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Kansas Officials Cancel Public Meetings On KanCare Cuts

Update 08/17/16:

Gov. Brownback has released the following statement about the KanCare cuts:

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback today issued the following statement addressing KanCare funding and challenges being faced by rural hospitals due to declining Medicare reimbursements. “At the end of the 2016 legislative session, we worked with healthcare organizations to find a solution to offset proposed cuts to KanCare reimbursement by implementing an increase in the provider tax. Those negotiations were not successful, resulting in implementation of a 4 percent cut in reimbursement rates. “We will continue those efforts in the next legislative session. I look forward to working with the legislature to restore the 4 percent cut in reimbursement rates and will call on them to pass an increase in the provider tax. “Our rural hospitals face many challenges, caused primarily by declining Medicare reimbursement rates. Initiatives like our Rural Health Working Group are looking at the broader issues facing rural healthcare and identifying solutions that will be presented in early 2017.”

Original Story:

Kansas state officials have abruptly canceled a series of public meetings on recent cuts made to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Jim McLean reports, the meetings were to take place in Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Pittsburg and Dodge City.

More from Heartland Health Monitor's Andy Marso:  

State officials have canceled a series of forums that were to be held next week to allow the public to comment on reduced payments to those who serve patients on Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare.

A letter sent Tuesday expressed regret that the meetings in Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Pittsburg and Dodge City would not take place.

“Instead we are using this letter to tell KanCare members more about the provider payment rate reductions and we are asking for your feedback if you would like to let us know your thoughts on this matter,” the letter said.

The letter directs those who want to comment on the reductions to email KanCareReductions@kdheks.gov. Angel de Rocha, a spokeswoman for state agencies, said soliciting public comment by letter and accepting it by email would give each KanCare member a greater opportunity to weigh in.

“We believe more of our consumers will receive this information that way, directly, than would be able to attend and hear about it in a public meeting, and that the letter method more thoroughly and effectively meets our obligation to keep them informed and up to date about what is going on with KanCare,” de Rocha said via email.

Debra Zehr, president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, said via email that she thinks the state is trying to avoid public displays of opposition.

“Perhaps state officials find it more palatable to simply provide an email address for public comments about the rate reductions, rather than face large crowds of upset people and service providers throughout Kansas who are struggling to deal with this debacle,” said Zehr, whose organization represents nonprofits that provide services to elderly Kansans.

The letter goes on to list a dozen types of providers who won’t face reductions, including rural hospitals and state facilities. It emphasizes that the 4 percent cut that will be imposed on other providers is part of a broader effort to keep the state general fund solvent.

“These reductions are the steps we must take due to a tight state budget,” the letter said. “We are doing everything possible to sustain care and services to consumers.”

The cuts to KanCare — the state’s managed care Medicaid program that is administered by three private insurance companies — have worried some providers, like dentists, who say that reimbursements already are too low.

The state is required to take public comment on the cuts before it submits a formal request to change its Medicaid plan to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The state is allowed to implement the cuts prior to federal approval. The Kansas Hospital Association has asked federal officials not to approve the cuts.

A previous letter about the now-canceled meetings stressed that attendance was not mandatory and the purpose of the meetings was not to discuss whether the cuts should be made.