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No target date for final KEES rollout

System to unite social service program applications still in testing phase

By Andy Marso | November 19, 2014

A $135 million computer system meant to streamline applications for Kansas social services, including Medicaid, remains without a final "go-live" date more than a year after the rollout was originally scheduled to be completed.

Glen Yancey, chief information officer for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said Tuesday that his staff is "making final assessments" of the readiness the Kansas Eligibility and Enforcement System, or KEES.

Yancey declined to give a rollout target date, though, saying that policymakers above him have to make that call.

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

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"They ultimately make the decision whether we're ready to go live," Yancey said. "We think we're close."

Yancey appeared before a legislative committee Tuesday to brief lawmakers on the program's progress.

In February he said he was confident that the KEES rollout would be complete in "weeks or months rather than years."

He said Tuesday that was still the plan.

"We haven't changed our trajectory," Yancey said.

The state has completed more preliminary phases of KEES, which was approved in 2011 when the state contracted with Accenture to perform the upgrade. It was initially expected to be complete by October 2013.

Of the $85 million in startup costs, $60 million was paid for by the federal government, which partners with the state to fund Medicaid. An additional $10 million in maintenance costs for each of the first five years also was estimated.

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In 2011 the state also uncoupled the application process for Medicaid and a cash assistance program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

At Tuesday's legislative hearing, Hilary Gee of the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children said that was one of several policy changes that appeared to be making it harder for struggling Kansas families to receive TANF. Gee's group provided data showing that although rates of poverty, Medicaid enrollment and food stamp enrollment had all gone up since 2011, TANF payments to families had decreased precipitously.

Gee said her group was recommending that the TANF payments be again tied to Medicaid so families could avoid duplicative applications.

Yancey said KEES will resolve that problem once it is fully up and running.

"One of the basic outcome goals of that is to create an integrated process, a one-stop shop," Yancey said. "Whether I'm applying for Medicaid, whether I'm applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or TANF, I only have to enter my information once."

After applicants enter that initial general information, Yancey said, the system will then prompt them to add whatever program-specific information is necessary.



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