The Butler County Times Gazette reports that 95,664 Kansas residents have signed up for 2017 marketplace coverage. That’s an increase compared with last year.
But, while insurance enrollment is up, so are health insurance rates. The average benchmark plan in Kansas increased a whopping 42 percent this year. Those higher insurance premiums go hand-in-hand with reduced competition among health insurance providers.
The Daily Signal notes that patients in Kansas, who once had 17 insurance carriers to choose from prior to Obamacare’s implementation, now have a select few. According to the Kansas Department of Insurance, residents have just three insurance companies on the state’s insurance marketplace. And one of those carriers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, will operate in just two counties.
The overwhelming majority of patients in Kansas are left to choose between BlueCross BlueShield Kansas Solutions, Inc. and Medica Insurance Company.
What about access to quality care?
Just because more people are enrolled in health insurance doesn’t mean more people are getting health care.
As our co-founder and policy director Jonathan Wilcox explains, insurance companies are quick to cash those monthly premium checks, but not so quick to approve claims.
“Kansans are paying their premiums, but when a medical necessity arises, their insurers are saying ‘no,'” he writes at The Topeka Capital-Journal. “Despite doctors prescribing medications they believe will attain the best outcome for their patients, health insurers have exercised their authority over these assessments and are rejecting much-needed medications.”
Wilcox points to a recent poll by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, which found that 20 percent of patients in Kansas have had their insurance companies reject the treatment recommended by their doctor.
“Throughout Kansas, people are facing higher health insurance costs while their insurers continue to deny medically necessary drugs,” he says. “When this results in detrimental health effects, who is to blame? We require doctors to take an oath to do no harm; should insurers do the same?”
A recent nationwide study by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease found that 32 percent of Kansans say their health insurance coverage is getting worse and 49 percent have seen their costs increase.
That’s certainly true for Rochelle Bird of Overland Park, Kansas. Her premiums, according to The Daily Signal, have gone up 45 percent, and her deductible went from $1,200 to $6,200. Then, her insurance company canceled her policy.
“When I get a thing [in the mail] saying that my rate has changed, I know it’s 50-50 when I open it,” she told The Signal. “It’s either a letter saying this is what you’re going to pay starting Jan. 1, or we’re no longer offering that plan anymore. It wasn’t a total shock to me.”
“I am now faced with the fact that unless something changes, there will be one health care provider presumably with two different health plans that I will have a choice of [while] living in the state of Kansas,” Bird said. “That’s absurd. How is that helpful?”
“I’m expecting (a) I’ll pay more, (b) I’ll have less, and (c) I may or may not have the same doctors,” she said.