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Federal Officials Evaluating Plan To Fix KanCare Disability Services

Bryan Thompson
Kansas News Service/File photo

Federal officials are evaluating a state plan to fix problems in Medicaid with disability support services for Kansans.

State officials submitted the plan Tuesday after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified them in December about deficiencies uncovered during audits last year of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Download the Kansas corrective action plan sent to federal officials.

A separate letter, sent by CMS Jan. 17, denied the state a requested one-year extension of KanCare based on deficiencies found in the broader KanCare program, including medical services.

The letter on disability services, first reported Thursday by the Topeka Capital-Journal, pertains only to support services that allow Kansans with disabilities to live in their homes and communities rather than institutions.

“This is about folks just being able to live a fulfilled life,” said Sean Gatewood of the KanCare Advocates Network, which represents people in KanCare. “And that’s not happened.”

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the state has made improvements that CMS did not recognize and federal officials did not review all the data the state provided.

“Both KDHE and KDADS were working to address many of the issues raised by CMS long before the on-site visit that resulted in this request for a corrective action plan,” de Rocha said. “Some of that work began as early as 2015.”

Gatewood said many of the deficiencies federal officials found can be traced back to the state’s decision to move KanCare clients from independent, locally based case managers to case management by the three private insurance companies that now administer Kansas Medicaid.

He has introduced a Senate bill to change the case management system and Rep. John Wilson, a Democrat from Lawrence, has introduced one in the House.

Those bills are part of a larger effort by legislators to take a more active hand in reforming KanCare, a $3 billion program overseen by KDHE and KDADS. More than 425,000 Kansans receive health insurance through KanCare.

Other bills up for consideration would move a KanCare ombudsman position out of KDADS and a KanCare inspector general position out of KDHE. The KanCare inspector general job has been vacant for two years.

Officials with the Brownback administration said they support those moves but spoke Thursday against a broader bill to reform how the KanCare companies deal with medical providers.

They’ve asked lawmakers to wait for the results of a KanCare reform working group that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer recently announced.

But Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Republican from Mission Hills, said legislators have heard about problems with KanCare for years and she’s not keen to wait for the administration.

“We don’t need another committee,” Bollier said. “We need to get it done. We have bills. Let’s move forward.”

Andy Marso is a reporter for KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso.