KanCare | KCUR

KanCare

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Though its Medicaid contract is still at stake, Aetna Better Health is making progress, Kansas lawmakers and state regulators said this week. 

“There has been a good response from them,” Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Lee Norman told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Dozens of primarily elderly or disabled Kansans lost their Medicaid coverage because of errors made by Aetna. Staff at the state health department discovered the problem, restored their insurance and stopped further cancellations.

Months later, state workers are still double-checking the work of Aetna Better Health — one of the three companies that helps run the state’s privatized Medicaid system — while Aetna puts together a permanent fix.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — Aetna is bringing in new leadership to run its Medicaid operations in Kansas after chronic complaints from hospitals and others put it at risk of losing its contract.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed Friday that Aetna Better Health of Kansas CEO Keith Wisdom is no longer in that role. But the insurer declined to answer questions about whether it had replaced Wisdom.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA ― Aetna remains in hot water with the state of Kansas, which recently threatened to cancel the company’s Medicaid contract.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA ― State officials have told one of the key players in Kansas’ privatized Medicaid system that it stands in danger of getting fired for not living up to its contract.

Aetna Better Health has until Wednesday to tell state officials how it is addressing chronic complaints about delayed payments to hospitals and other problems.

A formal letter from the state to Aetna says failure to fix the problems so far means the company’s contract “is in jeopardy of being terminated for cause.”

Laura Robeson quit her job as a fourth-grade teacher to care for her son, who has cerebral palsy and other health problems. But as politicians considered cuts to various health care programs, she felt compelled to become an activist, working with others to speak out for families like hers.

That culminated at the State of the Union Address in February. Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids chose Robeson to attend as her guest, providing a real-world example of the role federal healthcare policies play in a citizen's life.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas proved Wednesday they’ve got the votes in the Legislature — if they can get a vote.

But they lacked enough lawmakers on their side to bypass Republican leadership and force that vote.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans powered past objections from conservative leaders in the Kansas House Wednesday to approve Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

Albeit a slightly revised version.

Segment 1: Kansas governor and lawmakers don't see eye to eye.

Political reporters described a hostile environment  between Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature. They explained what each side is looking for on the issues of Medicaid expansion, school funding, protecting vulenerable children and the food tax.

MGN Online

Segment 1: Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is asking for more than 300 new intake workers to address a backlog of applications to the state's Medicaid program.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal is a retread.

It’s virtually the same bill that former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed in 2017.

An attempt to override that veto in the House failed, but only by three votes.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

This time, it was in public

Triveece Penelton has endured any number of racist remarks in her 16 years as a city planner. It was the one delivered in a public meeting — a white man making a crack about the “master race” — that tossed her into the spotlight.

On Tuesday, that Leavenworth County commissioner, Louis Klemp, resigned amid growing criticism.

Penelton talked to KCUR’s Andrea Tudhope about the incident and the discomfort of being part of an ugly news story that drew national attention.

Bigstock

Kansas has agreed to cover the cost of drugs to treat Medicaid patients with chronic hepatitis C without subjecting them to a lengthy list of requirements.

A legal settlement, which awaits final court approval, resolves a class action lawsuit alleging the state made it too difficult for hepatitis C patients to receive the potentially life-saving treatments.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Super(natural?) savings

Kris Kobach contends that he could cut nearly $2 billion from the cost of Kansas Medicaid budget.

The hard-line conservative Republican running for governor sees a way to cut those costs by adopting direct primary care, also known as concierge care.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Kris Kobach says his proposal to reform Kansas Medicaid could save the state $2 billion.

At campaign events, the Republican nominee for governor touts the benefits of combining Medicaid with direct primary care, an unconventional payment system that avoids the bureaucracy of health insurance.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Expandable

Few things stand as clearly at stake in this year’s governor’s race as the expansion of Medicaid.

If Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach wins, it’s just not gonna happen.

If Democrat Laura Kelly or independent Greg Orman win, it almost certainly will.

Kansas would join 33 other states and include a large swath of people currently without Medicaid coverage or ineligible for the health insurance subsidies created under Obamacare.

Darko Stojanovic / CC0 Creative Commons

Few issues split Kansas politics like the Obama-era expansion of Medicaid.

