TOPEKA — The administration of Gov. Sam Brownback backed down from plans to seek approval of significant alterations to the state’s privatized Medicaid system amid consternation among legislators about the cost and merit of reforms.
Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who has taken the administration’s lead in managing the KanCare system, said the rollout of KanCare 2.0 would be delayed. The governor intends to implement work requirements for some Kansans on Medicaid and impose other “budget neutral” adjustments.
“We’re going to continue to work hard to make sure we have a program that works for Kansas,” Brownback said. “We’ll engage the Legislature.”
In early January, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and three other influential Republican senators publicly urged Brownback to stop pressing ahead with KanCare 2.0 until complex problems with the existing KanCare model could be addressed. The central issues for the senators were eligibility application processing, delivery of health services to Medicaid participants and the need to make investments in mental and behavioral health services.
“We believe there is still work to do to stabilize KanCare 1.0 and that there is no certain path forward for KanCare 2.0, at this time,” Wagle said.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat seeking the party’s nomination for governor, said she submitted a report to the Kansas Legislature in early January seeking to halt the Brownback administration’s fast-tracking of KanCare 2.0
“I’m pleased that both Republicans and Democrats, and now the Brownback Administration, have joined me in looking out for the best interests of Kansans,” she said. “Since its inception, KanCare has been plagued with problems, most of which have not yet been resolved.”
The administration could extend the contracts for another three years with the three for-profit insurance companies hired by the state to operate the Medicaid system for approximately 400,000 disabled and elderly Kansans, state officials said.
In the alternative, the administration could work to eliminate provisions of KanCare 2.0 that would have raised costs to the state.
Jeff Anderson, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, was assigned to renew the agency’s efforts to resolve KanCare’s bureaucratic problems with Medicaid applications. For years, the backlog has forced participants to deal with delays and slowed reimbursement to health care providers.
The administration is preparing to issue a letter of noncompliance to the contractor in charge of the eligibility clearinghouse where applications are processed.
“We will continue to listen to participants and providers and work with the Legislature to ensure we are increasing the quality of care and outcomes under KanCare,” Colyer said.
Brownback and Republican allies in the Legislature moved to a privatized system of managing Medicaid in 2013. The administration has proclaimed the overhaul a success for improving health services and bending the cost curve down.