Patients, clinics affected by Medicaid not being expanded

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OLATHE, Kan. -- The decision by Missouri and Kansas lawmakers not to expand Medicaid means tens of thousands of residents will remain uninsured in the next year. A new report finds it also means community health centers that serve them will miss out on millions of extra dollars.

Lisa Allen sits in the waiting area of Health Partnership Clinic by a table with information on the insurance marketplace. But nothing on the table will help Lisa get insurance. The self-employed writer makes too little money to qualify for subsidies and get coverage on the marketplace, and she makes too much to qualify for Medicaid.

"I guess if I had to pick one word, it would be disappointing," said Allen.

She is in the coverage gap created when lawmakers in Kansas, Missouri and 24 other states didn't expand Medicaid. A new study from George Washington University finds community health centers are losing out, too.

In Kansas, they would have received $13 million more next year if patients in the gap had been able to get Medicaid. In Missouri, it's $37 million.

Health Partnership's director said those estimates are probably low since researchers looked at 2011 patient numbers.

"We calculate for us alone, it would be more than a million dollars," said Jason Wesco.

The uninsured pay $10 to $20 for a clinic visit. But Wesco said it costs the clinic $130 to see them. With Medicaid, that amount would have been covered.

"If more of my patients had coverage that covers the cost, I'm able to take care of not only more patients on Medicaid, I'm able to take care of more uninsured patients," said Wesco.

The clinic has been able to receive more public funding by becoming a federally-qualified clinic. That's allowed the clinic to add thousands of patient visits this year.

Lisa said, "There's so many more people they could touch."

That's if, she says, state lawmakers would decide to expand Medicaid.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and many lawmakers have been against expansion because of concerns that the federal government might not keep its promise to cover the entire cost for the first three years and at least 90 percent after that.

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