Hospitals in Indiana and Kansas are cooperating to advocate for expansion of the KanCare Medicaid program by modeling the process in which Indiana’s program was expanded.

Via Christi Health, of Wichita, hosted the Nov. 3 educational forum on expansion of KanCare, partnering with its Ascension Health colleagues at St. Vincent Health in Indianapolis.

Representatives from St. Vincent, along with Indiana Hospital Association President Doug Leonard, said that expanding the Healthcare Indiana Program, known as HIP, came about by working with generally politically conservative government officials, such as Governor Mike Pence —who for the most part opposed the Affordable Care Act and expanding taxpayer-funded health care.

Indiana, Leonard said, came up with an expansion built on HIP health savings accounts. Uninsured Hoosiers who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level can receive an “expensive” basic HIP coverage, with high deductibles and limited benefits without paying any premium, or can pay premiums for a HIP plan that includes more benefits and less out-of-pocket expense and “is truly more affordable than the basic program,” he said.

Since its launch in January, the expanded Indiana program, primarily funded through an increase in tobacco taxes, has signed up about 200,000 of its 350,000 uninsured in Indiana. The program also has signed up 1,000 new providers and has ensured providers are reimbursed at Medicare rates, Leonard said at the forum.

Via Christi Health President Jeff Korsmo said there are many parallels between the Republican-lead Kansas state government and Indiana’s own leadership. He said that by addressing the concerns of those who might oppose Medicaid expansion, a new KanCare plan could take advantage of significant federal dollars. Since 2014, Kansas has foregone about $800 million in federal Medicaid funding and will leave another $2.2 billion on the table between now and 2018 by failing to expand its KanCare program to cover more uninsured Kansans, Korsmo said.

Co-sponsors of the event included the Kansas Health Foundation, Kansas Hospital Association, Saint Luke’s Health System, University of Kansas Hospital, Wesley Medical Center and the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.