KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Many people have been waiting months to get health insurance through KanCare, the Kansas Medicaid program. The backlog of 10,000 applications includes pregnant women who say they are going without prenatal care as a result.
Bianca Palos is barely showing, but she is five months pregnant. So far, the prenatal vitamins she bought have been her only prenatal care. Palos says she applied for KanCare in early October as soon as she learned she was pregnant.
"I was expecting to get at least accepted within a week or two," she said.
She still has not received her KanCare card, and she has not had a single doctor's visit.
"A lot of places I called, it was $200 an appointment just for the first day. And your sonogram, you have to go pay separately...and I couldn't afford it," said Palos.
Terrie Garrison is deputy director of the Wyandotte County Health Department.
"They're not getting sonograms. They're not getting medications they might need," she said.
She added that many pregnant women are waiting.
"Our infant mortality rate is already high. It's just gonna go higher if we don't get them into prenatal care," said Garrison.
Palos said, "You're thinking like what happens if my baby has a problem?"
Garrison said some providers had agreed to see patients who were waiting on their cards. Now they're reluctant to see them.
"They've actually taken patients on the presumptive eligibility and have billed and not gotten paid," she said.
In late January, nearly four months after she'd applied, Palos received a letter showing she's in the KanCare system. With the letter she was able to schedule an appointment for next week.
"I'm just hoping that everything's going fine," she said.
She's still waiting on her medical card.
A spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says a number of factors have contributed to the delays including the open enrollment season which ended January 31st. There are also widely-reported ongoing problems with a new computer system. The spokesperson says the department has added and redeployed staff and is making system improvements.
The Wyandotte County Infant Mortality Review Board, which works to reduce infant deaths, is talking to legislators about the backlog.