With little more than a month remaining before the scheduled launch of KanCare, state officials say they still have not heard from federal authorities when - or if - they will receive the needed approvals for Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to remake the Kansas Medicaid program.
"I don't know that I've heard any particular date," when federal officials might rule on the state's so-called Section 1115 Medicaid waiver request, Dr. Robert Moser, head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said this afternoon. "We continue to talk with them. As a matter of fact, I just left a phone call with them about an hour ago."
Moser made his remarks standing beside Brownback at a Statehouse press conference called to trumpet a new anti-obesity initiative.
'Moving along famously'
Questions about the status of the KanCare negotiations were raised by news reporters during follow-up questions.
"I think it's moving along very famously," Moser said of the talks between state officials and representatives of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Im very excited about it. But so far as any particular date CMS has given us for a go/no-go date I've not been informed about it."
Moser said state officials still see no reason to have a back-up plan prepared in the event the waiver request is rejected or partially rejected or is not approved in time to start KanCare on Jan. 1, as the Brownback administration plans. And he said federal officials had not asked for one.
No Plan B
"At this point, they have not," asked for a Plan B, he said. "Early on, a month or so ago, there was some conversation about that. But that distracts from what we're actually trying to accomplish moving forward. So, at this point in time as we continue to make progress, we don't see a need for that."
KanCare enrollment packets are being mailed to the state's Medicaid enrollees and officials have said they expect all to have received them by the end of this month.
CMS officials have a policy of not commenting publicly on the status of 1115 waiver negotiations.
Kansas officials have scheduled a statewide teleconference for Wednesday that can accommodate up to 500 participants to describe the proposed program, which would put virtually all the state's 380,000 Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care plans run by three private insurance companies. They also are expected to take comments and questions from Medicaid providers and enrollees.
A teleconference has been set from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Those interested in learning more about KanCare may call (855) 229-1643. The conference is limited to the first 500 callers. Questions and comments also may be sent to KanCare@kdheks.gov. Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also are expected to take part.
In a related development, state officials posted on the KanCare website some "network adequacy" reports describing the managed care companies' provider networks. They said they would post additional reports as they are available.
CMS officials are scheduled to take part in the teleconference, though it remains unclear if they will comment and respond to questions or merely monitor the discussion.
KPR story: Governor issues weight loss challenge
Moser and Brownback talked about the problem of obesity and announced a "team weight-loss challenge," to all state employees.
They said "monetary prizes" would be awarded to the two, five-person teams that lose the most weight on a percentage basis between Jan. 15 and May 15, 2013.
Brownback said he was forming a team that would include members of his cabinet. He urged Kansans not employed by the state to emulate the challenge.
Moser said more than two-thirds of Kansas adults and one-third of Kansas children are obese or overweight.
State employees that want to join or field a team may sign up at www.weightloss.ks.gov. The governor said team members also could use the website to monitor each team's progress.
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