By RACHEL MIPRO, Kansas Reflector
TOPEKA — Kansas has fallen behind national health insurance trends for the second year in a row, with thousands of state residents falling into a health care coverage gap.
Kansas had a higher uninsurance rate than the national average for two consecutive years now, according to recently-released U.S. Census Bureau health insurance estimates.
In 2021, nearly 264,000 Kansans went without insurance, with the state’s uninsured rate hovering around 9.2%. Federal efforts to increase health insurance coverage meant the U.S. uninsured rate was lower than the state’s average for the first time in years, sitting at a national average of 8.6% in 2021.
In 2022, the trend continued, though the uninsured rate decreased both locally and nationally. For the time period, 247,070 Kansans went without health insurance, marking a state uninsured rate of 8.6%, compared with the U.S. average of 8%.
Linda Sheppard, strategy team leader for the Kansas Health Institute, said pandemic-era federal initiatives, such as continuous enrollment, may have factored into the decrease.
Federal protections stipulated that KanCare, Kansas’ Medicaid program, couldn’t end health care eligibility unless the person in question moved away, died or asked to end coverage. During the pandemic, participation in KanCare went from 410,000 to 540,000 people.
“While encouraging, we know that some of those policies, including continuous Medicaid eligibility, have already started to unwind,” Sheppard said in a news release.
The state’s Medicaid unwinding began again in April for the first time in three years, with state health officials determining Medicaid eligibility. Preliminary data as of July 31 shows about 78,850 Kansans have been unenrolled so far.
Health insurance divides in Kansas showed continued disparities in coverage for diverse populations and working adults, especially regarding Hispanic and Black Kansans.
In 2021, the rate of uninsured Hispanic Kansans was 20.3%, compared with 20.1% in 2022. Black Kansans had a 14.1% uninsured rate in 2021, falling to 10.5% in 2022. Both groups had higher uninsured rates than the national 2022 average for these populations. For comparison, the uninsured rate for white Kansans was 6.3% in 2022.
“The coverage gap for Hispanic and Black Kansans remains significant,” said KHI president and CEO Kari Bruffett. “Understanding the barriers that prevent Kansans from accessing insurance coverage, and why those barriers differ so significantly by population, is essential to tackling disparities to improve health in Kansas.”