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Kansas health insurance

After strange stats in 2014, ACA enrollment improves

The prevalence of various diseases, smoking and obesity rates, how many people have health insurance, and attitudes toward health care reform can all influence your opinion of a state. What do you know about public health trends in Kansas? Do you agree with the decisions by political leaders related to Obamacare?

This summary of selected issues can help you decide.

Kansas health ratings

Kansas ranks 23rd in the Commonwealth Fund’s 2014 Scorecard on State Health System Performance, up two positions from 2009. This annual analysis evaluates more than 40 health indicators and gives each state and the District of Columbia a composite score. See Kansas’s Scorecard for its performance on the individual measures.

America’s Health Rankings gives Kansas a slightly lower ranking of 27th in its 2014 evaluation, which is the most recent available. Its positive marks included a relatively low percentage of people without access to health insurance through the private marketplace, an employer or the government. Public health high points for Kansas include a low rate of drug-related deaths and low birthweight, as well as a high high-school graduation rate. Health challenges for the state include a high rate of occupational fatalities, low per capita spending on public health, and low immunization coverage among teens.

The 2015 edition of Trust for America’s Health scores a range of individual public indicators but doesn’t include an overall health score. See Key Health Data About Kansas.

If a statewide look is too broad, get county-by-county health rankings for Kansas from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

Kansas and the Affordable Care Act

Kansas is a Republican-controlled state, with voters favoring Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Republicans hold the governor’s office and enjoy legislative majorities at the state and federal level. Unsurprisingly, the Affordable Care Act is not popular in Kansas.

In 2010, just one legislator among the state’s two senators and four representatives voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act. Kansas joined the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law.

Gov. Sam Brownback is a vocal critic of the ACA. He voted against the measure while serving as one of Kansas’s senators, and he continued his opposition after being elected governor. Brownback considered a state-run marketplace early on, but soon turned against the idea.

In August 2011, Brownback returned a federal loan earmarked for developing a state-run marketplace. Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, also a Republican, argued hard for Kansas to operate its own exchange, but was unable to convince Brownback or state legislators.

One of the ACA’s main strategies for reducing the uninsured rate is expanding Medicaid to cover those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Kansas has not adopted Medicaid expansion.

Is Obamacare helping in Kansas?

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that Kansas had 369,000 uninsured residents at the start of 2014. About 30 percent, or 110,700 people, qualified for tax subsidies to help them purchase health insurance through the marketplace.

Kansas was a huge outlier in the July 2014 Gallup findings about uninsured rates before and after the ACA’s individual mandate went into effect. While the national uninsured rate dropped to its lowest point in more than six years, Gallup found that the uninsured rate in Kansas rose 5.1 percentage points to 17.6 percent between 2013 and mid-2014.

The Kansas insurance commissioner, the former head of the Kansas Medicaid program, and the spokesperson for the state’s largest insurer all questioned the accuracy of the findings, citing increases in Medicaid enrollment and private health insurance coverage during the measurement period.

A follow-up poll found that the uninsured rate in Kansas had dropped to 11.3 percent in the first half of 2015, slightly below the national average of 11.7 percent.

Kansas enrollment in qualified health plans

In Kansas, 57,013 of an estimated eligible market of 298,000 people signed up for a qualified health plan through the state’s federal exchange during 2014 open enrollment. That figure equated to 19.1 percent of the eligible market. For comparison, No. 1 Vermont saw 85.2 percent of its eligible residents enroll; the national average was 28.0 percent.

In 2015, the number of Kansans that selected a QHP through the marketplace was 96,197 by the end of open enrollment as well as the special enrollment period that extended to February 22. As tends to happen nationwide, some people dropped their coverage or stopped paying their plan premiums in the months that followed. As of June 30, 2015, there were a remaining 84,872 Kansans enrolled in exchange-based coverage. Of them, 79.8 percent were enrolled with advanced premium tax credits and 55.3 percent were enrolled with cost-sharing reductions.

Six companies submitted proposals to sell 2016 plans through the Kansas marketplace, including the five carriers that offered exchange coverage for 2015:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas Solutions
  • Coventry Health and Life
  • Coventry Health Care of Kansas

Kansans health plans and rates for 2016 must be approved and finalized by open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1, 2015.

Kansas Medicaid

Kansas is among 20 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the ACA. The state’s decision against Medicaid expansion leaves 49,000 Kansans in the coverage gap, meaning they neither qualify for Kansas Medicaid nor for tax subsidies to help purchase private coverage through the marketplace. Kansas has seen a 5 percent increase – about 19,000 people – in average monthly Medicare enrollment from before Obamacare took effect through July 2015.

In Kanas, non-disabled adults without dependent children are not eligible for Medicaid regardless of income level. Adults with dependent children are eligible only if their household income is under 38 percent of the federal poverty level.

Medicaid is called KanCare in Kansas. See the Consumers section of the KanCare website for information on benefits, eligibility, and the application process.

Other ACA reform provisions

The Affordable Care Act established a federal loan program to encourage the creation of called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs), which are nonprofit, consumer-run health insurance companies. Through the CO-OP program, 23 CO-OPs were set up as of January 2014. No CO-OP plans were created in Kansas.

Does Kansas have a high-risk pool?

Prior to 2014, when the ACA reformed the individual health insurance market, private coverage was medically underwritten in nearly every state, including Kansas. Applicants with pre-existing conditions often found themselves unable to purchase coverage, or only able to get policies that excluded their pre-existing conditions.

The Kansas Health Insurance Association (KHIA) was created in 1993 to provide a coverage option for applicants who were not eligible for plans in the private market because of medical history.

Because of the ACA’s guaranteed-issue provision, medical history is no longer a factor in eligibility for private plans in the individual market. This means that high-risk pools are not necessary the way they were prior to 2014. KHIA ceased operations on January 1, 2014, and was set to fully dissolved by June 30, 2015.  The program reported a successful termination following significant communication with members about transitioning to the private market.

State-based legislation in Kansas

Here’s what’s happening legislatively in Kansas with healthcare reform at the state level:

Kansas lawmakers introduced HB 2319, a Medicaid expansion bill, during the 2015 session. While it got a hearing before the House of Health and Human Services Committee, it has since stalled.

Kansas Medicare enrollment

In 2015, Kansas Medicare enrollment totaled 484,167, about 16 percent of the state’s population. Nationally, about 17 percent of the U.S. population that participates. The state spends about $9,423 per beneficiary each year, an amount that grew about 6.5 percent from 1991 to 2009. Kansas ranks 33rd in total Medicare spending with $4 billion per year.

Kansans who want some additional benefits can opt for private Medicare Advantage plans instead of Original Medicare (i.e., Medicare Parts A and B). About 14 percent of 2015 recipients (67,545 individuals) had enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans – nationwide, it’s 32 percent. Medicare Part D offers beneficiaries stand-alone prescription drug coverage, and 57 percent of Kansas Medicare recipients enrolled in 2015. Nationally, about 43 percent of enrollees have Medicare prescription drug plans.