Archives: KHI News Service

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

Disability organization leader to retire during Medicaid waiver transition

By Andy Marso | January 04, 2016

Disability organization leader to retire during Medicaid waiver transition
Photo by KHI News Service Tom Laing will retire in September after 22 years as the executive director of InterHab in Topeka.

A nonprofit group that represents service providers for Kansans with developmental disabilities will look for a new leader this year, during an important transition in how the state provides Medicaid coverage for those services.

Tom Laing announced Monday that he will retire in September after 22 years as the executive director of InterHab in Topeka.

Laing, a former chief of staff for Kansas House Speaker Marvin Barkis, has been a fixture at the Capitol for decades, lobbying on issues that affect InterHab members. Recently he has voiced their concerns about a plan by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to combine Medicaid waivers for non-medical support services for Kansans with a variety of disabilities.

Laing said InterHab’s members remain concerned about the integration plan. Scrutinizing it will be a priority for the next executive director, as will continuing to monitor the state’s switch to privatized managed care Medicaid, or KanCare.

“I think the InterHab membership remains very cautious about yet another major system overhaul, considering that the first such overhaul — KanCare — continues to be a bumpy ride, for consumers as well as providers,” Laing said via email. “Whereas KanCare was largely a vast overhaul of the administration of the system, the integrated waiver proposes to overhaul the programmatic aspects of every waiver. Thus, it will have an even more intimate impact on how services are authorized and delivered.”

KDHE and KDADS leaders initially scheduled the waiver integration for this year but announced in October that they would push back the implementation date to Jan. 1, 2017, to address some concerns they were hearing.

The KDADS secretary at the time, Kari Bruffett, has since left that Cabinet position for a job as policy director of the Kansas Health Institute, the parent organization of the editorially independent KHI News Service.

Laing’s successor will work with KDADS interim secretary Tim Keck until Gov. Sam Brownback appoints a permanent secretary.

Lori Feldkamp, the president of InterHab’s board of directors, said the search for Laing’s successor would begin immediately, with the goal of having a new executive director in place by midyear to ease the transition.

“We have valued Tom’s leadership and advice during these past 20-plus years, and appreciate that he always encouraged us to maintain an optimistic view of the future of our state, and to find and encourage the positive voices among the elected Statehouse leaders,” Feldkamp said in a prepared statement. “He helped us embrace numerous opportunities and confront many challenges, reminding us that whatever the odds we should never give up on issues we believed to be important.”