The closing of Sumner Community Hospital at Wellington is a sad story for our neighborhood.

The loss of this acute health care facility going back to the 1950s comes at an unfortunate time.

The coronavirus pandemic threatens our region and the lack of expanded Medicaid in Kansas makes it difficult for the uninsured to pay the costs of dealing with the disease. It is unclear that we have enough hospital beds to cope with a spike in the sickness.

Expanded Medicaid may not have saved the Wellington hospital, but, according to Wellington City Manager Shane Shields, “it certainly would have improved its chances.”

Medicaid expansion would also improve the chances of the South Central Kansas Medical Center at Arkansas City. CEO Jeff Bowman estimates expansion would bring $1.25 million annually to his hospital.

No one wants the Arkansas City hospital, or any other hospital, to join the six rural hospitals in Kansas already closed.

There are many arguments for expanding Medicaid, and many against it. The key points, in our opinion, are that the federal government will pay 90 percent of the added cost for five years, and that a majority of the estimated 130,000 people who would gain health insurance are among the working poor.

Whatever reasons one has for supporting or opposing expanded Medicaid, there is no question doing so would be a boon to rural hospitals. 

Their personnel would suddenly know leaders in Topeka cared about their fate. Rural communities would get a shot in the arm, psychologically and economically.

It is almost tragic that nearly all our elected legislators from the Cowley County region are lined up behind Senate President Susan Wagle and her “amend before expand” position that a constitutional amendment on abortion must pass before Medicaid expansion will be considered.

Some serious political mistakes are being made by our lawmakers on Medicaid expansion. The sooner they correct themselves the better.

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(1) comment


The author forgot William Newton Hospital in Winfield. This other hospital in the paper's reader base has expanded services steadily without adding taxpayer burden for the 7 years I've been in Cowley County. There is hope for healthcare in rural America, with or without Medicare expansion.

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