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NAMI report says Medicaid expansion would help thousands of Kansans living with mental illness


Topeka — More than 21,000 uninsured Kansans with mental illness would receive needed treatment, and lives would be saved if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, a new report says.

So far, Brownback, a vocal opponent of the ACA, and his Republican colleagues in the Legislature are going in the opposite direction.

Brownback has declined to sign on to Medicaid expansion, and a pending House resolution says the Legislature isn't interested in expansion.

But the National Alliance on Mental Illness urged legislators to increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid, saying that would strengthen the mental health care system.

Nationwide, the expansion would provide treatment to 2.7 million uninsured people living with mental illness, the NAMI report said. NAMI, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, said that currently fewer than half of Americans with mental illness receive treatment.

"In Kansas, 21,293 currently uninsured adults who live with mental illness would become eligible under Medicaid expansion," said Rick Cagan, executive director for NAMI Kansas. "This represents 13.2 percent of the overall uninsured population in the state. That would be a big step forward. It will help save lives,” said Cagan.

The report says that Medicaid expansion would be a good deal for the states because the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost through 2016 and taper to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020. Kansas would get $5.27 billion in federal funding over 10 years, and save $149 million in uncompensated care, NAMI said. "When mental illness isn’t treated, costs get shifted to emergency rooms and the criminal justice system,” said Cagan. “Families break up. Taxpayers end up paying avoidable costs," he said.

Currently, Medicaid provides health care coverage to about 380,000 Kansans. The largest portion of them — about 230,000 — are children. The rest are mostly lower-income, pregnant women, people with disabilities and elderly people. The $2.8 billion program is funded with federal and state dollars.

Medicaid in Kansas doesn’t cover low-income adults who don’t have children. And a nondisabled adult with children is eligible only if his or her income is below 32 percent of the poverty level, which is approximately $5,000 per year. That is one of the toughest eligibility standards in the country.

But starting in 2014, the ACA creates an eligibility level of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,415 per year for an individual and $26,344 per year for a family of three.

Estimates are that upwards of 150,000 more Kansans would be covered under the expansion.


Robert Greenwood 4 years, 6 months ago

So much easier to just say "No" to the expansion, no to the mentally ill, no to those needing health care. Facts, like those prevented in this report only confuse those trying to make a simple political decision. Life is more difficult when distracted if only for a short while to consider improving the quality of life for the people of Kansas. Further, "save lives" and prevention make issues difficult. Can't we consider improving the quality of life, save lives, prevent problems, and save money at the same time. If the legislators stick their heads in the sand won't their behinds show.

question4u 4 years, 6 months ago

"More than 21,000 uninsured Kansans with mental illness would receive needed treatment, and lives would be saved...."

Yes, but that might interfere with the "glide path to zero" – zero taxes and zero humanity – that is so dear to the Brownback-Koch-ALEC-Chamber-of-Commerce agenda. Kansas can't reach third-world status if giving needed treatment to people with mental illness and saving lives become important.

Bangladesh leaves the majority of its mentally ill citizens to fend for themselves, why shouldn't Kansas? Besides, isn't there some place in the New Testament where Jesus urges his followers to refuse to help those less fortunate because it's more important to put yourself first? No doubt Kansans are just being good Christians by refusing to expand Medicaid. We have legislators saying prayers, maintaining a chapel in the statehouse, and creating bills to affirm the Judeo-Christian tradition in the military, so it's surely their religious convictions that have guided them to reject the option of helping the mentally ill.

BigDog 4 years, 6 months ago

Would either Mr. Cagan or Mr. Rothchild like to provide a source for their data/costs provided in the article?

Kansas Health Institute ..... hardly a conservative group, provides much different numbers and costs to the state. Mr. Cagan says it will save the state $149 million over 10 years.

KHI says it will cost the Kansas (2014-2020) $220.8 million - Low Estimate to $912.3 million - High Estimate

Link to KHI study http://media.khi.org/news/documents/2013/02/19/khi-expansion-brief_convening.pdf

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