Workforce shortages prompted by the overhaul of the Kansas Medicaid program are hampering operations at some social service agencies in Johnson County and elsewhere in the state, according to executives at the organizations.
Human Services Director Debbie Collins said since September, her Johnson County agency had lost three of its nine case managers that assist frail elderly Medicaid clients through the Area Agency on Aging.
Collins said the workers all left for similar positions at UnitedHealthcare, one of the three insurance companies hired by the state as part of the new Medicaid program, which the state has dubbed KanCare. Virtually all the state’s 380,000 Medicaid recipients are scheduled transfer into the KanCare managed care plans effective Jan. 1.
Collins and other agency administrators interviewed for this article said the bright side of losing the workers was knowing that the KanCare companies had hired qualified staff.
They said they didn’t blame their workers for taking the jobs because the employees told them they would get substantially higher pay at the managed care companies.
But the agency leaders said they weren’t sure how KanCare could save the state money, if the contractors will have significantly higher personnel costs.
“We are all befuddled about that,” Collins said.
Savings will come through a focus on patient education, preventive care, and by “ensuring members have access to the right care, at the right place and at the right time,” said Monica Stoneking, a spokeswoman for Sunflower State Health Plan.
Sunflower, she said, was paying “competitive wages in accordance with industry standards.”
Amerigroup spokesperson Maureen McDonnell declined to comment.
Alice Ferreira, a spokesperson for United Healthcare said the company was giving its new hires flexibility so that their former employers wouldn’t be left in the lurch.
“UnitedHealthcare has been working collaboratively with the agencies to provide case managers the work flexibility to ensure they are able to continue to work with the members as appropriate,” she said in an email. “We are committed to ensure members receive the care they need, and anticipate that this partnership will result in a smooth transition.”
She the company also was dedicated to “creating new jobs in Kansas.”
Officials at each of the KanCare contractors have said they would hire as many as 300 people as they prepare for the new program. Each company also has a Kansas headquarters office.
Officials in the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback estimate KanCare will save the state and federal governments $1 billion over the next five years.
Among the various social service and state agencies that have lost workers to the KanCare companies are the state’s Area Agencies on Aging, which, in any event, are seeing their roles change under KanCare.
Though the agencies are handing off case management for the frail elderly to the KanCare companies, they are expected to take on expanded roles in serving individuals with physical disabilities and traumatic brain injuries by assessing their needs for assistance and helping them choose the right KanCare plan, in the event the persons are not content with their state-assigned plans.
Collins said the changes have left her uncertain about what her staffing needs will be after the first of the year.
“We may very well have to expand,” she said. “We really don’t know what the workload will be.”<a name="continued"></a>
Other organizations experiencing KanCare-related personnel pinches include the Johnson County Mental Health Center and the Southeast Kansas Area Agency on Aging in Chanute.
Johnson County Mental Health has had 15 staff members take positions with the KanCare companies, according to agency officials, including a senior administrator and a number of clinicians and case managers.
In response, the center has pressed supervisors and everyone else with proper certification and training into service to coordinate care for clients, said Executive Director Maureen Womack.
The main problem, she said, was that clients had lost their connections to workers with whom they felt comfortable dealing.
“What is falling through the cracks,” she said, “is the therapeutic relationship.”
At the Southeast Kansas Area Agency on Aging, Executive Director John Green said 10 of his 12 case managers had left for the managed care companies. The KanCare firms were allowing those employees to continue their work with his agency on nights and weekends, he said.
Making sure it works
“We are pretty thinly spread,” Green said, “but we are doing our best to make sure it works.”
In Johnson County, the transition to KanCare was hitting home with Patti Rogers. A resident of an Olathe apartment building, Rogers’ 81st birthday is next week.
For the last seven years, Monica Anderson has worked with Rogers as a geriatric case manager through the aging agency.
Rogers said she had relied on Anderson for everything from help understanding the complexities of Medicare and Social Security to coordinating meal deliveries when Rogers was too ill to cook.
“Everything was smooth as glass,” Rogers said.
But now, she anticipates she’ll have a different case manager through Sunflower. Anderson will continue working at the aging agency, but the agency no longer will do the case management.
