TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas and the rest of the country saw the number of uninsured children drop to historic lows in 2016, according to a new report.
The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found fewer than five percent of children nationwide are uninsured. In Kansas, the rate dropped from 5.1 percent in 2015 to 4.3 percent in 2016, and it's a nearly 30-percent drop from 2013. John Wilson is vice president for advocacy with Kansas Action for Children. Both he and the Georgetown report cite the important roles of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program or "CHIP" - and the latter could expire at the end of the month. "Cuts in federal funding mean that there are fewer services available for kids in schools where they receive really important things related to their health, and of course if they have their health they're better prepared to learn," he explains. "So I think that's really critical right there."
The report found that since 2014, when major provisions of the ACA were implemented, there's been a 37-percent decrease in the number of uninsured children in the country. That means two-million more kids have coverage who didn't just three years ago.
The Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace the ACA would make big cuts to Medicaid in the next decade, the number one source of health-care funding for state budgets. Georgetown report author Joan Alker is executive director of the organization. She says the bill in Congress does nothing to address the actual drivers of health-care costs. "Medicaid is not the driver of health-care costs," she says. "It's things like prescription drugs going up. So I'm sure that governors would like new tools that would allow them to control costs, but they're not getting those new tools. So, they are left holding the bag."
Wilson says there are still about 31,000 Kansas kids without health-insurance coverage, which he notes is crucial to their future outcomes. "Good health is key to young kids becoming thriving, successful adults," he adds. "And whether it's the state government or the federal government, we need to be doing all that we can to ensure kids have access to good health care and have a means to pay for that health care."