From left to right: Scott Thelman, Kansas Board of Agriculture; Nick Levendofsky, Kansas Farmers Union; Andrea de Jesus, A&H Farms; Chrysanne Grund, Greeley County Health Services; Gov. Laura Kelly; Rep. Kenny Titus; Erin Petersilie, Kansas Farm Bureau; Matt Splitter, Kansas Corn; Thad Geiger, Kansas Board of Agriculture Chair; Rep. Mike Dodson. (Courtesy photo)

Kansas farmers and ranchers, as well as area state legislators took part in a roundtable discussion Wednesday in Manhattan centered on how expanding Medicaid would potentially benefit the state’s agriculture industry.

Leading the discussion was Gov. Laura Kelly, who is planning yet another attempt to convince the GOP-controlled legislature to debate the issue and ultimately pass an expansion bill.

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Photo by Brandon Peoples/KMAN

A 2020 report from the Chartis Center for Rural Health found that being in a state that has expanded Medicaid decreases the likelihood of a rural hospital closing by 62 percent.

Between Ascension Via Christi Manhattan and the Wamego Health Center, an estimated six to seven million dollars in charity care is provided annually. Charity care includes services provided where the patient does not have the ability to pay. Kelly says the state has left over $7 billion in Kansas taxpayer money in Washington D.C. as 40 other states have adopted Medicaid expansion.

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Manhattan’s Republican State Representatives Mike Dodson and Kenny Titus appear to be split on their support for expansion. Dodson says he’d like to see the issue brought for debate on the House floor saying as much so in a Wednesday release from the governor’s office.

“Although nearly 80% of Kansans want Medicaid expansion, those who oppose it have offered no plans to improve the health care we have,” he said.

Courtesy photo

Titus said Wednesday during the roundtable that a creative and flexible approach is needed, but stopped short of saying whether Medicaid expansion is the right path forward, when pressed by the governor.

Access to care in rural areas remains a tall task says Matt Splitter, board member with Kansas Corn.

“While they’re working hard to propel our economy, surrounding hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open, making access to crucial mental and physical care difficult for rural communities. Medicaid expansion would give more Kansas farmers and ranchers health insurance while supporting rural hospitals so they can get health care in their own communities,” he said.

Photo by Brandon Peoples/KMAN

According to the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, more than 2,600 Riley County residents and more than 700 Geary County residents would become eligible for Medicaid if the legislature passed an expansion bill.

Manhattan Democratic State Sen. Usha Reddi and Democratic State Rep. Sydney Carlin also attended Wednesday’s discussion, held at Kansas Farm Bureau’s headquarters in Manhattan, but did not participate.

Courtesy photo

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