Equitable access to high-quality health care is a mainstay of Health Forward’s policy agenda. Improved access to quality health care helps people paid lower wages live healthier and more economically secure lives.
We know that our communities are strongest when people receive the care they need without facing unexpected financial burden. More than four in 10 Kansas voters (41 percent) say they currently have medical debt or have family members who have medical debt.
Health Forward Foundation partner Alliance for a Healthy Kansas released a new statewide survey that finds that almost 8 in 10 Kansas voters (78%) support expanding KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program, so that more Kansans can qualify for health coverage.
Kansas is one of 12 states nationwide that has not expanded its Medicaid program, leaving thousands of residents with no affordable health insurance options.
The survey also found that many Kansans are worried about rising prices for food, gas, living expenses, and many have significant medical debt. Nine in 10 (89%) of those polled said they are concerned about health care costs and 82 percent agreed that expanding KanCare will help protect Kansas families from incurring medical debt during these difficult times.
Kansas still strictly limits who currently qualifies for KanCare. For example, those who are not eligible for KanCare include a parent in a family of three earning more than $8,345 annually —rapproximately $4 an hour — and single adults without children.
Changing KanCare’s income eligibility would immediately make 150,000 Kansans eligible for affordable health.
The Journal of the American Medical Association released a study last July showing Medicaid expansion appears to enormously cut medical debt. The study explored the 30 states that expanded Medicaid in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. Since that initial round of expansion, new medical debt in those states has fallen 44 percent, a dramatically bigger drop than was seen in the states that didn’t expand the program over the same period. States without Medicaid expansion showed only a 10 percent decline.
Researchers noted that nonmedical debt had fallen by similar amounts in both expansion and non-expansion states over the time period they studied (2009 to 2020), strengthening the case that Medicaid expansion made the difference in reducing medical debt.
We know that our communities are strongest when people receive the care they need without facing unexpected financial burden.
The study also showed medical debt is also higher in neighborhoods where many people do not have health insurance or are paid lower wages. In the lowest-income ZIP codes that researchers studied, people owed an average of $677. Those in the highest-income ZIP codes owed an average of $126.
Recently, Congress passed and implemented the No Surprises Act with bi-partisian support to provide some assistance for unexpected medical bills. The No Surprises Act protects people who receive out-of-network care that they did not choose and makes medical costs more transparent.
The No Surprises Act is a starting point to improve health care cost transparency, eliminate surprise billing, and provide avenues for disputing costs. But there is more work ahead. We must continue working on solutions like expanding KanCare to make health care coverage more affordable for all.
We can’t let unanticipated health care bills compromise people’s ability to pay for other household priorities, like healthy food and safe housing. Health care costs have burdened far too many Kansas families, and unexpected health care bills often threaten individual economic security in all Kansas communities.
Health Forward Foundation fully supports Gov. Kelly’s plan to expand KanCare so our neighbors who are paid lower wages live healthier and more economically secure lives.
Kansans should not have to choose between caring for their health or putting food on the table, gas in the car, or a roof over their heads. Expanding KanCare will reduce the financial burden on many Kansans, allowing them to live healthier and fuller lives.
We encourage lawmakers from both parties to join the nearly 80 percent of Kansans that already support expanding KanCare. We ask these elected officials to support their constituents by ensuring that seeking medical attention doesn’t lead to financial ruin.