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Letter to the Editor

On August 8th KSNT released a report written by the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform (CHQPR), which spotlighted the number of rural hospitals nationwide, State by State, which had a loss from patient services in their 2022 fiscal year. Because Kansas has the most rural hospitals of all 50 States, other than Texas, and has the highest percentage of those rural hospitals who lost money per their 2022 patient services study, we, Kansas, made the headline news as the leader in having the most “hospitals at immediate risk of closing”, (see KSNT website for list if interested).

This report also spotlighted the fact that most of those States having the highest percentage of hospitals at risk, were also those States that had not opted into the Medicaid expansion opportunity made available in 2014, under the Obama administration. Indeed, since 2014, Kansas Hospital Association’s estimate of Federal Funds forfeited for not expanding Medicaid in Kansas is $6.51 Billion and counting. These dollars would have helped every rural (and urban) community in Kansas, many of which through dire measures are trying to hold onto their local hospitals.

The good side to this story is that Morris County Hospital, though not frequently in the black through its patient services alone, has always had a positive margin when we add in the modest County tax support, grant support, active participation in the 340B drug program, contributions, and having the good geographical location of being able to draw patients from a very broad area. We have enjoyed great cash flows through the years and have been able to recapitalize our equipment and technology, staying abreast with the medical world that is constantly changing. We are also one of the few hospitals in the State that have carried the County’s EMS services, and have had to subsidize this costly service for many years, although the County does help out considerably. We are of course proud to have such a first class ambulance service.

If you would like to assist in protecting your local hospital’s vitality, I can ask two things that won’t directly affect your pocket book. The first is to tell your State Representative and Senator to vote for Medicaid Expansion (only 10 States have yet to opt in), which would add an estimated $350K margin a year to our patient operations. The second one applies only to Medicare age patients and may appear to be more personally costly, but it most likely isn’t when you look at a full year of out of pocket costs: Consider staying with traditional Medicare and its supplemental insurance options. The Medicare Advantage plans may lure you with perks and lower premiums, but their coverage restrictions lead to higher copays and drive times to fit within their more limited networks. Often your premium savings are going to be offset with inconvenience, uncertainties, and hidden costs. And Medicare Advantage plans compromise the reimbursement formulas that traditional Medicare guarantees for its Critical Access Hospitals, like MCH, and we will likely choose not to contract with the underperforming ones!

I hope these words will give you considerable confidence in your local hospital, despite the ongoing challenges of staying vibrant in a time of inflation and economic uncertainty. And remember that the best way to support us is to come see our doctors and use our services! We are here for YOU!

Thank you, Kevin Leeper, CEO – MCH

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