HAYTI, MO (KFVS) - Talks of expanding Medicaid push one Heartland hospital executive to speak out in support.
Florida's governor announced his state plans to expand Medicaid, while Kentucky made the announcement earlier this week.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is pushing for a similar expansion.
While not everyone agrees with the idea, the CEO of Pemiscot Memorial Health Systems said it's a must.
CEO Kerry Noble called this the most challenging time in his career. If the Medicaid expansion doesn't pass, he said the hospital won't close overnight, but it's definitely something he's concerned about.
"As a public hospital, it's our philosophy and our mission to provide care regardless of people's ability to pay," said Noble.
But if the patients can't pay, Noble hopes the government can. He said the hospital runs the risk of closing it's doors without the expansion.
"Where else are they going to turn to for their health care, if our organization isn't here," said Noble.
"I think that Medicaid for the hospital is a very important source of income, we serve a predominantly rural, poor population," said Radiologist Dr. James Hazel Jr.
In the past few years, Noble said about five percent of the hospital's patients have moved from Medicaid to the uncompensated category.
The goal for the Medicaid expansion is to shift those patients back. That would be about $4 million dollars a year added for the hospital, and the ability to continue providing care.
"Without Medicaid reimbursement that would be adequate to cover our expenses, we can't serve these people, without the service to these people, then they have nowhere to go," said Hazel.
If the expansion doesn't pass, the hospital would lose about $1 million dollars each year. Noble said that means they would have to reduce services, wouldn't be able to replace outdated technology and would have to forgo updates to the aging building.
It's not just the patients that would see an effect. With about 550 employees, Hazel said the community would also lose some life support.
"These good jobs would all be gone, and so the merchants could not survive, and it simply would be a terrible blow for this town," said Hazel.
Opponents of the Medicaid expansion say they're worried about the long term cost of the program. But Noble believes the expansion is still the medicine for Medicaid.
"Yes that will be a concern, but the idea is that we will have more people hopefully gainfully employed, paying in taxes and all sharing in this so that through economic expansion the state will be able to collect more income," said Noble.
Noble said he's not set on the current expansion proposal, and is open to other ideas, but he thinks there should be some sort of expansion legislation.