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Health

Kansas Increases Advance Payments As Medicaid Backlog Continues

KEES_delays_Whittington.jpg
Andy Marso
/
Kansas News Service
Rodney Whittington, CEO of Villa St. Francis in Olathe, says Medicaid coverage delays would have sunk his nursing home if not for the financial backing of the Catholic Church

The Brownback administration has increased advance payments to nursing homes while a backlog of Kansas Medicaid applications persists.

The administration instituted advance payments of 50 percent for nursing homes residents with pending applications last spring, when almost 11,000 applications backed up past the 45-day federal processing limit.

The backlog of application for the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare was whittled to about 1,500 in September but is on the rise again.

Mike Randol, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Division of Health Care Finance, told legislators this week that the administration would increase the advance payments from 50 percent to 90 percent.

“That’s going into effect immediately,” Randol said.

The backlog started about a year ago after the rocky rollout of a new computer system, an executive order that funneled all applications through a single KanCare Clearinghouse and the Affordable Care Act’s 2016 open enrollment period.

Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard by coverage delays because about half of Kansans in nursing homes rely on KanCare to pay for long-term care.

The long-term care applications are the most complex within Medicaid, and Randol told legislators they make up most of the backlogged applications at this point.

“We’re successful with the other populations,” he said during a legislative hearing. “What we have to focus on is that different business model relative to the long-term care, and that’s our responsibility.”

Randol said the state is making a number of changes to smooth communication with long-term care applicants, including bringing in help from Kansas Department for Children and Families employees who processed those applications before the clearinghouse was established.

Nursing home representatives told legislators they’ve been due hundreds of thousands of dollars for care of residents awaiting Medicaid coverage for more than a year.

They said they’ve had to take out lines of credit, absorb penalties for late payments to vendors who provide food and other essentials, and find temporary sources of emergency cash.

Rodney Whittington, the CEO of Villa St. Francis, said his 170-bed facility in Olathe has leaned heavily on its affiliation with the Catholic Church.

“We’re indebted to them for $1 million now, for things not to make our building beautiful but simply to make payroll, keep the lights on and buy groceries,” Whittington said. “We wouldn’t have made it without that safety net.”

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR’s Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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