Legislators and federal officials are questioning the size of a backlog of Kansas Medicaid applications and whether it will persist during the open enrollment period for 2017 Affordable Care Act insurance.
Leaders of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told legislators the agency would be caught up on the applications by the time open enrollment started this year, on Nov. 1.
But an Oct. 28 letter from Mike Randol, KDHE’s director of health care finance, to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed the backlog increasing from 1,688 on Sept. 25 to 1,823 as of Oct. 9.
Randol wrote that the final count appeared to be incorrect, though, noting that the agency had “identified the reason for the inflated numbers” and would correct it in future reports.
The actual backlog was at least 500 applications below what the attached report illustrated, Randol wrote, but he did not provide a precise number.
Julie Brookhart, a spokeswoman for the CMS regional office in Kansas City, said in an email sent Nov. 10 that it remains unclear how many Kansas Medicaid applications are overdue for processing.
“We continue to work with the state to clarify the current number of applications in backlog status,” Brookhart said.
Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita who co-chairs the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight, said that regardless of the precise number, any backlog at this point is unacceptable.
KDHE previously said the backlog would be eliminated at least a month before open enrollment, he said.
“I’m not happy,” Hawkins said. “I’m just really very frustrated with the fact they still haven’t gotten it taken care of.”
Hawkins said state officials would face tough questions on the backlog when the KanCare committee meets Thursday and Friday in Topeka.
He said he was concerned about the state’s readiness for another influx of applications from the ACA open enrollment.
“They said they would be ready for it and they’d have the appropriate people on staff and trained,” Hawkins said. “But if they can’t even clear the backlog, how is that going to work?”
Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare, is funded by federal and state dollars. Federal rules dictate that applications are processed within 45 days unless they require a federal disability designation, which has a 90-day processing deadline.
Federal officials began monitoring the backlog of Kansas applications in February, requesting twice-monthly status updates.
KDHE Secretary Susan Mosier notified federal officials in June that those reports had been underestimating the application backlog and the actual number was about four times higher. She placed responsibility for the error on Accenture, a contractor.
After the reports were corrected, the number of applications waiting 45 days or more topped out near 14,000 in June.