House panel hears bill to "carve out" DD services from KanCare

0 | Legislature, KanCare

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

— Parents and groups that represent persons with developmental disabilities testified today in favor of a bill that would keep developmental disability services out of KanCare.

But officials from the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback said if the bill were to become law, it would hinder their efforts to reduce Medicaid costs and better coordinate care for the program's enrollees.

They said it would add $126.2 million to government spending by 2017, a number questioned by the bill's supporters.

Backers of the bill asked lawmakers to seek an independent estimate. The cost projections were cited by legislative researchers but were developed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which oversees the state's Medicaid finances.

House Bill 2029 was introduced by Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat. It was heard in the House Social Services Budget Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Brian Weber, a Dodge City Republican.

Weber said after the hearing that he intended for the committee to take action on the bill Monday after expected snowfall Wednesday night and into Thursday prompted legislative leaders to cancel work Thursday.

'Train wreck'

"We have concerns regarding the substitution of corporate control over the needs and services available to individual consumers rather than the local community control we now enjoy," said Carl Locke, a board member of Cottonwood Inc. in Lawrence.

Locke is the retired head of the engineering department at the University of Kansas. Cottonwood, which has been around about 50 years, was founded in Lawrence by parents of developmentally disabled children seeking to keep their youngsters out of state institutions. Over time it has grown into a professional organization that offers a broad range of services to the disabled. It contracts with the state as one of 27 Community Developmental Disability Organizations.

Doug Gerdel, proprietor of Life Patterns, a Topeka firm that provides financial management services to about 400 disabled persons on Medicaid, said he supported the bill because of what he had seen so far of KanCare.

"KanCare started Jan. 1 and regardless what anyone says, it is a train wreck," he said. "People receiving services don't know who their care coordinators are or how to find out who they are. It's a nightmare."

'Services won't change'

Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, acknowledged there had been "bumps in the road," since the program began but said the administration and the KanCare contractors were working diligently to solve problems soon as they learned of them.

He said administration officials respected the work and commitment of the community groups and parents serving the developmentally disabled and that KanCare was not intended to displace them.

"Services won't change. Providers won't change," he said.

Administration officials said a pilot program involving volunteers from developmental disability groups would help those in the current system and the KanCare managed care companies to become familiar with one another before long-term services for the developmentally disabled are included in the program on Jan. 1, 2014.

They also said by then the state would have had a full year of experience with KanCare and will have smoothed out many of the problems that resulted during the transition to KanCare, which moved virtually all the state's 380,000 Medicaid enrollees into health plans run by three insurance companies.


Tom Laing, executive director of Interhab.

View larger photo

Potential medical benefits

Brownback officials originally intended to include all services for the developmentally disabled in KanCare when the program first launched. But the 2012 Legislature wrote a budget proviso delaying inclusion of long-term DD services and supports until Jan. 1, 2014.

Medical services for the developmentally disabled already are included in KanCare and spokesmen for Interhab, the association that represents most of the state's Community Developmental Disability Organizations, said they were OK were that for now.

"We have been concerned with the bumpy rollout of the health care portion of KanCare, but we stand by our original position regarding potential benefits on the medical side," Tom Laing, Interhab's executive director, told committee members.

The bill as currently written would carve all developmental disability services from KanCare.

The long-term supports that the Community Developmental Disability Organizations and others seek to keep out of KanCare consist of a variety of services ranging from personal care for those with serious disabilities to help finding and keeping jobs.

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute. It is supported in part by a variety of underwriters. The News Service is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy-making environment. All News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution, including a link back to when a story is reposted online. An automatically updated feed of headlines and more from KHI can be included on your website using the KHI widget. More about the News Service at or contact us at (785) 233-5443.