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.
“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.