KanCare Expansion: Why It Matters for the Disability Community

By Ami Hyten

I am scared for my community.

“My” community is the disability community.

When I turn on the news these days, my community is described as “vulnerable” or “infirm” or “ill.” My community makes up a large number of the growing COVID death count each day. I turn on the television and see the number each morning, growing by nearly 1,000 each day. In the general population, 250 out of every 1,000 people would be disabled; in the COVID death toll, we make up more like 430 to 600 out of every 1,000 people.

At least 43 percent of the COVID deaths have been people in congregate care facilities of some type. To live in one of these facilities, people must have a disability. Every person who has died in a congregate facility had a pre-existing condition.

Instead of looking at how we can make sure people with pre-existing conditions are able to secure and maintain insurance coverage to keep health care available to them, the United States Supreme Court is considering a case that could wipe out protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It would wipe out the possibility of health insurance coverage for millions of people altogether. It could invalidate the Affordable Care Act and all its provisions.

If this happens, insurance for the 130,000 Kansans awaiting Medicaid expansion would remain out of reach. Those 130,000 Kansans will be joined by the 18- to 26-year-olds who currently have insurance coverage under their parents’ policies. Those 130,000 Kansans will be joined by an additional 527,000 Kansans who have pre-existing conditions and will not be able to secure coverage if they lose existing benefits.

We are not vulnerable because of disability or age. We are made to be vulnerable when we must negotiate systems that make us become so ill or incapacitated that we develop chronic health conditions or disabilities. We are made to be vulnerable when we have to go into institutions to receive treatment. We are made to be vulnerable when the people who help us remain safe in the community do not have access to medical care themselves.

Kansans have much to lose if the Supreme Court invalidates the Affordable Care Act. Members of all our community will be made to be more vulnerable without it.

Ami Hyten is executive director of the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center