Kansas stories: Julie Jenesta

February 2024

Julie Jenesta is a social worker at the Salvation Army. She spends her time working with low-income families in northeast Kansas. Many of Julie’s clients are single parents who are struggling to take care of themselves, especially when it comes to their health.

Many of the employment opportunities in Julie’s community do not offer health insurance. As small businesses, they can’t afford to provide it as a benefit. Though many of the children qualify for Medicaid, many of Julie’s adult clients have no options for health insurance for themselves, so they have to go without.

Julie works in the Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program. Its goal is to break generational poverty by helping families overcome challenges like unemployment, unstable housing, and a lack of education. The program works to help families toward increased stability and, ultimately, self-sufficiency. The program in Kansas struggles because the lack of insurance options in the state means fewer resources for the families they serve.

One of Julie’s clients is a mother of four. She was a single mom and developed health issues. Despite her health issues, she worked three jobs, including as a food delivery driver for Door Dash. She had Medicaid coverage during her pregnancies, but then lost coverage shortly after each birth because Kansas hadn’t yet extended postpartum coverage. Julie wanted to help this mother, but she didn’t make enough money to qualify for subsidies on the Health Insurance Marketplace. She was caught in the coverage gap where she didn’t have any affordable health insurance options.

Another client of Julie’s is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Even though she works full-time, she doesn’t make enough to qualify for subsidies on the Marketplace. This client is diabetic and has medication she is supposed to take, but she often goes without because she doesn’t have insurance to cover them.

Many of Julie’s clients haven’t had medical checkups since they were children. They end up letting health issues go until they are harder and more expensive to treat.

“Early intervention and care is so important,” Julie said.

Expanding Medicaid in Kansas would mean a better life for these Kansans and their families.