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 ensure communities thrive for years by advocating for policies that will give every Kansas kid the ability to grow up healthy and thrive, 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). 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 and also support plans that lead to increased access to health care providers across the state – in cities and rural areas alike.
Despite 38 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 $8,760 a year for a family of three), can qualify for KanCare. But if their income is between $8,761 and $23,030 (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 9,000 Kansas mothers will now be able to get the care they need in those critical months after giving birth.
However, much more work is needed to address the differences and inequities. There are numerous differences between health outcomes, like infant mortality or low birth weights, for babies of color. Our leaders must do more to 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 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.
- 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. It is imperative we protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, polio, pertussis, and mumps by strengthening current vaccine requirements.
- 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 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.