HEALTHY KANSAS KIDS AND FAMILIES ARE CRITICAL TO OUR STATE'S FUTURE. Every child deserves the opportunity to grow up with the aﬀordable and accessible care they need to stay healthy, see a doctor when needed, and recover when they are sick. Nobody should have to choose between treating their child’s illness and paying to keep a roof over their heads.
Kansas children need routine, dependable care to stay healthy through regular doctor checkups, screenings, immunizations, and dental services. Their parents and families need that same ability to visit the doctor, because uninsured and sick caregivers won’t be able to give children the nurturing attention they need to reach their full potential.
Untreated illness costs money and lives. Guaranteeing access to health care for expectant moms improves long-term health outcomes for them and their babies, which supports the health of our entire state. And for kids, timely screenings, diagnoses, interventions, and treatments can significantly impact a child’s outcome in life – and greatly reduce their health care costs as an adult.
A lack of health care, especially in childhood, leads to chronic conditions, shorter life expectancy, increased lifetime medical costs, and sicker families. Living environments with poor air quality, unsafe water, and harmful building components are too common and should be priorities to fix. Additionally, not having daily access to healthy, nutritious food and a balanced diet can increase the likelihood of a child becoming sick or having other poor health outcomes.
Sadly, not all Kansans have the same opportunities to thrive. Health, education, and nutritional outcomes show that the families and kids who are excluded by policies are largely those of color and those living on low wages.
KAC works to create a state full of healthy families and communities by advocating for policies that will give every Kansas kid the ability to grow up healthy regardless of race, income, zip code, identity, or ability.
Kansas Can — and Must — Do More to Improve Kids' Health Outcomes
The health of kids and their families directly impacts their ability to thrive, yet Kansas lawmakers have not done nearly enough to support policies that will improve every Kansans’ health outcomes.
Around 38,000 Kansas kids still do not have health coverage, even if they qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With the ongoing redeterminations of all Kansans who kept their KanCare coverage from 2020-2023 during the public health emergency, we are very concerned thousands of Kansas kids will lose their coverage, yet remain eligible, due to administrative paperwork.
And even families who do have coverage may be unable to access or afford health care services. Kansas policymakers must pass policies that we know will decrease the number of kids without health insurance coverage. We can do this by removing existing barriers to accessing coverage (like burdensome paperwork, complicated applications, and immigration-based restrictions) and supporting plans (like increasing reimbursement rates) that improve access to health care providers in cities and rural areas alike.
Despite 40 other states (plus the District of Columbia) expanding their Medicaid programs, the Kansas Legislature still refuses to expand KanCare, which would help tens of thousands of Kansans access coverage. Doing so would begin to remove an ever-growing barrier for many parents: making too much to qualify, but too little to access insurance on their own. Right now, Kansas parents who make less than 38% of the federal poverty level (just $9,444 a year for a family of three) can qualify for KanCare. But if their income is between $9,445 and $24,860 (100% federal poverty level for a family of three), they do not qualify for KanCare or the federal insurance exchange.
Childhood vaccinations are one of the most important health tools of the modern era and have allowed many children to grow up to be healthy, thriving adults. Kansas, like a vast majority of other states, requires several routine immunizations for children to attend a child care center or a K-12 public school. Since 2020 though, lawmakers have attempted to weaken these requirements that have kept our kids safe for decades. No changes have become law (yet), but we expect to see this critical policy for kids’ – and community – health increasingly challenged in the coming years.
In 2022, the Kansas Legislature took an important step by increasing Medicaid coverage for pregnant women from 60 days after birth to 12 months, aligning the coverage of mom and baby. More than 10,000 Kansas mothers are now able to get the care they need in those critical months after giving birth.
However, much more work is needed to address inequities. There are numerous differences between health outcomes, like infant mortality and low birth weights, for babies of color. And the maternal mortality and severe morbidity crises continue. Black women in Kansas remain at a much higher risk for severe complications or death before, during, or after childbirth. We are glad to see the progress made to reimburse community health workers and doulas so expecting and new mothers can benefit from more health care options. We will continue our work advocating for policies that improve the health of all moms and babies so every child is set up for a successful future.
Several policy changes and positions would improve Kansas kids’ and families’ health.
Passing KanCare (Medicaid) expansion continues to be first on this list. Kansas kids will benefit when their parents are more likely to be eligible for the KanCare program.
Additional opportunities exist to eliminate barriers to the KanCare program, including simplifying enrollment and eligibility procedures, pursuing systems that utilize other programs (like TANF and SNAP) to speed up KanCare eligibility reviews, implementing continuous eligibility changes, and eliminating immigration-based restrictions.
Kansas has numerous opportunities to permanently fix CHIP eligibility issues in Kansas law, as well as utilize the upcoming KanCare MCO re-procurement process to address provider network inadequacies. This will help increase access to health providers for Kansas kids enrolled in KanCare. Increasing additional pediatric-related reimbursement rates would also help increase access to more providers.
Kansas must support, pass, and fund measures that investigate disparities in health outcomes — like infant and maternal mortality during birth — between races and ethnicities and prevent these disparities and negative consequences through targeted public health policy.
Leaders must work to increase childhood immunization rates – and refrain from passing policies that would further weaken them like eliminating basic infectious disease prevention policies. It is imperative we protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, polio, pertussis, and mumps, by continuing the status quo on current vaccine requirements and exemptions.
Increasing Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months was an important first step, but Kansas must continue to further invest in maternal and child health infrastructures and services like home visiting and newborn screening programs.