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Medicaid gapA chart on the healthcare.gov website, the federal Marketplace website for health insurance, explains that a family of four in a state expanding Medicaid coverage would qualify for subsidies if they made $32,499 or less. But if your state isn't expanding Medicaid, you may not qualify for any health insurance saving if your income for a family of four is below $23,550. (Chart from healthcare.gov)
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Legislative forumMark Wiebe, director of public affairs for Wyandot Inc., asked legislators to support community mental health. He also asked them to consider expanding Medicaid. Kansas loses millions of dollars in federal aid because it has not expanded Medicaid, he said. (Staff photo)
With the federal health insurance program in effect, does everyone in Kansas now have access to health care?
No, say local officials and legislators. There is a Medicaid gap in the Kansas system, and the cost of the federal health insurance is too expensive for some low-income persons. Tens of thousands of people in Kansas below the poverty line are in the Medicaid gap, unable to pay for the subsidized health insurance, and also not able to get Medicaid in Kansas, according to health officials. Many other people in America, in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage, are able to get health insurance coverage.
On Jan. 7, state legislators in Wyandotte County were asked to help work to expand Medicaid coverage in Kansas. Kansas chose not to expand Medicaid, while many other states did.
“This year is the second year we will be losing out on an opportunity to receive a 100 percent federal match to expand Medicaid and make it available to everyone who is within 138 percent of the poverty line, for a family of four, that’s $32,000 a year,” said Mark Wiebe, director of public affairs for Wyandot Inc. He is also on the board of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition. He made his remarks at the legislative forum at the South Branch Library in Kansas City, Kan.
Currently under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Kansans who make less than $32,000 a year and have a family of four are not eligible for subsidies, he said, as Kansas has not approved expanding Medicaid.
“If you live in poverty, basically, you’re in a gap and you don’t get that coverage,” he said. “So we are asking to expand Medicaid.”
Wiebe said perhaps the strongest argument that can be made to the governor and Legislature is that this is very much an economic issue. The Kansas Hospital Association has estimated it will create 4,000 jobs and generate $3 million in economic activity in Kansas, he said. It is a huge amount, comparable to federal defense appropriations to the state and federal highway dollars, he added, in addition to providing health care for residents.
The Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed the Medicaid expansion, according to state legislators.
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-36th Dist., business director at the University of Kansas Hospital, said the whole premise of the federal health insurance program was to move people from uninsured to insured. Moving 160,000 uninsured Kansans to insured would help the economy, she said.
A certain number of people are eligible for Medicaid and a number are eligible for subsidized health insurance. But a group in the middle is eligible for neither, and the idea is to expand Medicaid so people of a little higher income level could be on Medicaid. Then people would have doctors to go to instead of going to the emergency room, which results in higher health care costs, she said.
“Expanding Medicaid for me, for many reasons, including the economic impact in this state, is absolutely a no-brainer,” Rep. Wolfe Moore said. “If we don’t do that, Kansas is going to be left behind economically and in many other ways.”