By Jeff Guy
November 8, 2014
A decline in Medicaid enrollment in 2013 left some of the poorest children in Kansas and Harvey County without health insurance, according to data compiled by the non-profit child advocacy organization, Kansas Action For Children (KAC).
Annual Kansas KIDS COUNT data released by KAC provide children’s health, education and economic indicators showing areas of concern and progress. The 2013 KIDS COUNT report shows the average monthly enrollment was 220,300 children compared to 221,444 children the previous year.
The numbers are “counter intuitive,” Shannon Cotsoradis, KAC president/CEO said. “While poverty levels off, we’re seeing a decline in Medicaid enrollment.”
In Harvey County, 6.80 percent of children under 19 are without health insurance, slightly below the state average of 7.07, according to the KIDS COUNT report. On her Twitter account, Cotsoradis tweeted, Thursday, that 44,130 Kansas children have no health insurance. Of that number 23 percent of the children live in rural areas.
“It’s definitely very troubling,” Cotsoradis said, adding that impoverished children from the most at-risk families are not being covered.
“It’s a double whammy,” she said. “Children born into poverty don’t get the support that would mitigate the impact of that poverty.”
Over the past five years, there has been a national trend toward more children being insured, but in Kansas – which ranks 31st among states for the number of insured children – that number has leveled off and become stagnant, Cotsoradis said.
Many Kansas children eligible for Medicaid services are not receiving it, Cotsoradis said. She believes changes in the requirements for applying for Medicaid have made it more difficult and could be a factor in the decline.
It used to be people could use one form to apply for both Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Now there are two separate and lengthy forms, she said.
Still, Cotsoradis said it is fortunate that children’s insurance has not had a sharper decline with the switch from the old Healthwave plan to KanCare, the state’s public health insurance system.
While Medicaid enrollment for children is declining in the state, there is an increase in average enrollment for the Children’s Health Insurance Program – designed for children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance.
Average state enrollment in CHIP increased in 2013 to 54,806 from 48,603 the previous year. Since January of 2013, Medicaid and CHIP, two federal programs, have been managed in Kansas under the KanCare program in which the state contracts with three managed care organizations (MCOs).
CHIP is up for reauthorization by Congress next year and with the changes brought about by the recent election, there is a question about how much funding it will receive, Cotsoradis said.
“At the state level, we’ll be with KDHE to make sure we’re not losing kids,” she said. “At the federal level, we’ll talk to Congressional delegates about the importance of CHIP.”
Harvey County Health Dept. Director Lynnette Redington said the decline in children receiving Medicaid service “is concerning.” She encouraged anyone who thinks they might be eligible for KanCare service to come by the health department, 316 N. Oak St., or Health Ministries, 209 S. Pine St., to receive assistance applying for services.