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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org.

Kansas delays KanCare changes amid federal uncertainty

GOP officials hope Trump administration implements block grants

By Andy Marso | December 16, 2016

Kansas delays KanCare changes amid federal uncertainty
Photo by KHI News Service File Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a Twitter post that the state had renewed the current contracts with KanCare managed care organizations and would not request updated bids until late next year.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has requested a one-year extension of the current KanCare program while delaying a proposal for an updated version of the Medicaid managed care system.

KanCare, which placed all 425,000 Kansans in Medicaid under the administration of three private insurance companies, began in 2013 and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.

State officials had planned to make changes to the current contracts and then apply for a long-term extension of KanCare with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the beginning of 2017.

But in a Twitter post on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said that the state had renewed the current contracts and would not request updated bids until late next year.

He suggested the change was due to the uncertainty of what Donald Trump’s election as president — and Republican control of Congress — will mean for state Medicaid programs.

“Time will bring clarity from (Washington) D.C.,” Colyer said on Twitter.

He later added a Twitter post stating that Trump has proposed sending Medicaid money to states as block grants, free of CMS regulations.

“This is a great opportunity for Kansas and KanCare,” Colyer posted. 

Colyer’s spokeswoman, Laura McCabe, confirmed via email Friday that the state had requested that CMS extend the current KanCare contracts one year until the end of 2018.

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for state agencies that oversee Medicaid, said via email that the state had not received official approval from CMS to extend the current KanCare model one year, but nothing in the conversations with federal officials has suggested they will reject the request.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, said delaying a KanCare revamp was prudent given the federal upheaval.   

He said the flexibility of block grants could allow the state to write in all kinds of changes to the KanCare contracts that weren’t options before — like coverage of direct primary care with monthly fees rather than fees for service.

“I’m hoping a block grant system does come in,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he was confident federal officials will approve the one-year KanCare extension, which would give the state time to see what changes the Trump administration will make and respond accordingly.