Saturday, March 23, 2013

Advocates for people with developmental disabilities alarmed by bill before the Senate

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Advocates for people with developmental disabilities are expressing alarm over passage of a bill in a Senate committee that would prevent Community Developmental Disability Organizations, such as Cottonwood Inc. in Lawrence, from providing some services.

"We have a very efficient system," said Cottonwood's Chief Executive Officer Sharon Spratt. "This will gut our system," she said.

The bill would limit the services a CDDO could provide clients, including prohibiting a CDDO from conducting both eligibility determinations for services for a person and also providing those services.

The bill, Senate Substitute for House Bill 2155, is scheduled for debate before the full Senate on Monday.

The legislation, advanced by Republicans on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, also would allow people to obtain case management from a managed care organization.

Carole Koppes, whose daughter Sara receives services from Cottonwood, said she can't imagine Sara's case manager not being at Cottonwood.

"It would be a nightmare," Koppes said. "Your case manager is the first person you go to. They help you coordinate and help them (those with developmental disabilities) achieve their preferred lifestyle," she said.

The possibility of dealing with a managed care organization for long-term services for her daughter doesn't sound plausible, Koppes said. "I can't imagine calling someone in a call center," she said.

Tony Schwager of Lawrence, whose son Anthony's case manager is at Cottonwood, said "case management is a people thing; it's not a numbers thing."

Schwager said he supports efforts to reduce costs and make operations more efficient, but added, "You don't fix things that aren't broken."

The bill is part of the battle between advocates for people with developmental disabilities and Gov. Sam Brownback's administration over KanCare, the governor's overhaul of the Medicaid system, which put most of the state's 350,000 Medicaid clients into managed care plans run by for-profit insurance companies.

CDDOs have argued that those companies can handle medical needs, but aren't able to handle long-term support services for their clients.

Brownback agreed to delaying placing those services in KanCare, but under current law they will be brought in next Jan. 1.

But advocates are pushing for permanent separation from KanCare for those long-term services.