Senator Marshall listens to local concerns about federal policy on health care, energy, technology

Senator Roger Marshall speaks with local officials, including Hays Town Manager Toby Dougherty, left, during a meeting Friday morning in Hays.

Hay Post

Senator Roger Marshall was in Hays Friday morning to meet with community officials and business owners.

Some of the topics the group discussed included health care, energy, broadband, and wireless services.

Shae Veach, vice president of regional operations at Hays Medical Center, said the hospital was busier than ever.

\”We just can\’t make money,\” he said.

Pharmaceutical costs are through the roof, Veach said. The hospital does not benefit from the 340B program, which provides financial aid to hospitals serving vulnerable communities to manage rising prescription drug costs.

Big, wealthy hospitals are qualifying for the program, but HaysMed isn\’t, Veach said. Marshall said he would try to address the issue in Washington.

Labor costs and procurement costs have increased due to inflation.

The cost of providing services is rising much faster than reimbursement rates, he said.

\”We\’re not the gas station where we can just increase our costs. That\’s what we get from Medicare and Medicaid and Blue Cross and Blue Shield and third-party payers,\” he said.

Veach also spoke about the addition of his child care facility, opening this fall, and the need for housing to recruit and retain employees.

First Care Clinic CEO Eric Flax said the clinic\’s new pharmacy, opening soon at 13th and Main in Hays, would qualify for the 340B program.

First Care already provides degressive rates to patients for medical, dental and behavioral health services. This will be extended to the pharmacy when it opens, Flax said.

Flax said First Care is also struggling to find qualified employees to do frontline work, including dentists, behavioral health professionals and nurses.

Marshall said Medicaid is so broken and will never be the solution to providing health care to those in need. He said federally qualified health clinics, which includes First Care Clinic, are a better option.

Marshall said a Senate committee he serves on was able to move forward legislation that would limit pharmacy benefit managers.

\”They take 84 cents of every dollar for a prescription,\” Marshall said. … \”There are three of them. They control 90 percent of the market. They are vertically integrated. They own the insurance company, the pharmacy, the retail pharmacy, and now they own the doctors and healthcare providers, too.\”

\”It\’s the most horrible thing I\’ve ever seen in healthcare,\” she said.


Ron Nelson of Dowing Nelson Oil said he did not like the White House\’s move to release oil from the strategic oil reserve.

He said he also opposes listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. This could affect the ability of oil producers to drill wells in the prime breeding ground for prairie chickens. Marshall also opposed the listing.

\”We don\’t need more rules and regulations,\” Nelson said.

Pat Parke, CEO of Midwest Energy, said the company\’s inability to source transformers is holding back local development. He said it will take up to two years to receive the transformers.

\”Manufacturing companies are reluctant to increase their production capacity now if it will be obsolete in three years,\” he said.

Parke said he recommended the Energy Department wait to change its standards so producers could receive a return on their investment.

He also said anything that supports housing, child care or rural health care helps Midwest Energy recruit.

He recommended student loan forgiveness for engineers. Although he claimed to be a Republican, he thought the federal government should rethink his stance on immigration. He suggested that immigrants could help address the acute shortage of workers in rural Kansas.

While he did not mention immigration, Hays Town Manager Toby Dougherty also mentioned the need for more workers in Hays.

Parke said he also wishes Kansas farmers had the opportunity to be a part of carbon sequestration.

He said that although Midwest Energy has leveraged renewable energy, saving its customers millions of dollars, fossil fuels still need to be part of the energy system to maintain grid reliability.

As coal-fired plants age out of the system, utilities are increasingly relying on natural gas. However, the natural gas industry is deregulated.

He pointed to power problems in Texas during the winter of 2021.

\”We don\’t have good coordination of the electric and natural gas industries in this nation,\” he said.

Marshall said he sees modular reactors, which are defined as nuclear reactors generally equivalent to 300 MWe or less, as a viable energy solution for Kansas in the future.

Broadband wireless

Jimmy Todd, CEO of Nex-Tech, also spoke about the problems the company was having with the supply chain.

Although the company has laid down the fiber, the electronic elements that connect users are wearing out and need to be replaced. Nex-Tech is struggling to get parts made overseas.

Todd said companies outside the state have received federal funds to expand rural broadband, but have done nothing in Kansas.

“They are creating Swiss cheese by taking advantage of network expansion opportunities. This makes it very difficult to create a business case to build…”

He said he is concerned the latest round of funding won\’t go where it\’s really needed.

Aaron Gillespie, Nex-Tech Wireless COO, said Nex-Tech is battling against big companies like Verizon and AT&T that have massively exaggerated their 5G maps.

Gillespie said he has 2.3 million map challenges from Verizon and AT&T.

\”We\’re spending a lot of time and talent leading our footprint,\” he said

“Our goal is to ensure that rural residents have technology equivalent to that of their counterparts,” Gillespie added.

Precision AG has been a driver for this.

However, Todd said he served on a federal committee that made recommendations to the FCC and USDA on precision farming, and none of their recommendations have been implemented.

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