The state of Kansas has an important decision to make — whether to participate in a federal Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the federal government pays the full cost of Medicaid expansion for the first three years, after which the funding gradually phases to a 90-10 split, with the state picking up the smaller portion.
By KAREN WULFKUHLE
Special to The Star
In Kansas today, working parents are eligible for Medicaid (known as KanCare) if their income is less than $7,500 per year for a typical family of four — about 32 percent of the federal poverty level. The program does not provide coverage to working-age adults without children unless they have a disability. Expansion would extend access to those who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In Johnson County, nearly one-half of uninsured adults ages 18-64 are estimated to have income below 138 percent of poverty, according to the 2011 American Community Survey. Almost 20,000 county residents would benefit from expansion of Medicaid.
Medicaid expansion will create an avenue for thousands of low-income, working people in Kansas to obtain health care coverage and access to timely, less costly preventative care, keeping them at work and out of the emergency rooms of their local hospitals. By leveraging available federal support, Medicaid expansion will bring millions of dollars in federal funding to the state that will support health services, fuel work force development and contribute to the state economy.
The UCS board joins others, including the REACH Foundation, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Kansas Action for Children, and the Kansas Hospital Association, to support expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. Numerous studies have shown the positive economic impacts of taking this opportunity to cover hundreds of thousands of low-income and uninsured people in Kansas. Failure to act has negative health impacts.
Now is the time to tell the governor and state legislators that Medicaid expansion is a sound investment for our state. A healthy population = a healthy work force = a healthy state economy.
Karen Wulfkuhle is executive director of United Community Services of Johnson County, a non-profit human service planning organization.