Agencies say Kansas Medicaid changes progressing

By John Milburn, Associated Press

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas is making progress in overhauling its Medicaid system for the poor and disabled, officials from two state agencies told a legislative committee Wednesday.

Kansas has saved more than $1.3 million from changes the state made to the federal-state program in the past year, Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Department for Aging and Disability Services, said. The savings came from reducing staff when some state agencies were merged and several employees took voluntary early retirement, he said.

Kansas is seeking a federal waiver as part of the overhaul that will allow the state to use federal Medicaid dollars for Republican Gov. Sam Brownback administration's managed care plan, called KanCare. A decision on the waiver request is expected later this year. Kari Bruffett, director of the Division of Health Care Finance for the Department of Health and Environment said the state was in negotiations with federal regulators to win the approval.

Under KanCare, nearly all of the state's 380,000 Medicaid beneficiaries will be placed under three private managed-care organizations. Brownback's administration has said the move will save the state $1 billion during the next five years without cutting benefits, limiting enrollment or lowering provider compensation rates.

Bruffett said enrollment in the new system is getting started. The changes take effect Jan. 1.

Sullivan said any additional staff reductions will be handled through attrition.

The secretary also discussed a pilot project that will help the state transition residents who receive developmental disability services. He said 10 community developmental disability organizations have responded to a request for information indicating they would be interested in the pilot program if it is launched.

Legislators authorized the pilot program as a means to delay full implementation of the Medicaid overhaul over concerns about the services that would be provided to about 8,000 individuals. The department will issue an outline of the project in October, giving community organizations a chance then to agree to participate.

"This is all a voluntary program. It's up to them if they want to sign up," Sullivan said. "There was a handful that said they support it and say managed care is a good idea."

Sullivan said the agency was still working through waiting lists for residents seeking services. He repeated previous comments about the integrity of the lists and how many people on them couldn't be reached by phone.

"We have concluded that the waiting list as it exists for the (physical disability) waiver is not a credible basis for making policy decisions," he said.

The agency will continue to work with community organization to determine who is still waiting for services to get sense of what resources or changes are required to satisfy the needs, Sullivan said.

Tagged: Medicaid

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