Kansas stories: Crystal

October 2023

Crystal is from Riley county. She is a mom of two and a social work student. Today Crystal works part-time at a shelter, but in 2016 she became very sick and had to stop working.

For a period of time, Crystal was uninsured. She didn’t get any care while she was without insurance, including preventive care and annual check-ups. Eventually she qualified for Kansas’s Medicaid program, KanCare. Once she had access to care again, she started to get treatment for some of her health needs, including treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and a surgery on her gallbladder. Because her health needs were being treated, Crystal was soon able to start working again. With her health improving, Crystal felt that she had her life back.

At the start of this year, Crystal heard a lot about the unwinding of Medicaid. During the COVID-19 pandemic, renewal applications for KanCare had been paused, so Crystal and others had continuous health insurance. With the end of the public health emergency, renewals were restarting. Crystal had to resubmit her KanCare application and, because she makes more than 38% of the federal poverty level, she knew her coverage would not be renewed.

Crystal’s college-aged daughter had already received a letter from KanCare stating that she no longer qualified because she was over the age of 19. Crystal now had to worry that both she and her daughter would go uninsured.

Crystal is grateful for her new job, but because of her income level, she no longer qualifies for KanCare. She received her letter canceling her coverage this fall. She’s been told to look for affordable coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace, but she’s not making enough money to qualify for financial help, so she would have to pay the full cost of a Marketplace plan.

“I think a lot of people just assume that if you’re working you have insurance and that’s not the case”, Crystal said. She knows many people in her life that don’t get insurance through their jobs, herself included.

Crystal worries about what will happen now that she doesn’t have health insurance. She is worried about having lots of medical bills and having to give up the health care and medication that has made her healthy enough to work and go to school.

Crystal is just one of thousands of Kansans losing health insurance coverage during the Medicaid unwinding. Many are told to look for coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace, but the reality is there is a coverage gap in Kansas, and thousands of Kansans will have to go uninsured. Forty other states have already expanded their Medicaid programs, including all of Kansas’s surrounding states; it’s time for Kansas to do the same.

Crystal and thousands of Kansans in situations just like hers are depending on us.