Advocates urge slowdown on part of Brownback’s Medicaid overhaul

Health care advocates on Thursday criticized a plan by Gov. Sam Brownback to turn over management of services for those with disabilities to for-profit companies.

"We really need to have this process slow down," said Sharon Spratt, chief executive officer of Cottonwood Inc.

Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer are moving to overhaul Medicaid, which is the state and federally funded health program for those with disabilities, the elderly and low-income residents.

Medicaid covers approximately 350,000 Kansans at a cost of nearly $2.8 billion.

Brownback wants to contract with private managed care companies to handle the program, calling it KanCare. Companies are scheduled to submit their bid proposals by the end of the month.

The Brownback administration has promised that KanCare “will improve coordination of care and services to achieve better outcomes and long-term savings without reducing benefits or eligibility, while safeguarding reimbursements for providers.”

But unlike most other states that have adopted the managed care model, Brownback also wants to add services for those with developmental disabilities.

That has raised alarms in organizations such as Cottonwood that provide services to people with developmental disabilities.

Spratt and other service providers spoke with members of the Douglas County legislative delegation. The meeting was being held in preparation for 2012 legislative session which starts Monday.

Spratt said there is no model in the nation where managed care companies have succeeded in meeting the long-term needs of people with severe disabilities.

"These individuals are not `sick,' but have life-long disabilities, and with adequate supports can enjoy a full and meaningful life," she said.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, and other legislators, said they have heard numerous questions about the Medicaid proposal and planned to seek answers at hearings during the session.

"Everybody is concerned," Ballard said.

Representatives of other area organizations said they hoped that with state revenues running approximately $300 million more than projected, legislators would help restore funding for services that have been damaged by budget cuts over the past couple of years.

Stacey Hunter Schwartz, executive director of Independence Inc., said there are 3,369 persons with physical disabilities on a waiting list to receive assistance that would keep them in their homes and avoid having to be place them into more expensive nursing home care.

"In the name of saving money, we are actually spending more," she said.

By Scott Rothschild


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