Friday, December 27, 2013

Feds delay bringing under KanCare long-term services for those with developmental disabilities

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA — Federal health care officials on Friday put the brakes on Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed Jan. 1 expansion of KanCare that would have included long-term services for those with developmental disabilities.

The Brownback administration said it hoped to reach an agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by Feb. 1.

But in a three-page letter to state officials, CMS directs the state to make changes in its current operations, poses numerous questions, requests further information and doesn’t mention a potential switch on Feb. 1.

The delay was cheered by advocates for those with disabilities who had opposed the plan.

Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said he was pleased that CMS listened to stakeholders “about the serious problems with KanCare.”

He said KanCare had been plagued by the lack of proper notice regarding service reductions and appeal rights.

Under KanCare, the state contracts with three private insurance companies to administer Medicaid services for nearly 400,000 poor and disabled Kansans.

KanCare has been handling medical services since January for those with developmental disabilities. The Brownback administration also wants to add to KanCare the home- and community-based services for the developmentally disabled. But advocates have been opposed to the transition, saying the private insurers would seek to reduce the long-term services.

Brownback officials said the temporary postponement would “allow for refinement of the state’s effort to eliminate” waiting lists for services.

“The shared commitment by the state and CMS to comprehensive, integrated care for Kansans in Medicaid remains strong,” said Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the main issue that needed to be resolved for CMS was how Kansas would handle some 1,700 people who were being “under-served.” She said state officials would analyze those cases to see which needs were immediate and which ones could be provided in the future.

She emphasized that the delay would not change nor interrupt any services currently being received.

Earlier this month, the National Council on Disability, which advises the president and Congress on disability laws, held a public hearing on Brownback’s proposal. After the meeting, the advisory panel recommended that CMS delay the plan for one year, saying that Kansas officials hadn’t adequately prepared for the switch.