The waiting list for Medicaid services for Kansans with physical disabilities has dropped by more than 1,700 since last year but hasn’t budged for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
In July, 3,450 Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities were waiting for home and community-based services provided through Medicaid, as were 10 Kansans with physical disabilities.
The drop in the number of Kansans with physical disabilities waiting for services was substantial. In July 2015, 1,721 Kansans had been waiting for those services. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said earlier this month that it had cleared that waiting list.
The number of Kansans waiting for services for intellectual and developmental disabilities was essentially unchanged from 3,449 in July 2015, however.
Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for KDADS, said it took longer to “clean up” the waiting list for Kansans with developmental disabilities and remove people who weren’t eligible to receive services. The department initially focused on offering services or removing people from the physical disability waiting list but now has turned its attention to the developmental disability waiting list, she said.
Gov. Sam Brownback has cited elimination of the waiting lists as a priority before he would consider expanding eligibility for Medicaid.
His administration has spent about $65 million since 2013 to reduce the Medicaid waiting list, de Rocha said. She estimated KDADS offered services to about 150 Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities in July.
“Now that we have the (physical disability) waiver wait list essentially eliminated, we can start moving people off the (intellectual or developmental disability) waiver wait list,” she said in an email.
The waivers provide Medicaid coverage for home and community-based support services that allow Kansans with disabilities to remain at home rather than live in institutions. The services are split into seven groups based on type of disability: developmental, physical, frail elderly, autism, traumatic brain injury, technology assisted and serious emotional disturbance.
No one was waiting for services provided in the other five waiver programs in July 2015 or 2016.
A list of Kansans on the waiting list at the end of each year from 2004 to 2014 showed the physical disabilities waiting list peaked at 7,061 in 2008 and has gradually dropped since.
The waiting list for Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities continued to grow during that period, however, hitting 8,769 at the end of 2014.
Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said a reduction in the waiting list isn’t always a positive development, however. In some cases, Kansans with physical disabilities were sent letters and dropped from the waiting list if they didn’t receive the letter or didn’t understand that they needed to answer it, he said.
That hasn’t happened to many Kansans with developmental disabilities, Nichols said, because they are more likely to have case managers who can help them navigate the system.
“I think before the state of Kansas spikes the ball and says they’ve scored a touchdown, we need a reality check,” he said.
Megan Hart is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach her on Twitter @meganhartMC