Few poor Kansans qualify for Medicaid

by Kansas Health Institute (KHI)

Topeka — It is a common misconception that all poor Kansans are eligible for Medicaid.

In reality, only a few are actually eligible.

Medicaid is a publicly financed source of health insurance for low-income individuals. The cost of the program is split between the federal and state governments. Federal law requires some populations to be covered, but states have a lot of flexibility in the program to cover additional populations.

Therefore, income eligibility levels vary greatly among the states.   Kansas offers Medicaid coverage to children, pregnant women, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and parents whose income is below the state’s threshold to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as required by federal law. Kansas does not extend Medicaid coverage to many other adults. As a result, Kansas has some of the strictest Medicaid income constraints for adults in the nation.

The Affordable Care Act required states to provide Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), which equals $32,913 per year for a family of four.

However, a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision made Medicaid expansion essentially optional for states, and Kansas officials have not expanded the program. Expansion requires legislative approval, and with the legislative session winding down, it looks like a decision won’t be made this calendar year.

“Currently, less than 10 percent of the entire Kansas Medicaid/CHIP population are non-disabled adults under age 65,” said Scott C. Brunner, senior analyst and strategy team leader at the Kansas Health Institute, and the state’s former Medicaid director. “Most of them are required populations under federal law. To qualify for Medicaid, Kansas parents must make no more than 38 percent of the federal poverty level, or $9,063 annually for a family of four. Childless adults do not qualify, even if they have no income at all.”

To inform the discussion KHI has released a new issue brief that examines in detail who is-and who is not-currently eligible for the combined Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program in Kansas.  The issue brief on this topic is at http://media.khi.org/news/documents/2014/04/09/AdultsInMedicaid0409.pdf.

The Kansas Health Institute delivers credible information and research enabling policy leaders to make informed health policy decisions that enhance their effectiveness as champions for a healthier Kansas. The Kansas Health Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy and research organization based in Topeka, established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.

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