January 29, 2020: HAPPY KANSAS DAY!
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KAC Monthly Newsletter

KAC President John Wilson
New decade, new Kansas legislative session

As 2020 arrives, so does the annual Kansas legislative session. And while some years at the Capitol begin quietly, that certainly wasn't the case this time.

Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning unveiled a compromise Medicaid expansion proposal, and their efforts garnered nationwide attention. After years of wrangling, more than 150,000 Kansans could finally receive affordable health insurance. We strongly support this proposal, and we explain why later in this month's newsletter.

Other children's issues are on our minds too, including a curious and misguided bill allowing runaway kids to be kept for up to 24 hours in a juvenile detention center. Given all we know about the negative effects of involving children in the justice system, this is a very bad idea. Again, we talk more about our reasons later in this newsletter.

That's just a start. We expect representatives and senators to debate other issues important to Kansas kids and families this session, including child care licensing and changes to the tax system. Rest assured, we'll keep you in the loop.

Stay healthy,
John Wilson

P.S.:  To wrap up some business from 2019, we released KIDS COUNT data for each of Kansas' 105 counties in late December. We also published a blog post about the challenges of finding child care in rural areas. Take a look!

Why expanding Medicaid makes sense for Kansas children and families

Kansas Action for Children's vision is to make Kansas the best state to raise -- and be -- a child, and our organization shapes health, education, and economic policies that improve the lives of Kansas children and families. We support expanding KanCare coverage because it will improve the health and well-being of Kansas children and families. KanCare expansion will address several challenges the state is currently facing.

Address infant mortality 

Despite the overwhelming research showing the importance and intersection of infant and maternal health, we know not all Kansas infants and parents have access to health care in the first year of a baby's life. Expansion of KanCare would increase the number of parents who receive health care coverage before pregnancy, bolstering the health of parent and child.
Expanding KanCare will reduce infant mortality. Currently, many low-income women are eligible for KanCare coverage only during pregnancy. Inconsistent coverage for women contributes to the state's infant mortality rate of 6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Despite the state's overall decrease in infant mortality in recent years, Black babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays when compared to their white peers. Offering health care coverage before and between pregnancies is a key strategy to reduce infant mortality for all Kansas babies.

Reduce the number of uninsured children

Expanding KanCare to cover more Kansas adults will reduce the number of uninsured children. Kansas has made great progress in providing health care coverage for children -- 95 percent are covered. But there is more work to do. Nearly 40,000 Kansas children lack health insurance coverage. Kansas' rate of uninsured children stood at 5 percent in 2018, about the same as the national average, according to the analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. But a close look at the state's data shows the highest rate of uninsured children in Kansas is among families with the lowest incomes (9 percent). 

Detention for runaway children the wrong approach

Kansas Action for Children opposes HB 2445, a misguided bill that would allow children who run away to be placed in a juvenile detention facility for 24 hours. Research has shown "any intervention that places youths within a deviant group therefore risks exacerbating and consolidating their antisocial behavior."

In 2016, Kansas took a strong step forward toward improving its youth justice system. Through SB 367, we have seen a reduction in youth incarceration and increased investment in community-based alternatives. These evidence- and community-based alternatives cost less and are a more successful way to deal with youth involved in the justice system.

We must continue to work toward having fewer Kansas children interact with the juvenile justice system, particularly youth who have not committed, or are suspected of, a crime. HB 2445 would take our state backward.  

Spotted in Wyandotte

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of the 3rd District and Kansas Action for Children President John Wilson attended a screening of the early childhood education documentary "No Small Matter" on Jan. 22. The event was held by Juniper Gardens and KAC at the Reardon Convention Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
KAC is hiring!

Interested in working at Kansas Action for Children? We're hiring a communications specialist to help spread the word about issues affecting our state's children and families. We're looking for someone with three to five years of experience working with words and an interest in KAC's portfolio of issues -- health, early education, and economic supports.

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