Kansas stories: Stephen

June 2024

Stephen is a father of two from Buhler, Kansas.

He is trying to make his life better for his family. After working as a server for awhile, he decided to enroll in a computer program coding bootcamp could help him find a higher paid position — and hopefully one with health insurance. He took time away from his newborn baby to attend this bootcamp with the hopes that it would propel his career forward.

After taking the bootcamp, Stephen was able to get his foot in the door working for a tech company, but the work is part-time and does not offer health insurance. He has looked into buying health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, but the monthly premium of $300-$500, plus an $8,000 deductible each year, are too high for his family.

“It’s definitely not people who are lazy,” Stephen said, talking about his experience living in the health insurance coverage gap. “It’s people trying to make their lives better for themselves. I’m trying to pull my bootstraps up as many times as I can. And it’s still not enough to get the coverage that I need.”

In Kansas, in order for Stephen to qualify for Medicaid, his family of four must make less than 38% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) — around $12,000 per year. But financial assistance on the Marketplace doesn’t kick in until 100% of the FPL — around $31,000. Because his family’s income falls between $12,000 and $31,000 per year, Stephen lives in the coverage gap.

Since his partner recently had a baby, she is covered under Medicaid for a year following birth. Stephen’s children are covered, but he does not have any options because — as he has been told — he is “just the father.”

Last year Stephen was told he needed a heart monitor, but he has not been able to pay the $2,000 bill to cover it. He also experiences depression. Therapy would help, but accessing it without health insurance coverage is extremely difficult and costly.

His lack of health insurance adds to Stephen’s mental stress. He is working everyday to make his family’s life better, but worries about what would happen if an illness or injury affected his job. Health Insurance would allow him to monitor and care for his mental and physical health, taking a lot of stress off his shoulders and making it easier to be a more productive employee.

Research shows that Medicaid expansion would open doors for uninsured Kansans to access the mental and behavioral health care they need, including access to therapy and prescription medication. Additionally, states that have already expanded their Medicaid programs have seen an increase in the capacity of behavioral health providers, particularly those who see Medicaid patients.

It’s time for Kansas to expand Medicaid so that Stephen, and many other Kansans just like him, can get the care he needs to be the healthy partner and father that he wants to be.