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Families See Need For Better Communication In KanCare Program

Bryan Thompson
Heartland Health Monitor

State officials on Thursday wrapped up a series of public forums on the pending renewal of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Federal approval for the five-year demonstration project expires at the end of 2017, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment plans to apply for reauthorization by the end of this year.

Forum organizers were looking for ideas about coordination of care, value-based payment systems and waiver integration.

But it appeared that many of those at Thursday’s forum in Hays instead wanted to discuss better communication regarding Medicaid clients, especially with care coordinators.

Jerry Fulwide cares for his 90-year-old mother at his home in Colby. He said the system seems to be designed to limit access to Medicaid. When he calls, he has to leave a message. The care coordinator then has two days to return his call.

“So she calls back, and I’m not there. So she leaves a message that she called and I need to call again. Then there’s two more days,” Fulwider said.

Meanwhile, his mother may have a health need that is not being met.

Kristin Fairbank of Hays provides around-the-clock care for her brother, who is developmentally disabled and blind.

After the meeting, she said she was recently told to go to a website for one of the three private insurance companies that operate KanCare to get a form she has to fill out to get his funding approved. But when she went to the website, she could not get the form.

She eventually got the help she needed from a local community developmental disabilities organization — not the KanCare company.

“The paperwork shuffle,” as Fairbank described it, is hurting Kansas families and individuals in the Medicaid program.

“How many forms do you need? How many times do you have to fill out the same questions and answers?” she asked.

During the Hays forum, KDHE Secretary Susan Mosier told the audience that the meetings were intended to gather ideas that can be written into the proposal rather than explain the details of the plan, she said.

KDHE would like to emphasize health in the next five-year phase of KanCare, Mosier said.

“Care is how our health care system has been built. It’s been around care of acute and chronic conditions,” she said. “We really want to move up that continuum to health, wellness, prevention, earlier detection and earlier intervention, and by doing so help people lead healthier lives.”

Mosier said one person at the earlier session in Hays had expressed concerns that the three KanCare contractors — Amerigroup, Sunflower State Health Plan (a Centene subsidiary) and UnitedHealthcare — would leave once the current contract expires next year.

In fact, she said, all three companies have indicated they’d like to stay in the program.

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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