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April 19, 2012
TOPEKA House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid is preparing a budget proviso that would "carve out" until 2014 long-term services for the developmentally disabled from Gov. Sam Brownback's Medicaid makeover plan.
The proviso has been cleared with the Governor's Office, according to sources in the Legislature and the administration, which means it likely will move through the Legislature with little or no opposition.
A large number of legislators, including a majority in the Senate, already have signaled their desire to see the planned Jan. 1 launch of KanCare delayed until July 1, 2013. It is unlikely many will oppose delaying until 2014 what has been the most controversial part of the governor's plan.
It would be the first major change to the governor's KanCare proposal since it was announced in November. The inclusion of non-medical, long-term services for developmentally disabled Medicaid clients has produced the biggest opposition to the governor's plan at the Statehouse and in county seats across Kansas.
For example, Johnson County commissioners today joined their counterparts from more than 30 other counties in approving a resolution asking the governor to exclude the developmental disability services from the plan. Earlier this week, Jim Rice, chairman of the Seward County Commission, published an open letter in the Liberal newspaper taking the Brownback administration to task on the issue, comparing KanCare to Obamacare.
Word of the pending proviso traveled fast after Siegfreid discussed it with Rep. Bob Bethell, an Alden Republican who chairs the House Aging and Long-term Care Committee. Bethell said Siegfreid told him he could share the news with other legislators. Word spread from there. Some administration officials also discussed it with KHI News Service and others.
Bethell was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution asking the administration to delay KanCare for six months.
Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, introduced a bill that would have removed developmental disability services from KanCare. It appeared close to passing the House near the end of the regular session last month but got sidetracked with a parliamentary maneuver. Ward and others vowed then that the bill would resurface when lawmakers return next week for the wrap-up session.
"This should give everybody plenty of time to take a look at what's really there and if there are issues to get them solved before we go any further," Bethell said of the planned proviso.
"It's certainly better than what was there before," Ward said. "It at least would give the most vulnerable Kansans a little peace of mind until we can see the program implemented and see what the consequences might be."
Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican, was not at his Statehouse office and could not be reached at his home to comment.
Tom Laing, executive director of Interhab, the association that represents most of the state's Community Developmental Disability Organizations, said it was "very encouraging" that the House majority leader would take up the issue.
But, Laing said, "if it's a carve-out until 2014, that means it's a carve-in in 2014. But depending on how (the proviso) is written, it absolutely is something we would consider and look at."
Interhab officials and members have said they would support the inclusion of medical services for the developmentally disabled in KanCare but oppose including non-medical services because the insurance companies bidding for KanCare contracts don't have experience working with the developmentally disabled and because they fear disruption of services and other problems based on some managed care experiences in other states.
The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Find more about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 783-2529.