Kansas fight over Medicaid managed care could set precedent

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A public debate over Medicaid managed care and its effect on Kansas residents with disabilities could send a ripple through other states.

The fight began when a former state legislator and current CEO of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers wrote an opinion piece for the Wichita Eagle, in which he said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should axe Gov. Sam Brownback's efforts to renew KanCare past 2018.

“The nation has been watching the Kansas social-service system experiment that has failed. Now the nation looks to how KanCare can be fixed, if at all,” wrote Gary Blumenthal.

In response, the head of the Kansas Department of Aging for Disability Services, Tim Keck, said KanCare had “remarkable success in caring for disabled citizens.”

Keck said the program has delivered 36% more home- and community-based services than the older Medicaid program, has decreased hospital stays and ER visits, and allowed a third of beneficiaries to take advantage of transportation options and receive more dental care.

That drew strong words from provider advocacy groups, with editorials appearing in the Eagle and the McPherson Sentinel, that said KanCare had created more billing problems and is driving providers out of the state, while also reducing care options.

Staffing also is a major problem due to insufficient funding, providers contend.

“We routinely have over a dozen open positions for Direct Care Professionals, as do almost all I/DD providers who provide services across the state,” wrote Doug Wisby, president and CEO of Multi Community Diversified Services. “This is directly due to the amount we can pay our employees and our benefits programs based upon the rates we receive from the state of Kansas.”

In October, a nursing home sued the state on behalf of 21 residents whom it said faced eviction due to a lack of timely processing of their KanCare applications.

For more on the fight, read the Kansas Health Institute story.