Gov. Sam Brownback today signed into law a bill that he said would create jobs for people with disabilities, reducing their reliance on public assistance.
“I think this is a fabulous way for us to go,” he said during a morning bill-signing ceremony at the Kansas Statehouse.
House Bill 2453 would give certain advantages in gaining state contracts to companies that employ people with disabilities.
The companies could win bids up to 10 percent higher than the lowest competing bid, if 20 percent of their employees had a physical, developmental or mental disability.
To qualify for the preference, the companies also would have to cover 75 percent of their employees’ health insurance premiums.
It’s unclear how many companies will take advantage of the preference or how many people with disabilities would be hired and give up their Medicaid benefits.
Brownback compared the bill to building “off ramps for Kansans who want to move from a life of state dependency to a life of independence.”
The change in contracting preference takes effect Jan. 1, a date that coincides with the launching of KanCare, the governor’s plan for letting private insurance companies manage the day-to-day operations of the state’s $2.9 billion Medicaid program.
Brownback said he hoped the new law would help reduce its long-standing waiting lists for state services that help the disabled live in community rather than institutional settings.
Today, at least 3,800 people with developmental disabilities and 3,500 people with physical disabilities are on the state’s waiting lists for services.
Pat Terrick, director of public affairs for the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas, said he welcomed the new law.
“This provides an opportunity that hasn’t been there before,” he said.
During this year’s legislative session, several advocates for the disabled testified in favor of the preference but cautioned against assuming that people whose disabilities were serious enough to warrant Medicaid-funded home and community-based services (HCBS) would be in a position to give up those benefits.
“For many people with disabilities, particularly those with the most significant needs, they will need to continue to receive their long-term care and other non-medical supports through Medicaid and HCBS,” said Rocky Nichols, executive direct at the Disability Rights Center of Kansas. “Without these supports, many will not be able to work.”
The new law directs the secretaries at the Kansas Department of Administration and the Department for Aging and Disability Services to file annual reports to the Legislature on how many companies were awarded preference contracts, how many people with disabilities were able to land full-time jobs and how many were “removed from” the state’s Medicaid rolls.
The first report is due on or after Jan. 13, 2014.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, also attended to bill-signing ceremony. He said people with disabilities can be productive workers.
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 KHI.org 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 khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 233-5443.