Friday, May 10, 2013

Republicans push through proposal blocking the desires of advocates for the developmentally disabled

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Republicans on the House budget committee Thursday approved a measure that says if long-term care for those with developmental disabilities is kept out of KanCare, then they won't get funding to reduce a waiting list for services.

The proposal by state Rep. David Crum, R-Augusta, flies in the face of the pleas of hundreds of advocates, parents and those with developmental disabilities who traveled to the Statehouse one day earlier.

They urged Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators to exclude long-term care services for those with developmental disabilities from KanCare, which is Brownback's revamped Medicaid system administered by private insurance companies.

They said long-term care, such as daily help with preparing meals or job coaching, does not fit in the KanCare model, and shouldn't be overseen by for-profit managed care organizations.

But Crum argued to the House Appropriations Committee that the long-term care must be brought under KanCare so that the state can realize savings, and apply that to reduce waiting lists for those with disabilities to get home and community-based services.

"The very savings would occur by placing the developmentally disabled in the KanCare program," Crum said.

But Democrats argued that Brownback said his "KanCare dividend" already provided enough savings to start moving people from the waiting list. Some Kansans with disabilities have been on the waiting list for more than 10 years.

Brownback offered a budget amendment to move several hundred people off the developmentally disabled waiting list, but Crum's amendment would block that funding if the developmentally disabled program wasn't brought under KanCare.

Democrats opposed Crum's provision. State Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Atchison, said it was like "putting a gun to someone's head."

Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, which advocates for those with developmental disabilities, said he was shocked by Crum's amendment, and called it an attempt to bully those who are speaking out against KanCare.

"I've never seen that kind of behavior in the Statehouse, especially coming on the heels of so many people coming to the Statehouse to express what they want," he said.