Kansas Medicaid

Governor, Senate VP at odds over Medicaid expansion in Kansas

Where in your state to call or visit for Medicaid.How to apply

Children and families can apply online or complete an application in English and Spanish. Elderly or disabled individuals can apply online or complete an application in English and Spanish. Anyone needing assistance with the application process can call 1-888-369-4777 for help.

Who is eligible in your state to get Medicaid?Who is eligible

Children up to age 1 with family income up to 166% of FPL. Children ages 1-5 with family income up to 149% of FPL. Children ages 6-18 with family income up to 133% of FPL; children with family income up to 242% of FPL are eligible for CHIP. See the eligibility guidelines for those who are elderly or disabled.

  • By
  • healthinsurance.org contributor
  • September 26, 2016

Medicaid programs and eligibility vary widely across the country. The federal government sets minimum eligibility levels for specific populations, but states can choose to set their eligibility levels higher than the federal minimums. All states are required to provide Medicaid to certain populations — like low-income children — to qualify for federal Medicaid funding. States that opt to cover additional populations are eligible for additional funding.

Unfortunately for low-income individuals in Kansas, the existing Medicaid program — which is called KanCare — is quite limited.

KanCare eligibility guidelines

Individuals who meet the following income limits qualify for Medicaid in Kansas:

  • Children up to age 1 are covered with family income up to 166 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)
  • Children ages 1 to 5 are covered with family income up to 149 percent of FPL
  • Children ages 6 to 18 are covered with family income up to 133 percent of FPL
  • Parents with dependent children are eligible with household income up to 33 percent of FPL. For a family of four, that’s about $8,000/year in 2015.
  • Children with family income too high to qualify for Medicaid are eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the income limit is 242 percent of FPL
  • Individuals who are elderly or disabled may also qualify for KanCare; see the eligibility guidelines

See the income limits expressed as dollar amounts, or use the online screening tool to see if you may qualify.

As of August 2014, enrollment in Kansas Medicaid was 400,994. By July 2015, it had dropped slightly, to 400,244. Since 2013, Medicaid enrollment in Kansas among children age 1 to 5 has been declining, although state Medicaid officials haven’t pinpointed a specific reason and note that some of the children may be covered under CHIP instead (CHIP enrollment has grown slightly since 2013). Kansas Action for Children, a state advocacy group, believes that the decline in Medicaid enrollment among young children is correlated with the fact that Kansas decoupled applications for Medicaid and TANF a few years ago. The plan was for the new Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System (KEES) to begin coordinating enrollment in various public programs in 2013, but it’s been delayed repeatedly and the system was not yet fully operational as of fall 2015.

How to enroll in KanCare

For children and families:

  • Apply online (or through Healthcare.gov).
  • Complete an application. English and Spanish versions are available, or call 1-800-792-4884 to have an application mailed to you.
    • You may return the application by fax: 1-800-498-1255.
    • You may also submit the application in person or by mail. Use the office locator tool to find the address or phone number for a nearby Department for Children and Families (DCF) office.
  • If you need help with the application process, contact DCF toll free at 1-888-369-4777.

For elderly or disabled individuals:

  • Apply online.
  • Complete an application. English and Spanish versions are available, or call 1-888-369-4777 to have an application mailed to you.
    • Return the application by fax: 785-296-4813.
    • Alternately, you may submit your completed the application in person or by mail. Use the office locator tool to find the address or phone number for a nearby Department for Children and Families (DCF) office.
  • If you need help with the application process, contact DCF toll free at 1-888-369-4777.

No Medicaid expansion yet

Kansas decided against expanding its Medicaid program despite a December 2013 poll that found 72 percent of registered Kansans voters favored expansion. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 49,000 Kansans are in the coverage gap, given the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion. Individuals in the coverage gap earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for premium tax credits that would help them purchase private health insurance through the marketplace.

Many Kansas lawmakers and Governor Sam Brownback have continued to rejectMedicaid expansion, but it will likely be an issue once again during the 2016 legislative session.

