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KEES to be fully functional sometime this year, officials say

In the meantime, state Medicaid officials using low-tech approach to enroll Kansans

By Phil Cauthon | February 03, 2014

Glen Yancey, who oversees the KEES project as KDHE's chief information officer.

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Kansas' new $137 million Medicaid enrollment system will be fully up and running in "weeks or months rather than years," state officials told members of the Senate's Public Health and Welfare Committee today.

"That I'm confident of," said Glen Yancey, who oversees the KEES project as the chief information officer for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. KEES stands for the Kansas Eligibility and Enforcement System.

KEES, once it is fully operational, is supposed to seamlessly integrate with the federal health insurance marketplace.

As KDHE Secretary Dr. Robert Moser described in March 2013, the federal and state systems would be interconnected so "those two systems literally will be handing back and forth inquiries."

That seamless interconnectivity was originally set to happen Oct. 1, 2013, along with the launch of the federal health insurance marketplace.

However, Kansas and at least a few other states are still handling referrals from the marketplace using a low-tech but federally "approved contingency plan," Yancey said.

That essentially means the state is sending letters via the postal service or making telephone calls to contact people to get the follow-up information needed to determine whether they qualify for Medicaid.

State Medicaid officials are using data collected through the marketplace and sent to them by federal officials to contact Kansans potentially eligible. In Kansas, Medicaid is known as KanCare.

The KEES customer self-service portal for enrolling in health insurance coverage via Medicaid, called KanCare in Kansas. The website is accessible at https://cssp.kees.ks.gov

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"The marketplace is sending (Kansas) flat files," Yancey said. "It's a name, address, city, state, zip code-kind of information file that we can then use to reach out and contact that particular applicant and let them know the avenues that they have to apply for benefits."

Yancey said he thought "most states" were handling referrals from the federal marketplace this way.

Federal officials today said they were ready on their end but could not say how many of the 36 states relying on the federal marketplace instead of their own website also were not ready.

"I can tell you that CMS is transferring accounts to all states that are ready to receive them. Some states are still finishing their development and testing and we are working with them to enable transfers as soon as possible," said Emma Sandoe, a spokesperson for Medicaid and HealthCare.gov at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Kari Bruffett, director of KDHE's Health Care Finance Division, told committee members today that 9,600 names were on the flat file the state received last week from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

"We're continuing to get names and we'll get another flat file this week. We'll probably be over 10,000 names this week," she said.

Yancey said federal officials have given states flexibility as to when they launch their new Medicaid enrollment systems.

"We're going to use KEES when we can provide benefits timely and accurately to Kansans. We're going to hold Kansans harmless," he said. "When the best way to do that is with the more automated systems that KEES brings in, we will."

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