Who are Kansas' uninsured? They're working and educated, study finds

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The number of Kansans with health coverage has risen over the last decade, but hundreds of thousands remain without it.

"It's the conventional belief that these people are not working, or they're not citizens,” Wen-Chieh Lin, Ph.D., director of research for KHI, said.

More than 200,000 Kansans ages 19 to 64 are without health insurance coverage. Most uninsured, non-elderly Kansans are working, according to a new study by the KHI — 74 percent, in fact.

KHI emphasized in the study that 77 percent had completed high school or higher and 82 percent are U.S. citizens.

"It just tells us that we still have lots of work to do to help this population,” Lin said.

Income is a large factor on whether or not Kansans have coverage, but among low-income Kansans, employment status is not.

"People at a low income, the likelihood to be insured is the same whether they work full-time or are unemployed,” Lin said. "They are facing lots of challenges, competing priorities."

Lin says they often face choices like putting food on the table or paying rent.

"Even if they have the chance to purchase insurance from their employer, they're probably thinking about their family and other things they need to take care of first,” Lin said.

The KHI has conducted this study annually for a decade now. In the past, Kansas' uninsured rate has been below the national average, but a growing trend isn't in the Sunflower State's favor.

"Other states made lots of changes there, and Kansas still has also made some small changes,” Lin said. “But in the past probably couple years, we noticed that the advantage that Kansas used to have is fading out."

The study comes as Kansas continues debate over whether to expand Medicaid.