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Aug. 3, 2012
OVERLAND PARK Over the course of five hours and two separate meetings here Thursday, Kansas health officials sought to assure audiences that the state’s plan to remake its $2.9 billion Medicaid system will work.
“There will be some bumps along the road,” Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said in an evening session geared toward explaining the program to Medicaid beneficiaries.
But overall, he said, the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback remains confident that its KanCare program will save money and improve services for the 383,000 beneficiaries.
The evening meeting followed one earlier in the day geared toward Medicaid providers.
A standing-room-only crowd of about 220 people attended the first session at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center, and another capacity crowd filled a smaller room for the evening session.
The meetings were part of the final day of educational meetings about KanCare that the Brownback administration offered across the state this week.
Officials said they plan three more KanCare education tours between now and October.
If the KanCare plan receives the approval of federal regulators, the state would move virtually all of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries into fixed-cost managed care plans overseen by three for-profit insurance companies, or managed care organizations.
The target start date is Jan. 1, and Sullivan said the state has heard nothing from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that has “caused us to believe we can’t meet that implementation date.”
The three managed care organizations, announced in June, are Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare and Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene.
In each session, audience members submitted questions on notecards. Among the answers supplied by Sullivan and other state officials:
• The state has no plans to slash provider reimbursement rates prior to Nov. 9. The managed care contracts call for KanCare rates to be the same as those that are in effect on Nov. 9.
• Under the contracts, the managed care companies must continue to pay the dispensing fee of $3.40 per prescription to pharmacies.
• Timely payment of providers is one of the measures the state will use to judge the performance of the managed care companies (PDF).
• Clients will have the option to obtain medications through local pharmacies.
• KanCare would end the involvement of Unicare and Coventry as HealthWave contractors on Jan. 1. HealthWave will be rebranded as part of KanCare.
• In some cases, as part of an enhanced service, a managed care organization might issue a cell phone to high-risk patients to remind them of upcoming appointments and manage other aspects of care.
• KanCare’s emphasis on better managing its nursing home population, Sullivan said, “does not mean we want to kick seniors out of nursing homes.” They will still have the option for long-term care.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has posted answers to other frequently asked questions on the KanCare website.
Some attendees left the sessions with unanswered questions.
For instance, Stacy Jones said it was unclear to her how the state would handle credentialing for financial management service firms such as hers, Helpers Inc., which provides administrative support for people receiving home or community-based services through Medicaid.
“I have confidence the state will give us the answers,” Jones said. “I just wish it was sooner.”
After the evening meeting, Ed and Teree Nicholas, of Overland Park, and Tim Kopaska, of Olathe, said they were uncertain the overhaul would deliver on its promises for their relatives who receive Medicaid services.
They questioned how the state would coordinate the services, including meshing KanCare’s care coordinators with the existing case managers who work with clients who are developmentally disabled.
What remains unknown, Kopaska said, was “how that puzzle is actually going to fit together.”
Ed Nicholas said he was confident the administration would fix any problems that arise.
“I think they will adjust accordingly,” he said.
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.