WICHITA, Kansas — Federal pandemic programs that buoyed health insurance rates nationwide in 2021 didn’t ultimately lead to an increase in coverage in Kansas — meaning that, for the first time in decades, Kansans are significantly less likely to have health insurance than the US population as a whole.
As millions of Americans lost jobs and with it their employer-based health insurance, the federal government enacted broad relief measures to help people access coverage. Those programs contributed to a marked drop in the rate of uninsured Americans in 2021 to match a prior record low of 8.6%, according to new data released this week by the Census Bureau.
But the rate of uninsured Kansans remained steady between 2019 and 2021 at 9.2%. And uninsured rates for people of color in Kansas remain even more elevated: 14.1% of Black Kansans lack of health insurance compared to 9.6% in the US overall. Of the Kansas Hispanic population, 20.3% are uninsured, compared to 17.7% in the US overall.
One reason insurance rates are lower in Kansas is the state’s failure to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. As of 2021, 36 states and the District of Columbia had expanded Medicaid. Gains in insurance coverage were higher on average in those places.
The new data suggests that the pandemic programs did help many Kansans obtain or keep health insurance coverage, even if they didn’t ultimately cause the overall insurance rate to increase. Public health insurance coverage in the state swelled 1.5%, at a similar rate to the US as a whole, likely thanks for a provision that prevented states from kicking most people off of Medicaid during the pandemic.
“The Medicaid continuous coverage provision drove increases in Medicaid that very likely prevented an increase in the uninsured rate in