KanCare forcing changes for some

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Leroy Gnad thought his mother's health care needs were taken care of.

But with the state changing the way Kansans receive Medicaid services starting Jan. 1, Gnad has to decide which one of three managed care organizations to choose from for his 93-year-old mother.

"I thought this was taken care of," Gnad said. "Now, I've got to start all over again."

Gnad was one of approximately 100 people in attendance Wednesday afternoon for the first of two educational meetings at Robbins Center for KanCare, the name of the new way Kansans will receive Medicaid services. Three private health care organizations -- Amerigroup, UnitedHealth Care and Sunflower State Health Plan -- provided information about each of their plans, which will manage approximately 380,000 Medicaid enrollees in the state.

The Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor and disabled, costs the state approximately $2.9 billion per year. State officials think privatizing the new program allows cuts in cost without cuts to services.

Becky Ross, Medicaid initiatives coordinator, said some of the savings come through having health care coordinators available to take care of beneficiaries.

"A diabetic won't be in the emergency room," she said. "They'll manage their condition better."

Each Medicaid recipient initially was assigned a health plan from one of the three companies. They have until Feb. 14 to change plans.

"People are coming to get their questions answered about what they need to do next," Ross said of the informational meetings. "Overall, I think people have been very positive and gotten their questions answered."

Ross emphasized the resources available to private health care companies.

"What we keep stressing to people is they have a wealth of resources that the state doesn't," she said. "They're going to bring resources that we can't bring. And they're able to negotiate with providers, and they're able to bring these value-added services that I think people are excited about."

Each plan provides extra services. One of the extra services entails recipients receiving monetary rewards, which will go toward things such as over-the-counter medicine, if they do something to promote healthy behavior, such as have a wellness checkup.

Before choosing a plan, Medicaid consumers should check to see if their doctor is a provider, as well as their pharmacy.

"My thoughts initially was is how do I choose any one of those three," for his mother, Gnad said. "I guess I'm simply going to go with the one they have chosen, because she really isn't going to need any of those value-added benefits they're talking about.

"I guess I'm going to have to make sure she is on the different provider lists, her doctors are on there, that her pharmacy is going to be on there."

Kris Ochs, administrator of Grisell Memorial Hospital and Long-term Care Unit in Ransom, is licensed for as many as 34 residents.

"In listening to these presentations, it sounds like it's very good," she said. "My concern is instead of getting one check at our facility a month, residents will now be getting three.

"We'll work through it, I'm sure."

This week was the third in a series of four meetings statewide. The final series of meetings likely will come in February, once the plan has taken effect.

"We will be coming around again once KanCare is implemented, continue to do this sort of thing, making sure people understand about changing their plans," Ross said.