On Tuesday, Anderson paid her final visit to Rogers. They hugged after completing their business.
“I love you, Monica,” Rogers said. “I always will.”
KHI News Service coverage of KanCare
→ Hutchinson Clinic's letter throws a curve to KanCare open enrollment (1/28/14)
→ National Disability Council again urges CMS to hold off on Kansas DD carve-in (1/14/14)
→ DD carve-in not approved for Jan. 1 launch (12/27/13)
→ National Council on Disability urges one-year delay of KanCare DD carve-in (12/13/13)
→ KDADS chief describes lessons learned with KanCare (12/5/13)
→ Other states watching Kansas as it implements ‘unprecedented’ Medicaid model (12/5/13)
→ KanCare reimbursement problems continue for providers (11/25/13)
→ Kansas dental program for children on hold because of KanCare MCO (11/11/13)
→ Kansas Medicaid providers complain to oversight committee (10/7/13)
→ Wichita hospital execs describe problems with KanCare (8/29/13)
→ KanCare to adopt “health home” model for treating mentally ill (7/22/13)
→ Kentucky’s rush into Medicaid managed care: A cautionary tale for other states (7/18/13)
→ DD groups largely reconciled to KanCare carve-in (7/15/13)
→ Advocates urge more government oversight of Medicaid managed care (7/8/13)
→ Independent pharmacists push for KanCare contract enforcement (7/1/13)
→ Payroll agents for the disabled on Medicaid say they are struggling under KanCare (6/3/13)
→ Personal Care Attendants: KanCare's unheralded workers (5/20/13)
→ House GOP leaders pen letter backing DD supports in KanCare (5/17/13)
→ More than 1,000 rally at Statehouse for DD carve-out (5/8/13)
→ Nothing to be done about coverage gap in states not expanding Medicaid, feds say (4/29/13)
→ As KanCare continuity of care period ends, problems persist; legislators starting to hear about it (4/8/13)
→ Advocates raise concerns over possible reductions in KanCare services (3/28/13)
→ Conferees agree on KanCare oversight committee (3/28/13)
→ DD advocates push to extend KanCare "carve-out" (3/20/13)
→ Safety-net clinics struggling with KanCare (3/4/13)
→ Major medical provider groups ask for longer KanCare transition (2/13/13)
→ Lawmakers and providers assess KanCare transition (1/28/13)
→ Five-part series: "Lower cost and better care: Can KanCare deliver?" (1/14/13)
→ Independence of KanCare ombudsman questioned (1/7/13)
→ KanCare special terms and conditions spelled out by CMS in a document (12/28/12)
→ KanCare workforce shift hampering local agencies (12/10/12)
→ Governor announces KanCare approval by feds (12/7/12)
→ More KanCare implementation details outlined (12/3/12)
→ Federal officials say they hope to act soon on KanCare waiver request (11/28/12)
→ New KanCare info included on state website (11/20/12)
→ Groups call for KanCare delay (11/8/12)
→ Go/no-go date looms this week for KanCare (10/15/12)
→ KanCare benefit packages outlined (9/26/12)
→ Provider groups nervous about lack of KanCare details (9/13/12)
→ KanCare Confidential (9/10/12)
→ KanCare contracts awarded (6/27/12)
→ KanCare plan panned again at public hearing (6/20/12)
→ Wichita KanCare forum draws more than 200 (6/19/12)
→ Medicaid makeover: Can Kansas learn from Kentucky? (6/11/12)
→ Hundreds protest inclusion of disability services in KanCare (4/25/12)
→ Counties weighing in on KanCare (4/9/12)
→ Hospital administrator to chair KanCare Advisory Council (3/29/12)
→ Brownback Medicaid makeover an “ambitious” plan (3/28/12)
→ KanCare bidders heavily courting Medicaid providers (3/19/12)
→ Legislators push to delay KanCare start (3/7/12)
→ Brownback announces managed care for all in Medicaid (11/8/11)
→ Kansas Medicaid makeover in the works (3/7/11)
→ Full Medicaid and KanCare coverage
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