Ascension Via Christi leaders are playing a key role in helping to lead efforts in Kansas to expand the federal Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and vulnerable.
President and CEO Jeff Korsmo led a delegation of Via Christi leaders who met with Gov. Sam Brownback, state Senate President Susan Wagle, state House Speaker Ray Merrick and a half-dozen other state lawmakers in Topeka on March 17.
The following day, Karl Ulrich, MD, Via Christi’s chief operating officer, testified before the House Health and Human Services Committee in support of a bill that would expand the state’s privatized Medicaid program, known as KanCare. Dr. Ulrich was among 12 proponents who testified during a hearing that drew an overflow crowd of more than 150 people to the Statehouse.
Via Christi, part of Ascension, is part of a coalition of healthcare and business organizations, led by the Kansas Hospital Association, that are waging an advocacy campaign to make Kansas the 30th state to expand Medicaid.
During the Via Christi team’s meeting with the Republican governor, Korsmo said that advocating for KanCare expansion was an important part of advancing Via Christi’s mission of serving the poor and vulnerable. He noted that 169,000 additional Kansans, including 99,000 who are working, would have access to healthcare if Medicaid were expanded.
“The reality for most people is that, if you don’t have insurance coverage, you’re not likely to seek out healthcare,” Korsmo said.
In his testimony before the House committee on March 18, Dr. Ulrich cited Via Christi’s experience in helping to lower healthcare costs with its patient-centered medical home model of primary care, which helps patients better manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and provides increased access to preventive services.
For patients in this model, he said, hospital admissions have been reduced 23 percent; hospital readmissions by 43 percent; and emergency room visits by 12 percent. One patient, who was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, lost 42 pounds within six months and cut her blood sugar levels in half.
“Without access to healthcare, this patient could have gone into a diabetic coma, requiring an expensive emergency room visit and subsequent hospitalization,” Dr. Ulrich testified. “Our experience shows that providing access to care will save Kansas money. I understand the emotionality of the politics regarding this bill, but perhaps it’s time for all of us to figure out a path towards passing this bill.”