Kansas Medicaid privatization plan raises concerns

Photo of flag of Kansas blowing in the wind.
Kansas privatizes home & community-based services

At the start of the new year, Kansas will hand over its Medicaid long-term disability services to the control of three for-profit national insurance companies, sparking fears from Medicaid recipients that their services will be slashed.

“This is an unprecedented model. No state has ever taken a developmental disability population and placed it in an arrangement like this, with an out-of-state managed care system, all at once,” Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, told the independent Kaiser Health News. “It’s almost like throwing everyone into the deep end of the pool.”

Disability advocates have long been concerned about the plan, which has been pushed hard by Governor Sam Brownback, a former Republican presidential candidate, since assuming office in 2011. Brownback claims the change will save the state more than $1 billion over five years.

The original plan was for all 380,000 of the state’s Medicaid recipients to be pushed into Kansas’ Medicaid managed care system, known as KanCare, at the start of 2013. After more than 800 disability advocates, operating under the banner of “Don’t Gamble with Our Lives,” protested in Topeka in May 2012, the state delayed the transition for home and community based services for a year.

The state’s other Medicaid recipients have been on the plan since January.

A panel from the presidentially appointed National Council on Disability held two days of hearings this past week, where several Kansas officials testified about the projected cuts.

“There is a great deal of fear in the community that these big private health plans don’t know much about this population,” Maureen Fitzgerald, disability rights director for the Arc, told Kaiser Health News. “These are such vulnerable people. Mistakes that are just inconvenient to some can be devastating to them. If the home care person doesn’t show up, you could be lying in your bed all day. It’s kind of scary.”

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.


2 responses to “Kansas Medicaid privatization plan raises concerns

  1. Amazing that a demonstration of this targeted group was not done prior. Developmentally disabled are a high-need population. If this does not go well due to a lack of a person-centered approach and without solid knowledge of how to successfully work with this population how does the state reverse course when this is a done deal. This is rather shocking with little regard to the people who are often rated as “high-risk”. Maggie Dee, KUSF, “Disability and Senior News Report”, producer

  2. Look at this as an opportunity to improve on the past. All private companies are not necessarily incompetent. Let those experts, who are part of the current regime and doubting the competency or intentions of the private entities, serve as advisors or an oversight group. Under a State-run Medicaid program I have been left in bed, I have been without care for days. As a quad., in a Medicaid program I do not think things could get worse. Society-handcuffing budgets that are approaching $1 billion burden everyone. IF there is a way to trim the figure AND keep quality of care high, are there complaints? Yes, it may just be a dream to imagine private entities may have a positive impact on Medicaid and quality of service, the status quo stagnation in current service delivery and increasing costs should not be a desirable goal. I hope, Kansas moves forward with privatization, but with a great deal of carefulness and just enough thoughtful input that the new system is a stellar success. Lives are depending on it.

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