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Report: Many Kansans without health insurance are above federal poverty level

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at 9:39 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

More than two-thirds of Kansas families without health insurance are significantly above the federal poverty level, according to a new report by the Kansas Health Institute that analyzes 2010-2011 data.

And minority populations, especially Hispanics, are much more likely to not have health insurance coverage. The rate of uninsured Hispanic people, for example, is more than two and a half times that of non-Hispanic whites.

The report comes amid a national debate over health insurance prompted by the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The act was designed to expand Medicaid to many working poor people who can’t afford insurance, but the Supreme Court ruled states could decide whether to expand it.

So far, 27 states have voiced support to expand Medicaid services, 19 have opposed it in some way and Kansas and four other states are still considering whether to expand coverage to working poor families.

Kansas lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback have said they’re concerned about the cost of expanding Medicaid and they’ve also expressed doubts the federal government will stick to its promise to pay for 100 percent of expansion for three years and pay 90 percent of it in following years.

Democrats and some moderate Republicans, however, have voiced strong support for expansion, saying the state should take advantage of the huge influx of federal money to provide health insurance for Kansans.

While Brownback and Republicans who easily dominate the Legislature opposed what some call Obamacare, they are looking for alternatives to expand services, perhaps by providing coverage through private insurers under a plan similar to one being worked out in Arkansas.

Overall, about 315,000 Kansans would qualify for public health insurance of some kind if the state expanded coverage to 132 percent of the federal poverty level – or about $30,426 for a family of four.

KHI’s report on health insurance shows, as other recent studies have, that many Kansans are working but can’t afford – or choose not to buy – health insurance coverage.

About 13 percent of Kansans – or 365,000 people – didn’t have health insurance in 2010-11, significantly lower than the national average of 16 percent.

That’s almost the same as in 2009-10, according to KHI’s analysis of Census data.

The rate of uninsured people in Sedgwick County is higher, at 17.1 percent, although there are scores of counties with higher uninsured rates, particularly in southwest Kansas.

About half of the uninsured in the state are between ages 19 and 44, according to the report by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group.

Meanwhile, roughly half of insured Kansans get their insurance through an employer, while about a third get public insurance through programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

Reach Brent Wistrom at 785-296-3006 or bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

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