© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

KanCare Compromise Gives Legislature Final Say On Medicaid Work Requirement

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Kansas News Service
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Carolyn McGinn and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning were among the legislative leaders to oppose KanCare 2.0. early on.

Kansas lawmakers have struck a deal to end their session-long battle over Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer's plan to tighten eligibility for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The compromise, detailed in the final budget bill of the 2018 session, blocks Colyer from implementing a work requirement and lifetime benefit cap as part of his planned “KanCare 2.0” makeoverof the program. 

Under the agreement, the administration could continue discussions with federal officials about eligibility changes that Colyer insists would help non-disabled KanCare recipients become more self-sufficient. But none could actually be implemented without the Legislature’s approval.

“The Legislature would have the final say,” said Republican Sen. Vicki Schmidt, from Topeka, who helped negotiate the compromise with the administration.

“I feel very confident that this is an agreement that everybody can live with,” she said.

Shawn Sullivan, the Colyer administration’s chief of operations, said barring any last-minute changes by budget negotiators, “we’re pretty comfortable” with the agreement.

Colyer, a physician who until earlier this year was former Gov. Sam Brownback’s lieutenant, was the architect of KanCare, which in 2013 transferred the health care of more than 400,000 low-income, elderly and disabled Kansans to three for-profit managed care organizations.

Claiming that managed care has slowed the growth of Medicaid costs and improved health outcomes, Colyer moved to secure federal approval for KanCare 2.0, a five year extension of the program.

Lawmakers from both parties balked. Frustrated by years of red tape, application backlogs and frequent complaints from constituents they said that problems with the existing program needed to be fixed before moving on to a new version, particularly one that included several controversial changes in eligibility rules.

In addition to Schmidt, three Republican leaders in the Senate – President Susan Wagle, Majority Leader Jim Denning and Ways and Means Committee Chair Carolyn McGinn – announced their opposition to KanCare 2.0early in the session. 

“We believe there is still work to do to stabilize KanCare 1.0,” they said in a joint statement. “There is no certain path forward to KanCare 2.0 at this time.”

The budget-bill compromise authorizes the administration to seek federal approval for a three-year extension of the existing KanCare program staring in January 2019, with options for two additional one-year extensions. It also opens the competition for contracts to managed care companies that submitted KanCare 2.0 proposals.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks.


Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

Jim McLean is a political correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration based at KCUR with other public media stations across Kansas. You can email him at jim@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.