In October 2015, Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas announced that it would close, becoming the first Kansas hospital to shut down in nine years. The hospital’s closure has been linked to the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion. In states that don’t expand Medicaid, the uninsured rate remains higher and hospitals continue to struggle with higher levels of uncompensated (charity) care – particularly since federal funds to offset uncompensated care costs are being phased out now that states have the option to expand Medicaid.

Mercy Hospital’s announcement triggered renewed calls for Medicaid expansion in Kansas, but Governor Brownback’s administration has thus far remained steadfast in their refusal to expand Medicaid to all adults with household income up to 133 percent of the poverty level. In response to editorials calling for Medicaid expansion in the state, an email from Brownback’s deputy communications director Melika Willoughby described Medicaid expansion as “morally reprehensible” and an “Obamacare ruse [that] funnels money to big city hospitals.” The email also said that Medicaid expansion would create a new entitlement “for able-bodied adults without dependents, prioritizing those who choose not to work before intellectually, developmentally, and physically disabled, the frail and elderly, and those struggling with mental health issues.” [This is disingenuous though, as 60 percent of adults in the coverage gap are in an employed household; the problem is that their jobs are low-paying and don’t provide health insurance.]

But Republican State Senator Jeff King, who is vice president of the Kansas Senate, represents the district where Mercy Hospital is located, and he was swift in his condemnation of Willoughby’s email. King has said he’s in favor of Medicaid expansion, albeit with a waiver that would allow Kansas to use private health insurance to cover the newly-eligible population (this is an approach that several other states have used to implement Medicaid expansion). The Kansas Hospital Association also disagreed with Willoughby’s position, and has repeatedly called for Medicaid expansion in the state.

A Medicaid expansion bill, HB 2319, was introduced in the 2015 session and got a hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee. The acting secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment testified that expansion would cost the state $2.4 billion between 2016 and 2025, and the committee didn’t act on the bill.

The federal government will always pay at least 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion, but states will eventually be responsible for ten percent of the cost. However, Kansas hospitals are projected to lose $2.6 billion between 2013 and 2022 if the state continues to reject Medicaid expansion. And the state is missing out on $5.3 billion in federal funding over that same time period by not expanding Medicaid. And somewhat counter-intuitively, a new Kaiser Family Foundation study found that states that have rejected Medicaid expansion actually saw their share of Medicaid spending increase twice as much in fiscal year 2015 as state Medicaid spending in states that have expanded coverage.

Brownback’s position remains unchanged for now; he maintains that the state cannot afford to expand Medicaid, and that he would only consider expansion if it were budget neutral. Brownback has said that the state should not move forward with expansion of Medicaid while they have currently-eligible residents who are on waiting lists for Medicaid services (part of that problem can be attributed to issues with KanCare, discussed below). But Senator King’s support for modified Medicaid expansion makes it more likely that an expansion waiver might gain traction during the 2016 legislative session.

Controversy around KanCare

In 2010, Kansas began researching options to reform its Medicaid program to improve health outcomes and control costs. In November 2011, the Brownback administration announced its plans to move all Medicaid beneficiaries, including fragile populations like disabled individuals and nursing home residents, into managed care programs. The reformed program was given the name KanCare.

In September 2014, Democrats on the KanCare Oversight Committee requested an investigation of the contracting process with the three managed care companies that participate in KanCare. Those requesting the investigation cited reports that the FBI interviewed numerous people involved in the contracting process. In October 2015, Amerigroup, one of KanCare’s three managed care organizations, hosted a fund raiser for Republican members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which oversees KanCare’s performance. The fund raising continues a trend of financial contributions to lawmakers from the private companies that contract with KanCare, and calls into question lawmakers’ willingness to provide meaningful oversight for KanCare’s performance.

Another area of concern was raised by a study conducted by the University of Kansas. Researchers found that nearly half of disabled individuals interviewed had problems accessing services through KanCare.

Finally, a former employee of one of the managed care companies that participates in KanCare has filed a lawsuit alleging fraud. Jacqueline Leary filed suit against Sunflower State Health Plan, and its parent company, Centene. Leary alleges she was wrongfully terminated after reporting potential fraud with her former employer’s network contracting practices for KanCare business.