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Medicaid transition off to shaky start

Expanding Medicaid coverage in Kansas is another hot topic for the Kansas Legislature this year.

The federal government has indicated it will cover 100 percent of the expansion costs for the first several years and then reduce their participation to 90 percent.

What the governor and Legislature are unsure of is whether the federal government will be able to keep this commitment to the state of Kansas.

I am very aware of how once Kansas accepts federal money how tied we become and how much paperwork is required to conform to federal standards.

As you know, it is imperative the federal government begins to address our national debt and the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As your representative, I have an obligation to ensure our state has the ability to cover the costs of this expansion now and in the future.

I understand there are Kansans struggling in these tough economic times, and many simply lack the income to cover the high costs of medical care. I have heard from the Kansas Hospital Association, and they state a desire to see the approval of Medicaid expansion. They are concerned about lower health care reimbursement rates from the federal government and the desired outcome of the Affordable Care Act resulting in fewer Medicaid patients visiting the emergency room because of expanded health insurance coverage.

I have not yet seen the budget numbers or budget forecasts on the costs of expanding Medicaid coverage. Knowing the facts and figures will make the discussion more accurate.

All current Medicaid recipients were enrolled in the new KanCare program effective Jan. 1.

The first problem is that, as of Jan. 1, only 10 percent of those receiving services have their card. This had an immediate effect on pharmacies, as patients had no way of getting their prescriptions. Also, pharmacists found out that several of the prescriptions cost them more to purchase than they could sell them for. It is very frustrating that we would start a program without all the pieces in place.

There has been a great deal of effort to ensure continuity of care, but it is falling short. There is a wealth of information for interested persons at www.kancare.ks.gov. There is also a customer service number at (866) 305-5147. If all else fails, please contact me.

Ward Cassidy, R-St. Francis, represents the 120th District in the Kansas House of Representatives. ward.cassidy@house.ks.gov