The new leader of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is moving ahead on a plan to combine Medicaid waiver services for Kansans with a variety of disabilities.
“We’re going forward on that,” interim KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said.
Keck replaced Kari Bruffett, who resigned last month to take a job as director of policy for the Kansas Health Institute, the parent organization of the editorially independent KHI News Service.
Under Bruffett’s watch, KDADS agreed to delay the waiver integration plan so it could gather more input from groups that advocate for Kansans with disabilities.
Keck and the department are now working under the delayed timeline established before Bruffett left.
The waivers allow Kansans with disabilities to receive support services in their homes and communities rather than institutions. Kansas has seven sets of waivers for categories including physical disability, developmental disability, frail/elderly, autism and traumatic brain injury.
KDADS officials have proposed reducing that number to two: one set of services for children with disabilities and one for adults with disabilities.
Keck and Brandt Haehn, KDADS commissioner of community services and programs, updated the House Children and Seniors Committee on the plan Thursday.
Haehn said combining the waivers might save the state money, but emphasized that the main objective is to improve the lives of Kansans with disabilities.
“The goal is that we’re meeting people’s needs based on the assessments they get,” Haehn said, “and we think with a broader array of services to provide that, we can better do that and get better outcomes in the end.”
KDADS officials originally intended to submit the integration plan for federal approval Jan. 1, 2016, and roll it out July 1, 2016.
After Thursday’s hearing, Haehn said KDADS now aims to send the plan to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by late spring or early summer and roll it out Jan. 1, 2017.
“While it has the potential of being great, (we want to) kind of take a step back and look at the challenges logistically of making that significant a change.”- Mike Burgess, director of policy and outreach for the Topeka-based Disability Rights Center
Meanwhile, the department will seek more input from advocacy groups on things like how to educate people about the changes, address waiting lists for some of the waiver services, and ensure the new waivers help Kansans with disabilities get meaningful employment.
Disability groups remain concerned about the pace and scope of the changes.
Mike Burgess, a former legislator who is now director of policy and outreach for the Topeka-based Disability Rights Center, had a long conversation with Haehn in the Statehouse hallways after Thursday’s hearing.
Burgess said his organization is carefully scrutinizing the waiver integration process, which comes on the heels of the state’s wide-ranging switch to Medicaid managed care, or KanCare.
“There are elements of it that I think sound promising as far as helping people get the services they need,” Burgess said. “Like anything, the devil’s in the details. While it has the potential of being great, (we want to) kind of take a step back and look at the challenges logistically of making that significant a change. We know with every other significant change we’ve made, there have been a lot of hiccups.”