Unlike 33 other states, Kansas still hasn't expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.  The decision would pay for the health care of thousands of people who don’t currently meet the program’s stringent eligibility requirements.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

You’re rubber ...

Democrat Laura Kelly called baloney on Republican Kris Kobach when he said Kansas can save $377 million a year by denying services and benefits to immigrants in the country illegally. Kobach said there’s no reason an 18-year-old should be forced to get a permit for a concealed weapon. Independent Greg Orman said the state actually needs to impose tighter control on guns. And Libertarian Jeff Caldwell and independent Rick Kloos were happy to be on stage with the frontrunners.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: The state of KanCare.

Since it's creation in 2013, KanCare has received heavy criticism. The privatized Medicaid dispursement program started by former Gov. Sam Brownback has struggled with long processing wait times, bad data collection and lawsuits. Today, administrators of the program discuss the myriad issues they've dealt with already and the ones that remain to be solved.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

And a quarter-century later …

In 1991, Anita Hill’s testimony that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her nearly stopped him from taking a seat on the nation’s highest court.

Now a California professor has come forward contending that current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when the two were in high school. Both are tentatively set to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee next week — perhaps interrupting Kavanaugh’s glide path to confirmation.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt acknowledges that a multi-state attack on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could wipe out some popular consumer protections.

But, Schmidt said, he believes Congress will step in to preserve certain parts of the law if he and 19 other Republican attorneys general succeed in striking down the individual mandate — that everybody buy coverage or face a fine on their tax return — as unconstitutional.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Troubled Medicaid contractor Maximus could soon have a new contract with Kansas officials that pays it more to do less.

State officials say that appears to be the price of getting the job of processing applications for the privatized Medicaid program, KanCare, done right.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several members of a task force formed by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer to address the opioid crisis claim his refusal to consider Medicaid expansion undermines their work.

A contract dispute that could disrupt the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans enrolled in the state’s privatized Medicaid program has landed in court.

Amerigroup, one of three companies that since 2013 has managed the delivery of care to low-income, elderly and disabled through KanCare, is contesting a recent decision by state officials to replace it with Aetna when new contracts take effect in January.

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says he will continue to push for a Medicaid work requirement despite a recent court order blocking a similar policy in Kentucky.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee in the District of Columbia, questioned whether the Trump administration had adequately considered the consequences of Kentucky’s work requirement before reversing longstanding federal policy to approve it.

Susie Fagan / File photo/Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s proposed Medicaid work requirement would create a “catch-22” for some low-income Kansans, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities — a nonpartisan research organization that supports Medicaid expansion — said work requirements could jeopardize their coverage.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The company that processes applications for Kansas’ privatized KanCare Medicaid program faces potentially steep fines if it doesn’t fix problems, responsible for massive backlogs, by the end of this week.

Maximus, a Maryland-based company that specializes in managing “human service programs” for states and the federal government, has operated the “KanCare Clearinghouse” since 2016.

There have been problems from the start.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

Five-year-old Ridley Fitzmorris sits at a picnic table in his backyard in Lawrence, one leg dangling and the other tucked beneath him. His eyes are focused on a row of Hot Wheels that his therapist asked him to count.

“One, two, three,” he says in a whisper, his finger hovering over each toy car until he reaches the last one. Turning to an iPad that he uses to communicate, he clicks an icon. “Eight,” the computerized voice announces.

“Good job!” cooes therapist Ashley Estrada, a specialist in treatment for children with autism. “You did it by yourself."

Fred Fletcher-Fierro / KRPS

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Kansas budget into law Tuesday, but in the process he knocked out a provision aimed at curbing his administration’s revamp of the state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare.

Colyer and his predecessor, former-Gov. Sam Brownback, have been working to overhaul KanCare and get federal permission to extend the program for several more years.

file / bigstock.com

The Trump administration has nixed Kansas’ idea of a three-year lifetime cap on Medicaid benefits.

Gov. Jeff Colyer had wanted to include the limit in a remake of the state’s privatized Medicaid system, KanCare. He also wants work requirements for non-disabled KanCare beneficiaries.

Late last month, he walked back his stance on pursuing a lifetime cap, while sticking by the work proposal. Both ideas had faced criticism from health care advocates who fear they would reduce poor people’s access to doctors and medication.

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