As Americans, we believe in the virtue of hard work, and generally our society rewards it.
But today in Kansas, there can actually be an incentive to work less, especially for struggling families who face costly health care.
Currently, if a family of four has a household income of more than $24,250, they qualify for federal tax credits to buy insurance. If this same family makes less than $8,002, they qualify for KanCare coverage.
However, if you are in the gap between, your family likely has no access to affordable health coverage.
Consider for a moment what life looks like near the poverty line for a family of four in Kansas: If a parent works 30 hours a week at minimum wage, that’s $11,310 a year — putting the family squarely in the coverage gap. Even if one parent worked 50 hours a week or both parents worked 30 hours a week, the family would still be in the coverage gap. However, if one parent worked just 20 hours, the family would qualify for KanCare.
So, the parents have a choice: work less and have health coverage or work more and be uninsured.
Today in Kansas, some might decide working less is the surest way to have health coverage when their family needs it.
Our state has the opportunity to remove this flawed incentive by accepting available federal funds to expand KanCare. Expanding KanCare would close the coverage gap for 150,000 Kansans and eliminate the incentive to work less.
In addition, Kansas can use this opportunity to help connect Kansans to work training programs if they qualify for KanCare coverage. Of the 31 states that have expanded health coverage up to the poverty line, some states have built in work-related provisions. This means Kansas can help families with health coverage and at the same time give them the needed training to find work.
Too often at First Care Clinic, we see the toll on Kansas families from being uninsured. While we provide primary care to the uninsured, many patients also might need hospitalization, surgery, prescription drugs or other costly care. All it takes is one accident or one serious health condition, and medical bills can quickly become lasting debt — and everything a family has worked hard for can disappear. Even the hardest working Kansans can struggle to get out of poverty as a result of being uninsured.
Today in Kansas, most uninsured Kansans in the coverage gap are already in working families. Shouldn’t we be willing to give these uninsured Kansas families a hand up while they work to improve their lives?
chief executive officer,
First Care Clinic