Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kansas ranks 32nd in children's health

By KARREY BRITT, Lawrence Journal-World

Kansas is doing a poor job when it comes to children’s health, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released Wednesday.

It ranked the state 32nd in the nation largely because 60,000 children do not have health insurance, and it has made no progress in getting more children covered during the past five years.

“It was little bit shocking that we rank so poorly on uninsured children,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children.

She said it’s concerning because children without insurance are less likely to get immunizations and preventive care, and that often means they are more prone to be sick and miss school. Also, the opportunity for a doctor to spot a chronic condition like diabetes in the early stages might be missed if a child doesn’t receive preventive care.

Cotsoradis said many of these children are eligible for the state’s heath insurance program for low-income children called HealthWave, but they are just difficult to reach. She said the state could reach more children if it decided to expand eligibility for its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

“The research is really clear that when we cover parents, the kids are more likely to get the coverage they have access to. They are more likely to keep that coverage, and they are more likely to use that coverage,” she said.

Meanwhile, the state is preparing to move its Medicaid program to a managed care system called KanCare, which will include children on HealthWave. Cotsoradis fears that without proper outreach and education, more children could lose health insurance coverage.

This year, Kids Count, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked states based on 16 indicators instead of 10, and it ranked states in four categories and then gave an overall ranking.

Kansas received a 16th overall ranking. New Hampshire was No. 1, followed by Massachusetts and Vermont. Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada ranked last.

Here’s how Kansas fared in the four categories:

• 8th in economic well-being.

• 12th in education.

• 32nd in health.

• 24th in family and community, which includes teen births and children in single-parent families.

Cotsoradis said she thought the No. 8 ranking in economic well-being was misleading because the state’s numbers rose in all four of the categories’ indicators: children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children living in households with a high housing cost burden and teens not in school and not working.

“The reality is we see more kids living in poverty. We’ve got more parents who lack secure employment,” she said.

Cotsoradis said the report has so many differences that they couldn’t compare it with previous ones. But, she said the report’s data is more robust and it will be used when they go before state legislators to advocate on behalf of children.

For the full report, visit

Kansas Action for Children will release its Kids Count data in October, which will provide information on a county basis.