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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

Disabled Kansans urged to weigh in on waiver changes

Advocates say proposed changes could be big, encourage attendance at coming forums

By Dave Ranney | August 11, 2015

Advocates for Kansans with disabilities are encouraging those who receive services through Medicaid waivers to attend upcoming forums at which state officials will discuss proposed changes to the waiver system.

State health officials on Monday announced plans to host 13 public forums on how the changes might affect Kansans who access services that help them live in community-based settings rather than institutions.

The 90-minute forums are scheduled for:

  • 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5:30 p.m., Aug. 25, at Capital Plaza Hotel, 1717 SW Topeka Blvd., Topeka.
  • 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m., Aug. 26, at Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City.
  • 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m., Aug. 26, at Wichita Marriott, 9100 Corporate Hills Dr., Wichita.
  • 10 a.m., 2 p.m., Aug. 27, Sleep Inn & Suites, 202 W. 11th, Coffeyville.
  • 10 a.m., 2 p.m., Aug. 27, Clarion Inn, 1911 E. Kansas Ave, Garden City.

Attendees are asked to fill out an RSVP form on the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services website.

The proposed changes, according to KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett, are meant to give the state the ability “to provide the right services to individuals regardless of their disability definition.”

Details of the proposed changes are not yet public, Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokesperson, said in an email. But she said additional information would be made available prior to the forums.

Currently, the state’s Medicaid program includes separate waivers that set eligibility criteria for home and community based services for people with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and autism. There are also waiver programs for children with serious emotional disabilities and frail elders.

KDADS and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have proposed combining the often-complex waivers into a single, ‘global wavier’ that would be easier, and perhaps less costly, to administer.

The public hearings are meant to give consumers an opportunity to comment on how they might be affected by the proposed changes.

Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said he’s actively encouraging people with disabilities to participate in the forums.

“We need to find out more about what they’re proposing, but, potentially, this could be the largest single change in the way waiver services are provided,”  in Kansas, Nichols said. “Bigger than KanCare.”

KanCare refers to the state’s Medicaid program, which, since 2013, has been administered by three for-profit managed care companies.

KDADS and KDHE are charged with making sure the new system’s services comply with the standards spelled out in the waivers.

“KanCare changed the way the way the waivers were managed, but it didn’t change the waivers,” Nichols said. “What the state is proposing would change the way the waivers are structured. That’s a pretty big change.”

Nichols said he is concerned that combining the programs in a global waiver could result in some people’s needs being put ahead of others.

De Rocha said such concerns are misplaced.

“The idea is that, under the current siloed waiver system with the individual lists of available services for each waiver, consumers sometimes don’t always get the services that would be most useful and helpful to them,” she said.

In the current system, she said, waiver designations dictate the services that are provided. Under the proposed changes, the state would have flexibility to match services to a persons need regardless of their specific disability.

“We want to move away from labeling and defining people by their disabilities,” de Rocha said.