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Federal Officials Approve One-Year Extension Of KanCare Program

Kansas News Service/File photo

The federal agency that oversees Medicaid has agreed to a one-year extension of Kansas’ $3.2 billion KanCare program, which provides managed care services to the state’s Medicaid population.

In a letter dated Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the temporary extension will allow Kansas to continue the privately managed program, which was set to expire on Dec. 31.

The Obama administration had denied the state’s request for an extension, saying the program lacked sufficient oversight. CMS’ approval requires Kansas to abide by a corrective action program to address that and other issues.

Read the CMS letter to KDHE granting a one-year extension of KanCare

Federal officials approved the corrective plan in May, so the temporary extension did not come as a surprise.

KanCare provides health insurance to about 425,000 Kansans, mostly children in low-income families, people with disabilities and low-income elderly Kansans who need nursing home care.

Three private managed care organizations administer the program, which is operating under a five-year waiver that allows it to make changes to traditional Medicaid as long it covers required services and does not increase federal costs.

CMS’ decision to approve the one-year extension, first reported by Modern Healthcare, also allows Kansas to continue its safety net care pool, for which Kansas has budgeted $80 million this year.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has scheduled conference calls this month with participating health care providers and consumers to update them on changes in its contracts with the managed care companies.

Michael Randol, director of the division of health care finance at the department, said earlier this month that the proposed changes will be included in a request for proposals the department expects to issue in November. Once the department has evaluated the responses, it will negotiate new contracts with three or four managed care organizations, Randol said.

In a news release issued Monday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said he was pleased by the decision.

“Since KanCare’s implementation, health outcomes have improved for thousands of Kansans,” said Colyer, point person for KanCare in Gov. Sam Brownback's administration. “We look forward to continuing to take an innovative and conservative approach to health care that controls costs and results in better health outcomes for Kansans.”

Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.