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Via Christi advocacy

Via Christi advocates for healthcare policies locally, statewide and nationally that open healthcare to everyone. Working with our colleagues at other Ascension Health ministries, we focus our efforts on transforming healthcare for all and providing those who are struggling with access to excellent healthcare.

Ascension systems in Kansas, Indiana partner to advance coverage for uninsured

Via Christi Health in Kansas and St. Vincent Health in Indiana are collaborating to create dialogue among public officials about the need to expand healthcare coverage for Kansans who remain uninsured.

Via Christi and a coalition of other community stakeholders hosted an educational forum Nov. 3, 2015, on expanding coverage under the state’s KanCare Medicaid insurance program to an additional 160,000 Kansans, 90,000 of whom are working.

Kansas state legislators, business leaders and other key stakeholders came together with leaders from Indiana to discuss how the Indiana healthcare leaders worked with their state legislature and governor’s office to expand coverage. Kansas and Indiana both have Republican-controlled state governments.

More than 250 people, including 30 Kansas state lawmakers, attended the three-hour forum at the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita.

In early 2015, Indiana expanded its version of Medicaid — the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 — benefiting about 350,000 low-income Hoosiers who previously had gone without insurance. Via Christi in Kansas is working closely with colleagues at St. Vincent in Indiana to build on their success. Via Christi and St. Vincent are both ministries of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit healthcare system.

“Kansas has failed to meet the needs of about 160,000 Kansans who have no way to pay for the care they need and has turned away more than $785 million in federal funding to date,” said Jeff Korsmo, Via Christi CEO and Kansas Ministry Market Leader for Ascension. “At the same time, a growing number of hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to remain financially viable so that they can continue to meet the healthcare needs of the communities they serve.

“That’s why we’ve come together to form a broad coalition of health organizations committed to finding a way to expand KanCare coverage in a manner that is tailored to meet our state’s needs."

The presentation from Indiana representatives was followed by a bipartisan panel discussion with four key Kansas legislators: Sen. Jeff King (R-Independence); Sen. Michael O’Donnell (R-Wichita); Rep. Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita); and Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita). Both groups concluded the forum by taking questions from those in attendance.

“We all need to keep an open mind about the possibilities,” said Hawkins, chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee. “We’re talking about things we can do to help this situation out, and I think during this next session you’ll see some of those ideas come out. We’re working, and we’ve got to continue to work to find that Kansas solution.”

The Indiana contingent was invited to share details of its plan, a model similar to the one the Kansas coalition has proposed. In addition to expanded coverage, the plan encourages personal accountability, covers essential health benefits such as maternity care and mental health, and reimburses providers at Medicare rates.

“If you look at what has made Indiana and Kansas great places to live and raise a family, it’s the sense of community,” said Jonathan Nalli, CEO of St. Vincent Health and Indiana Ministry Market Leader. “Healthcare is one of those great challenges, and the more we evolve in how we take care of patients, we’re going to be able to identify those who are truly struggling.”

Other statewide sponsors of the event were the Kansas Health Foundation, Kansas Hospital Association, Sunflower Foundation, Saint Luke’s Health System, University of Kansas Hospital, Wesley Medical Center, Medical Society of Sedgwick County, Kansas Association of the Medically Underserved, Kansas Medical Society, Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and REACH Healthcare Foundation.

The collaborative forum was implemented with the help of Skip Hidlay, Via Christi chief communications and marketing officer; Bruce Witt, Via Christi advocacy leader; Georgiana Reynal, St. Vincent advocacy leader; and Peter Leibold, Ascension chief advocacy officer. Similar events are being considered in other Ascension states where Medicaid has not yet expanded.

Ascension has made Medicaid expansion a priority, helping to deliver on its mission to provide compassionate, personalized care to all. Medicaid has not yet expanded coverage in many states with Ascension sites of care — Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin — states that have some of the highest rates of people who are uninsured and who are struggling most.

“We set out to have a respectful dialogue, and that’s what happened today,” Korsmo said. “There was pretty solid agreement about the goal of improving access to care. I was also really pleased that everybody agreed just saying no to everything isn’t the right answer. Time will tell what happens from here, but I thought today really accomplished what we were after.”