Top officials in the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback said today that they now have a list they accept as accurate of the 2,197 physically disabled persons who are awaiting home- and community-based Medicaid services.
Armed with the updated information, they said, they are ready to begin providing services to 100 people currently on the list by the end of the year.
"We now have a better handle on the waiting list and wlll be able to make better decisions about how to manage the waiting list and best utilize the funding provided by the Legislature for this program," said Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
Sullivan, joined at a Statehouse press conference by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, said his agency won't propose additional funding to further decrease the waiting list but would instead wait to see what legislators would appropriate in 2013 to help deal with the problem.
Kansas has drawn attention from federal authorities due to its slow moving and relatively large waiting lists for home- and community-based services, which advocates for the disabled have said puts the state in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court's so-called Olmstead decision.
It wasn't immediately clear if today's announcement would influence the course of the U.S. Justice Department's review of Olmstead complaints filed by disabled Kansans and their advocates.
Feds continue monitoring
“We are continuing to monitor the state’s activities on all issues that may relate to any potential Olmstead violations,” said U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom in an email statement to KHI News Service after the press conference
Brownback officials for months have said they doubted the reliability of the lists, particularly the one dealing with the physically disabled. So, today's announcement made clear the administration now has a list it considers fully valid.
As of July, the state's Centers for Independent Living, had reported there were 3,462 people on the list.
Sullivan and Colyer said the state hired Answernet, a firm based in Hays, to start making phone calls in July to check the list. After the company was only able to reach 377 of the people, state officials asked the Centers for Independent Living to double check the list.
That process resulted in 1,226 people being removed from the official backlog after it was found for whatever reason that they no longer needed the services or were not eligible. But it also resulted in another 250 people being added to the list.
Audrey Schremmer-Philip, executive director of 3Rivers, Inc., a center for independent living based in Wamego, said the 250 new names were of people for whom the state's centers for independent living previously had submitted paperwork to the state but for unknown reasons had never made the state's list of people needing services.<a name="continued"></a>
Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, a Topeka-based nonprofit group, was critical of the administration's handling of the waiting list and its review of the backlog.
“We are extremely concerned that the state is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that is having the net effect of unnecessarily kicking people off the waiting list for services," he said. "The perspective is all wrong here. Not only do you have to wait years to clear the waiting list in Kansas, now the state is saying if they can’t get ahold of you — due to you not having the money to add minutes to your pre-paid cell phone, or you had to move to make ends meet — that they are going to add insult to injury and kick you off services. It makes no sense.”
Nichols said many who seek the services "have only a few hundred dollars a month to live off of."
“I hope to heck this is not some effort to obfuscate the extent of the waiting-list problem we have here in Kansas, where we have people on the waiting list for two and three years,” he said. “The feds have said (Kansas) can have a waiting list, but it has to move efficiently and at a reasonable pace. Kicking people off because you can’t get ahold of them because they’ve had to move or they’re run out of cell phone minutes is totally unreasonable. That hurts the people with disabilities who are kicked off the list and it hurts taxpayers by forcing more people into more expensive nursing homes.”
Unable to contact
State officials were unable to provide details of how many of the 1,226 people removed from the list had become ineligible because they were living in nursing homes or had either moved out of state or died.
But Sullivan said 24 percent of those struck from the list came off because "the agencies were unable to contact them."
Colyer said officials had seen evidence that the July waiting list from the centers for indpendent living had been "inflated."
And Sullivan said there were egregious examples of list padding from two of the centers, but he wouldn't disclose which centers they were.
The Brownback administration's relationship with the centers frequently has been contentious. The centers have been audited by state officials in recent months and cited for poor record keeping. At least two have shut down, one as the result of serious financial irregularities that state officials said bordered on fraud, though no criminal charges were filed.
Sullivan said people remaining on the waiting list would benefit from new case management focusing on coordinated care once the administration's Medicaid reforms are in place starting Jan. 1.
The reforms, dubbed KanCare, are scheduled to move virtually all the state's Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care plans, pending federal approval.
The managed care companies will take over many of the services previously provided by the centers for independent living, including keeping in contact with those on the waiting list.
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