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Kansas bishops support Medicaid expansion

Leaders from Ascension Via Christi, part of Ascension, recently spent significant time advancing efforts to expand the federal Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and vulnerable in Kansas. Working behind the scenes, Via Christi leaders shared their views with the state’s Catholic bishops and answered their questions about the importance of Medicaid expansion.

Via Christi’s team consulted with Ascension’s Mission Integration and Advocacy leaders as they moved forward with this quiet advocacy campaign.

In late April, the Kansas Catholic Conference, composed of the state’s four bishops, changed its position on Medicaid expansion from neutral to one of support. That change helps the efforts of leaders from Via Christi and other healthcare organizations to persuade Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature to expand the program.

“Many of our brothers and sisters who cannot currently afford health insurance would gain access to it, bringing an end to the uncertainty and fear that the uninsured of our society must live with daily,” the bishops said in their statement, issued April 30.

The bishops noted that 130,000 Kansans who are now uninsured would gain health insurance coverage if the state’s Medicaid program, called KanCare, were expanded.

While they endorsed expanding the program, the bishops also cited their concerns, which include a need to reform KanCare finances, and that the expanded program would provide coverage for contraceptive services. Still, they said the need to help the most vulnerable in Kansas is paramount.

“We call to mind Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan,” the bishops’ statement notes. “The Samaritan finds a man ‘half dead,’ is ‘moved with compassion’ and ‘treats him with mercy’ by caring for him. The parable reminds us that the measure of a culture is the manner in which it provides for its weakest and most vulnerable.”

Via Christi is part of a coalition of healthcare and business organizations – including the Kansas Hospital Association – that is campaigning to make Kansas the 30th state to expand Medicaid.

The Bishops issued their statement of support on the same day Via Christi President and CEO Jeff Korsmo and several other Kansas healthcare leaders met with Brownback and Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle to continue pressing them to expand Medicaid.