new report confirms benefits of kancare expansion to behavioral health system

Topeka — Expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare, would have a significant effect on the state’s behavioral health system, according to a new study from the Kansas Health Institute. The study showed that, among other things, KanCare expansion would lead to increased resources for behavioral health providers; decrease the costs of county jails in Kansas; and reduce the number of children entering the Kansas foster care system due to neglect. Kansas is one of only eleven states in the national who haven’t expanded their Medicaid programs.

The study did an analysis of the behavioral health care system in expansion and non-expansion states, looking at both the effect of expansion on behavioral health resources and indirect effects that would result from treating behavioral health conditions. Some of the significant findings of the study include:

  • Revenue for behavioral health care providers would increase by a net increase of $62.6 million.
  • Expansion is associated with a 3% increase in the number of providers offering mental health services for individuals on Medicaid.
  • Medicaid expansion is associated with fewer arrests and reduced rates of re-arrests at county jails in part because individuals are able to get treatment for mental and substance use disorders. This may lead to reduced spending at county jails in Kansas and reduced incarceration in the criminal justice system.
  • Expansion is associated with a 32% reduction in the number of children entering the foster care system due to neglect. Applying this reduced rate to 2022 Kansas foster care data equates to an estimated 305 fewer children entering the foster care system because of neglect in Kansas.

“KanCare expansion is an integral part of the solution to a host of problems in our state. This report confirms that the behavioral health system would be stronger under expansion, and also reveals striking indirect benefits like a reduction in the number of children entering the foster care system each year,” said April Holman, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. “Not only does increased access to affordable behavioral health care help keep Kansas families together, it also helps low-wage adults to be healthy enough to re-enter or remain in the workforce.”

“The behavioral health system plays a critical role advancing the health of Kansans. This research finds that Medicaid expansion would likely increase revenue for behavioral health providers and improve access to care for patients by increasing the number of providers accepting Medicaid patients,” said Phillip Steiner, Senior Analyst for the Kansas Health Institute. “The study also finds that expanding coverage could provide other benefits for Kansas families and communities, such as fewer arrests, reduced crime rates and fewer children entering the foster care system because of neglect.”

The study shows that expansion would increase the number of mental health visits, especially to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which provide critical health care services to communities. FQHCs saw lower uncompensated care costs and stronger financial stability when compared with FQHCs in non-expansion states.

“FQHCs provide critical services to the communities they serve, including preventive health care, dental health services, and mental health and substance abuse services,” said Sonja W. Bachus, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Care Network of Kansas. “Expanding KanCare is another way we can ensure the stability of these vital health care providers while also ensuring that all Kansans have equitable access to the high-quality health care they need when and where they need it.”

The study was conducted by the Kansas Health Institute (KHI) and sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. Full details and methodology of the report can be found on KHI’s website. For more information on the benefits of KanCare expansion, visit the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas’ website.