Medicaid Expansion could have big impact for Native Americans in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — It is estimated that 150,000 Kansans will be newly eligible for Medicaid, if Medicaid Expansion is implemented. A new report from the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas shows members of Native American tribes in the state would especially benefit from expansion.

There are four resident Native American tribes in Kansas: the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska. All four tribes have come together to pass a resolution in support of Medicaid Expansion.

According to the report from the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, in 2015 nearly 30% of Native Americans aged 18-64 did not have health insurance. The report also found that Native Americans are more likely to not have health insurance compared to the rest of the population.

“A higher proportion of Native Americans are uninsured than other folks in Kansas,” said Sheldon Weisgrau, Senior Policy Advisor for Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. “A higher proportion of Native Americans have poor health status than other people in Kansas. A higher proportion of Native Americans live in poverty than other people in Kansas.”

The Alliance heard from the local Kansas tribes that Medicaid Expansion would benefit many of their tribe members.

“There are several thousand of them, according to our calculations, that are in the coverage gap and are uninsured and would potentially be able to enroll in Medicaid if the state expanded the program,” added Weisgrau.

Governor Laura Kelly says she is optimistic that Medicaid Expansion will be passed early on this year, in the legislative session.

“Medicaid Expansion is right there at the very top. Kansans want us to get it done, they wanted us to get it done years ago,” said Governor Kelly.

Opponents of Medicaid Expansion say the cost to implement the new program would be too costly for the state. Some also say more time is needed to fully flesh out an acceptable plan.

If Medicaid Expansion is passed by the legislature early this year, enrollment for the expanded program could open as soon as January of 2021.

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