By Sheldon Weisgrau | Sept. 25, 2019
The Census Bureau’s annual report on health insurance is out, and the news isn’t good. Despite economic growth and low unemployment, the number of Americans without insurance rose by about 2 million in 2018, continuing an erosion in coverage that began the year before. Prior to that, both the number of uninsured and the rate of uninsurance had dropped in every year since 2014, when the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) coverage expansions became effective.
A number of factors account for the rise in uninsurance, including cuts in federal outreach programs that assist consumers with enrollment and the elimination of the ACA’s tax penalty for those who do not have insurance. Most striking is an increase in the number of children who are uninsured, many of whom have been cut from state Medicaid rolls. Notably, nearly 95,000 children have been dropped from Medicaid in Missouri, a decline of 15% that is the highest in the nation.
While coverage of children has remained steady in Kansas, the news for adults wasn’t as good. About 250,000 Kansans, 8.8% of the population, were uninsured in 2018, a total slightly higher than the year before. Over the more than 50 years that data on insurance coverage has been collected, Kansas had consistently recorded uninsurance rates far lower than in the U.S. as a whole. That is no longer the case, however, as the rate of uninsurance in Kansas is now essentially the same as that of the U.S.
The reason that Kansas is no longer a national leader in insurance coverage is clear. While 36 states and D.C. have expanded eligibility for their Medicaid programs, Kansas is one of only 14 states that has not. The uninsurance rate in states that have not expanded Medicaid is nearly double that of expansion states.
If Kansas were to expand its Medicaid program – known as KanCare – the state’s uninsurance rate would likely drop below 6%. This would be one of the lowest rates in the region and put Kansas once again in the top third of states in the nation.
Instead, insurance coverage in Kansas lags. It’s time for the Kansas legislature to join most of the rest of the nation and expand KanCare.
Sheldon Weisgrau is the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas’ Senior Policy Advisor. Contact Sheldon at firstname.lastname@example.org.