Uninsured Young Adults in Kansas

4 Min Read

Jun 02, 2008


Rachel J. Smit, M.P.A.,

Gina Maree


Twenty-three percent of Kansans age 19–34 are uninsured. Young adults are more likely to be uninsured than any other age group. They also comprise almost half (47 percent) of the unin­sured (Figure 1).

Pie Chart showing 23% of Kansans age 19-34 are uninsured.

Uninsured young adults bear the financial risk of their health care costs and are less likely to receive preventive services and acute care. While young adults typically are healthier than older adults, some may have chronic health conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, which require ongoing medical atten­tion. Early adulthood is also a key time for the diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases, making the receipt of preventive services critical. Furthermore, it is important that reproductive health services be available to young adult women. Given that the average age of Kansas mothers giving birth is 26.8, this age group requires access to prenatal care.

Why are young adults more likely to be uninsured than other age groups?

Young adults are less likely to have access to employer-sponsored insurance than older adults.

    • The vast majority, 86 percent, of Kansans age 19–34 work at least part of the year. However, young adults are less likely to work full-time, year-round than older adults. Fifty-three percent of young adults work full-time, year-round, compared to 64 percent of older adults.
    • Younger employees may be more vulnerable to job loss during an economic downturn.
    • Nationwide, younger employees are less likely to have access to health insurance through their employers, either because it is not offered or they are not eligible.
    • Among the youngest adults age 19–24, most enroll in employer-sponsored health insurance that is available to them, according to nationwide data. However, younger employees are less likely to enroll than older employees.
    • Employer-sponsored insurance policies often allow young adults to retain coverage as a dependent while attending college, however, only 32 percent of college-age Kan­sans (age 19–24) are enrolled in school full-time.

Young adults, like other working-age adults, are less likely to be eligible for publicly sponsored health insurance.

    • Only eight percent of Kansans age 19–34 are enrolled in some form of publicly-sponsored insurance, com­pared to 27 percent of children under the age of 19.
    • Only young adults with limited incomes who are disabled, pregnant, or a parent are eligible for publicly sponsored insurance in Kansas.
    • Pregnant women must have family incomes at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or $26,400 for a family of three, to qualify for Kansas Medicaid. This will increase to 200 percent in 2009.
    • Parents must have family incomes below approximate­ly 37 percent of FPL, or $6,500 for a family of three, to qualify.

Young adults have fewer financial resources and may be more likely to forego private health insurance either by choice or by necessity.

    • The percentage of Kansans age 19–34 living in pov­erty, 16 percent, is twice that of older adults age 35–64 (Figure 2). The 2008 poverty line, or 100 percent of FPL, is $10,400 for a single person and $17,600 for a family of three.
    • A private-sector employee’s average annual share of health insurance premiums for single coverage in 2005 was $721, representing almost 8 percent of income for an individual living at the poverty line.
    • A private-sector employee’s average annual share of health insurance premiums for family coverage in 2005 was $2,443, or 15 percent of income for a family of three living at the poverty line.
Chart showing poverty status of Kansas adults (2005-2006). Fifty-one percent of older adults status was 400% + poverty.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Sunflower Foundation: Health Care for Kansans, a Topeka-based philanthropic organization with the mission to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of Kansans.

Funding was also provided by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, a foundation based in Hutchinson, Kansas, with the following mission: “Healthy Kansans through cooperative and strategic philanthropy guided by Christian principles.”

Logos for Sunflower foundation, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund and Kansas Health Institute.

About Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.

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