a new MRI center.

Moran’s primary concern about the Senate bill is its impact on rural hospitals, according to his spokeswoman.

Moran announced that he also plans to hold town hall meetings at noon Friday at Haskell County Courthouse in Sublette, Kan., and at 2 p.m. Friday at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kan.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3