Doctors, hospitals react to Medicaid cuts

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Governor Sam Brownback took action to balance the state's budget for the next two years. Part of that action was cutting Medicaid funding by four percent.

That means doctors and hospitals won't get reimbursed as much as they did before when they treat patients on Medicaid. They say this cut would be harmful to hospitals, physicians and patients.

Dr. Kevin Hoppock said he gets roughly 50% reimbursement for every service he does to a patient with Medicaid compared to a patient with commercial insurance. He said a cut could harm patients ability to find care.

"You see if you reduce reimbursement rates to docs, you're going to reduce participation which obviously makes it difficult for patients to find a doctor," he said.

Hoppock said doctors don't often turn away patients but this change could make that more difficult.

"I think everyone, the majority of us have made a decision that we're going to care for our Medicaid population, even at a financial loss. But this frankly makes that decision even harder," Hoppock said.

If physicians decide against taking patients with Medicaid, Hoppock said that could cause bigger problems for others who go to the emergency room for care.

"The big problem from a patient standpoint is that everybody would prefer to have their own physician and frankly it makes the best sense. You're going to have the best quality of care and get it at the best price. If you don't have access to a primary care doctor, that means you really have very little alternatives except high cost, lower quality care through the emergency room," he said.

That puts pressure on hospitals like Via Christi that said it keeps seeing cuts.

Via Christi Director of Government Affairs Bruce Witt said, "Given the level of cuts we've already experienced under Medicare, we've had to reduce our workforce by around 580 jobs in the last three years."

He said the more cuts that come, the more the hospital said the community suffers.

"The more reimbursement cuts we see, the more challenging it is to reinvest in our infrastructure and our technology so it does or could have an impact on patient care but I think more importantly what effect does it have on our economy?"

Witt said Via Christi has advocated for Medicaid expansion and this cut is going in the wrong direction.

"Not only have we refused to expand the KanCare program, we've turned away over 1.1 billion dollars which could have been flowing through our healthcare system, our economy. So again it is frustrating that we've turned away that federal money and now we're making further cuts to our budget and particularly in the area of our KanCare program."

The Kansas Medical Society said this approach is wrong and goes against what KanCare was meant to fix.

The society's director of government affairs Rachelle Colombo said, "It's likely going to drive up costs and reduce access, and we think it's just the dead-wrong approach."

Colombo said the Kansas Medical Society made it clear to the governor how it felt about the cuts before they were announced.

She said, "We have expressed back to the governor's office opposition to this plan and our feeling that it will undermine the principals that KanCare was founded to solve, particularly to provide wider access to a lower cost without cutting provider rates. We're very disappointed in this action and think that it's probably going to exacerbate the problems KanCare was founded to solve."