A partnership between state agencies announced Monday in Hays is designed to improve efficiencies in the application process for Kansas Medicaid applications as well as preparing for possible Medicaid expansion.

Employees of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will be co-located in 17 Department for Children and Families offices across the state, starting this week in Hays and Wichita, to foster collaboration around the KanCare application process for the elderly and people with disabilities.

DCF Secretary Laura Howard and KDHE Secretary Lee Norman made the announcement Monday afternoon at the Hays DCF Center, 2250 E. 22nd.

One KDHE employee will be stationed at the Hays DCF office.

According to a DCF news release made available at the news conference, KDHE employees will initially spend most of their time processing Home and Community Based Services applications.

They will also be able to work with DCF staff on complicated cases, the release said. Once the full transition is complete in mid-2020, it is expected that KDHE staff will be able to meet face to face with Kansans who need help navigating the KanCare application process.

The partnership will expand in the coming months to include the following offices:

• Kansas City and Overland Park in August.

• Emporia, Great Bend and Newton in September.

• Manhattan and Pittsburg in October.

• Atchison, Chanute and Salina in November.

• Dodge City, Garden City, Hutchinson and Liberal in December.

• Independence in January.

According to the news release, as more KDHE staff are hired, they could be placed in other DCF offices that have available space.

The partnership is part of the state’s move to take over the application process that was outsourced to Virginia company Maximus in 2015 during Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration.

Norman said KanCare provides complicated services to a complicated population, and that takes specialty training.

“We have taken over in KDHE already as of January of this year, all of the training and quality control for all the eligibility workers. That was one of those outsourced, contracted functions, and we thought that quite honestly, that wasn’t being done well,” Norman said.

Norman said he expects Medicaid expansion will get a close look in the 2020 legislative session.

“We want to make sure that the systems are humming, the systems of both our agencies are humming, because we want them to work well. Expand Medicaid, it will certainly require us to be highly efficient and we want to get there by that time,” he said, adding, “should it come to pass.”