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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.

KanCare rate reduction forums canceled

Letter instructs KanCare members to email comments to KDHE

By Andy Marso | August 16, 2016

State officials have canceled a series of forums that were to be held next week to allow the public to comment on reduced payments to those who serve patients on Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare.

A letter sent Tuesday expressed regret that the meetings in Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Pittsburg and Dodge City would not take place.

“Instead we are using this letter to tell KanCare members more about the provider payment rate reductions and we are asking for your feedback if you would like to let us know you(r) thoughts on this matter,” the letter said.

The letter directs those who want to comment on the reductions to email KanCareReductions@kdheks.gov.

Angel de Rocha, a spokeswoman for state agencies, said soliciting public comment by letter and accepting it by email would give each KanCare member a greater opportunity to weigh in.

“We believe more of our consumers will receive this information that way, directly, than would be able to attend and hear about it in a public meeting, and that the letter method more thoroughly and effectively meets our obligation to keep them informed and up to date about what is going on with KanCare,” de Rocha said via email.

Photo by Submitted photo Debra Zehr, president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas

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Debra Zehr, president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, said via email that she thinks the state is trying to avoid public displays of opposition.

“Perhaps state officials find it more palatable to simply provide an email address for public comments about the rate reductions, rather than face large crowds of upset people and service providers throughout Kansas who are struggling to deal with this debacle,” said Zehr, whose organization represents nonprofits that provide services to elderly Kansans. 

The letter goes on to list a dozen types of providers who won’t face reductions, including rural hospitals and state facilities.

It emphasizes that the 4 percent cut that will be imposed on other providers is part of a broader effort to keep the state general fund solvent.

“These reductions are the steps we must take due to a tight state budget,” the letter said. “We are doing everything possible to sustain care and services to consumers.” 

The cuts to KanCare — the state’s managed care Medicaid program that is administered by three private insurance companies — have worried some providers, like dentists, who say that reimbursements already are too low.

The state is required to take public comment on the cuts before it submits a formal request to change its Medicaid plan to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The state is allowed to implement the cuts prior to federal approval. The Kansas Hospital Association has asked federal officials not to approve the cuts.

A previous letter about the now-canceled meetings stressed that attendance was not mandatory and the purpose of the meetings was not to discuss whether the cuts should be made.