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State Seeks Public Comment On KanCare As Contracts Come Up For Renewal

State officials have scheduled five meetings to gather public comment on KanCare in advance of renewing contracts to administer the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The contracts currently held by UnitedHealthcare, Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan (a subsidiary of Centene) expire in 2018. Those private insurance companies serve as managed care organizations that operate KanCare.

Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said her agency wants to hear from the public on what to include in the next contracts.

“As we move toward renewal of KanCare in 2018, it is important for us to continue to meet with the people directly impacted,” Mosier said in a statement released Tuesday. “We want to listen to what they have to say and the ideas that they have to move KanCare forward. These public sessions are part of our efforts to make KanCare even better and more effective for beneficiaries and their families.”

Public meetings with officials from KDHE and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services are set for 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on:

  • May 24 at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Topeka.
  • May 25 at the Marriott Wichita and the Jack Reardon Civic Center and Hilton Garden Inn in Kansas City, Kan.
  • May 26 at the Rose Garden in Hays and Pittsburg State University.

According to a news release, the administration will incorporate the public comments into an application for the renewal of KanCare that will be submitted in October to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Medicaid is administered by the states but partially funded with federal dollars and is subject to federal oversight.

State officials intend to vet applications to administer the new KanCare contracts — worth about $1 billion each — from November 2016 to May 2017 and launch the renewed version of KanCare in January 2018.

Gov. Sam Brownback moved to privatize all of Kansas Medicaidunder KanCare after he took office in 2011, saying that managed care would improve health outcomes and save the state $1 billion over five years.

The administration and the managed care organizations have pointed to metrics like decreased emergency room visits and better management of chronic conditions like diabetes as evidence the program has been a success.

Some of the money saved has, in past years, allowed the administration to provide home and community-based support services for Kansans with disabilities who were on waiting lists.

Critics have pointed to persistent problems with hospital billing, heavy financial losses for the managed care organizations early on that are now beginning to level off and anecdotes about service reductions for Kansans with disabilities as evidence the system is flawed.

Case managers for Kansans with disabilities also have expressed frustration with the thousands of dollars the managed care organizations have spent lobbying legislators and contributing to their re-election campaigns.

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.
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